Axl's Actually Here!
Once one of the most influential bands in the world and now they're back to play Download 2006. But is that a good thing?
Ever since Axl Rose went awol and fired the rest of Guns n' Roses they've just not been the same band. This isn't the Guns n' Roses of old that was known for defining a musical generation, it is the Axl Rose tribute band that are known for taking almost a decade to release an album whilst cancelling most of their gigs. The last UK festival appearance by the band was at Leeds Festival in 2002 which was followed by a riot and a change of venue for the festival in 2003. After the festival date, of course, Guns n' Roses pulled out of the rest of their UK tour.
With just forty five minutes to go it isn't the most electric atmosphere that Donington's Main Stage has ever seen. It's not even the most electric atmosphere that the toilets at Donington have ever seen. In fact, most people have wandered off to see Prodidgy with the incorrect assumption that if Guns n' Roses do turn up they'll be at least two hours late.
With five minutes to go pre-recorded music starts to play and surprised half-asleep people start to rush towards the stage, suddenly, the opening of 'Welcome to the Jungle' rings out through the PA and Axl Rose appears in an almost George Michael come Freddy Mercury style outfit with 'It's So Easy', 'Mr. Brownstone' and 'Live and Let Die' following.
It may not be the real Slash, nor the real Guns n' Roses, but does that really matter? Yes. A resounding yes. The passion that went in to the songs originally may be able to be replicated from a solely musical standpoint, but when all you really have left from the band's beginnings is Axl the whole essence of the original Guns n' Roses no longer exists. The current band may well be technically perfect, but technical perfection isn't something that justifies a headlining slot no matter how hard you try to make your new guitarist look and act like Slash.
As 'Knockin' on Heaven's Door' and 'Sweet Child o' Mine' finish the ever charismatic Mr. Rose announces "We're having technical difficulties and will be taking a break" and walks off stage for five minutes without uttering another word. After a bit of time to sort out his hair one of the plethora of guitarists rocks out for five minutes more before Axl and the rest of his merry men walk out to begin 'You Could Be Mine' and an instrumental version of Christina Aguilera's 'Beautiful'.
After just one more song the crowd are now informed that if they throw any more bottles containing urine (and most likely any other substance) at the stage that everyone is going to throw their toys out of their pram and go home. That's right, the man that was once known for fronting one of the greatest rock n' roll bands of all time is now more concerned about restraining orders on former band mates and ensuring that his perm is kept in top condition at all times.
As the sun finally sets over Donington for the last time at this year's Download Festival 'November Rain' plays and, for the first time tonight, causes the crowd on the hill to, mostly, stand up and even clap as opposed to boo. The selection of classics continues until 'Night Train' calls for the final break for an encore.
Axl Rose finally walks off stage to his waiting helicopter without saying a word thirty minutes late after the end of 'Paradise City'. The arena is now full of fires and as a chair is thrown on and a plume of toxic smoke rises it spells another night of mini-riots across the campsite as scaffolding and fences are torn down whilst fires spring up everywhere. They may no longer be able to draw a huge crowd or justify themselves in the way they once could but they certainly know how to start fires. If the fame thing fails at least Axl could get a job working at a power station.