The time was 10:25 p.m. on Saturday night in Las Vegas and about 19,000 people were all having the same conversation: what time would Axl Rose actually show up for the concert? It wasn’t an insane question to ask: as the lead singer of Guns N’ Roses, Rose hasn’t had the best track record for punctuality over the years. But at last night’s show at the T-Mobile Arena — the second night Rose has performed on stage with original members, guitarist Slash and bassist Duff McKagan, in more than two decades — the frontman was punctual, even as he performed after breaking his foot earlier this week.
So what was it like to be inside for one of the biggest rock and roll shows of 2016? Read on for the 10 best highlights.
1. Guns N’ Roses were on time, depending on the day you went.
For Guns’ first reunion show in Vegas on Friday, 19,000 fans waited hours for the legendary rock band to take the stage at the newly opened T-Mobile Arena. Save for a small private show in Los Angeles, the show was the first time in 23 years that original members Axl Rose, Slash, and Duff McKagan took the stage together. On Friday night, the band kept fans waiting for an hour, but on Saturday night, the show started basically on time. Rose simply opened the show by saying “Good Evening.”
2. Axl broke his foot — and still performed.
The news filtered fast: Rose broke his foot during a small tuneup show in Los Angeles. Despite Rose performing through the pain, the Las Vegas show on Saturday suffered. Rose, a man who can run across a stage like a man chased by a pack of wild dogs, remained in a stationary throne in the center of the stage, a contraption given to him by the Foo Fighter’s Dave Grohl. With Rose’s casted foot elevated, leaving him essentially immobile, he let Slash and Duff become the stars of the show — a fact that couldn’t have been too comfortable for the frontman.
3. The setlist was on point.
There were a lot of skeptics when it came to the Guns N’ Roses reunion tour, but the band didn’t mail it in. They tore through 23 songs in more than two hours from classic albums like Appetite for Destruction, Use Your Illusion 1, and Use Your Illusion II — and they sounded well-oiled and tight.
4. Axl still commands a room.
He may be past his early-90s peak, but Rose is still a rock god. And the Vegas crowd hung on his every word: any time Rose demanded fans to “scream for me” or “jump,” they obeyed. It’s a rare talent that can command that kind of respect from 19,000 fans while — and doing so with a cast.
5. They’ve tamed their wild ways…
In the late ’80s, Guns had a reputation as hard-partying bad-asses of L.A.’s Sunset Strip, but that wasn’t the case at this gig in Vegas — they’ve tamed that let’s-get-crazy mentality. And the crowd has tamed, too. Shirtless girls on shoulders? There were none. Flagrant use of drugs? Nope. Bras and panties tossed on stage by fans? Dream on.
6. …But they had plenty of pyro.
They may not have the energy of their heyday, but they made up for it with theatrics. As the boys blew through their cover of Wings’ “Live and Let Die,” fire spewed out behind them. Later, they performed a rendition of “Rocket Queen” that featured pyro as a centerpiece of the presentation. “Paradise City” was even more insane: there was so much fire shooting up behind the group, the temp in the room felt it rose 10 degrees.
7. There were go-go girls aplenty.
Quick question: name a relevant band that uses go-go dancers to entice the crowd in 2016? It might be tacky in this era, but Guns N’ Roses have always marched to the beat of their own (very loud) drum. And the group paid tribute to the excesses of their era by having girls aplenty dancing on elevated platforms at the back of the stage.
8. There was minimal stage banter.
Axl, Duff, and Slash were all set up with microphones, but they didn’t talk to the audience. Over the two-hour show, Slash was basically a mute, letting his guitar skills and infamous hair and top hat do the talking. Duff sang one song, a cover of the Damned’s “New Rose,” but he mainly stuck to backup singing. But Rose was sure to introduce each member of the band — and Slash drew the largest cheers from the audience.
9. “November Rain” was magical.
Rose used crutches as he made his way to piano… and then it happened: the first rumbling note of “November Rain.” And Saturday night’s performance sounded so perfect and so flawless, you could easily picture Stephanie Seymour reprising that music video’s role by appearing on the stage in a wedding dress. Slash even played his guitar at a 90-degree angle, mimicking his moves from the clip. (Chilling fact: a cold April rain soaked fans outside the T-Mobile Arena post-show.)
10. Guns are still locked and loaded.
The show was far from perfect, but it was everything a G N’ R fan, many of them dressed in the band’s attire, could have hoped for. It was loud. It was nostalgic. It was heavy on the hits. It featured (some) original members. Basically, the message Guns N’ Roses told its ticket-buying fans was: don’t you cry tonight. None of them were either.
1. “It’s So Easy”
3. Chinese Democracy
4. Welcome to the Jungle
5. Double Talkin’ Jive
7. Live and Let Die
8. Rocket Queen
9.You Could Be Mine
11. This Is Love
13. Speak Softly Love
14. Sweet Child O’ Mine
16. Civil War
17. My Michelle
20. November Rain
21. Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door
1. Don’t Cry
2. The Seeker
3. Paradise City