There are not many bands which have been the source of so many conversations, discussions and theories as Guns N’ Roses. Their career as a solid band was too brief, if we consider they were solid at some point, which I doubt, yet impressive. Their legacy based on Appetite for Destruction, Lies (Live Like a Suicide) and even the Use Your Illusion I&II (and The Spaghetti Incident joke, which I love) can kick many bands’ more extended discographies right away.
This post is open for discussion regarding the Illusions as probably many of you are shaking your heads in disagreement, thinking they are shitty albums or they should be reduced to one, but you won’t change my mind. Feel welcome and comment, anyway. You’d really make my day.
Back to an earlier stage, and while listening to Appetite for Destruction, which, for many who don’t know yet I must remark it’s still my favorite album, I feel like talking about one of the wildest live performances I’ve even seen, if not the best. I’m talking about the classic Live at the Ritz, directed by Scott Kalvert for MTV.
Every time I watch this killing show I wonder why MTV never released it on DVD as they did with the Unplugged sessions. It’s a shame we gotta watch ultra low quality videos on youtube or TV crappy downloads. You don’t have to be a genius to foresee a commercial blockbuster by issuing one of the most spontaneous and wildest show of Guns N’ Roses just about to become the ultimate rock band on Earth. As simple as that.
Recorded early in 1988 in NYC, GN’R were really close to their turning point in their career. They were prominent and popular, but still not as successful as they turn thanks to the explosion of Sweet Child O’ Mine caused by the massive broadcasting of the video by MTV itself.
Probably many fortunate who attended GN’R live shows in clubs won’t regard this performance in the same way as I do, but I still remember when Joe played the video back in 1994 and I was overwhelmed. I’d have sold my soul for attending that show.
Perfect setlist to remember: opening with It’s so Easy and closing with the brilliant Rocket Queen, not forgetting Mr. Brownstone, Nightrain, Outta Get Me, Aerosmith’s Mamma Kin cover, and what became the main singles of Appetite For Destruction. In essence it was a reckless show.
The stage was on fire. Axl’s snakedancing at its finest, Steven Popcorn Adler totally high on cocaine smiling every time he noticed a camera was around, Duff sweating like swine in his leather jacket and ruling with backing vocals and his punk rock mean attitude on bass (love it!), Izzy smoking cigarette after cigarette in his Keith Richards pose, accompanied by a raw guitar sound, and Slash completely stoned, making mistakes when playing, confessing not being on drugs to the audience (ha! You did drugs till Velvet Revolver era according to your bio)…the atmosphere was so wild audience started to get crazy and jump onto stage to be reduced by security staff members. Insane!
Personally what shocked and caught me the most was Axl’s aggressive attitude on stage, spreading a halo of pure violence which at some moments I identify as threatening. Never seen him like this again. Full of rage, controlling the band, you could already notice he acted as he felt like, leaving the band alone in the middle of Rocket Queen trying to go on until he decided to be back.
The band is fresh, somehow innocent, interacting with the audience, something which would cause lots of trouble afterwards when Axl became paranoid, constantly feeling harassed by fans, driving him to those weird outbursts which drove to sudden end of the shows. Having still fresh in mind the infamous St. Louis riots, Ritz is so far from that!
What happened after this show it’s already history. Labeled as the Most Dangerous Band in the World, they couldn’t cope with their fame, wealth and other pressures. Mighty Axl’s neurotic behavior were uncontrollable, massive drug abuse by several members of the band was unbearable, and 5 years after this performance, Guns n’ Roses band concept had radically changed for good. From Rags to Riches is perfectly applied to this band. What happened next, such decline and fall, it’s hard to explain. But I still love Guns N’ Roses all the same.