We were supposed to leave for my family’s annual beach trip last Sunday morning. Those plans were changed when Mrs. Cutter saw that Guns ‘N Roses would be playing at FedEx Field on Sunday night. Until recently, I likely would have passed up the chance to see them live, as GNR consisted of Axl Rose and a constantly changing roster of backing musicians.
But at the end of 2015, there were rumors that the original band was planning a reunion tour. Those rumors proved only partly true; for one reason or another, neither Izzy Stradlin nor Steven Adler have returned. But Slash and Duff McKagan are indeed back in the fold, and 3/5 of the classic lineup is probably the best we’re going to get. I figured there was no way I could pass up a chance to see them, so tickets were promptly purchased.
I was glad they came to DC early in the tour. It was their second stop, meaning they’d likely still have a lot of energy, and perhaps more importantly, they wouldn’t have had much of an opportunity to break up again.
Seeing that we’re old and lame now, Mrs. Cutter and I were somewhat wary of attending a concert that was scheduled to begin at 8 PM, especially considering GNR’s reputation for late starts. We realized there was a chance that they might be playing well past midnight, so we had to plan ahead. I took a nap in the afternoon, and drank a couple of sodas with dinner. I felt confident that I would be able to hang no matter how late the show went. (Mrs. Cutter was less confident)
The opening act was Alice in Chains. I’ve never had much of an opinion about them one way or another, but as they played a collection of their greatest hits, I realized that I do like a lot of their songs.
Once AIC finished, we didn’t have too long to wait for the main event. They actually started earlier than expected, and I only made it back from the bathroom with about a minute to spare.
It was a little jarring to see Axl at first. Although I’ve seen recent pictures and clips, I guess I still kind of expected the 1989 version of him to walk out on stage. It also felt like he needed a little bit of a warm up. The first couple of songs were slightly shaky at times, but once they got to Welcome to the Jungle, he found his form and mostly sounded like the Axl of old.
The rest of the band was excellent – especially Slash. This show made me truly appreciate just how good he is. (Yes, Squinty. He is definitely still cool.) I’ve watched clips of the band since he and Duff left the group, and the difference is remarkable. The classics sounded remarkably better, and the songs they played from Chinese Democracy made me believe that the album would have been hailed as a classic had these guys been a part of it.
They played most of their hits – the only song of note that was missing was Don’t Cry – and threw in some lesser known songs as well. I was pleased they played Coma, since that had always been a favorite of mine. I was hoping that due to being the Washington D.C. show, they would play I.R.S., but apparently, I’m the only person who likes that song.
The crowd was somewhat interesting. Many of the attendees were in their thirties, forties, and fifties, and I got the impression that many of them were trying to party like they used to – and finding they weren’t quite capable of doing so. For some reason, a rotating cast of drunk people decide to camp out in the aisle next to us. Most notable was the shirtless guy who looked about fifty who alternated between screaming, barking, and wobbling around like he was about to pass out.
At the end of their main set, the combination of caffeine and adrenaline had me still going strong, but Mrs. Cutter was dragging. I told her we couldn’t leave until we at least heard Paradise City, so we powered through two songs in the encore until Slash began to play the familiar opening chords.
Despite the thrill of hearing Paradise City live, I was actually a little disappointed. It felt a little rushed, and I thought they needed to let it breathe a bit. On the other hand, there was an impressive pyro display at the end that helped make up for it.
Once the final note was played, we rushed out of the stadium, hoping to beat most of the traffic. As we were leaving the parking lot, we actually saw drunken shirtless guy stumbling along the side of the road. I’m not sure where he was going, but I was relieved he wasn’t going there by car.
It was an excellent show, and it was well worth the cost (Yay, Ticketmaster fees!) and delaying our beach trip by a day. I’m just hoping that next time they come to town, Izzy and Steve are with them, and my dream will finally come true.