GUNS N’ROSES, Sydney Entertainment Centre, 1988

Live review: GUNS N’ROSES at Sydney Entertainment Centre, December 17 1988

AXL Rose is damn angry. And me, I’m just shocked. Because it’s more than partially my fault. 

Guns N’Roses, one of the most publicised, heard, hated, adored and feared groups of 1988 is in full flight at the Sydney Entertainment Centre before about 10,000 black t-shirted disciples. Rose, the manic tattooed frontman, skips around like a windup toy about to bust a spring as his bandmates pump out a sleazy, slowed-down version of “You’re Crazy”.

“Awright,” he pants, greeting the audience’s approval at the end of the song. “Before we get started I wanna say something.

“We’ve been reading this article backstage and we’d like to apologise for having a puny ass band like Kings Of The Sun open for us. We’re sorry we gave them the opportunity.” Pity the poor journo, I muse. Hope he doesn’t name him. “We weren’t trying to rip off Rose Tattoo just because we included one of our songs in their set  – we just wanted to play some good rock’n’roll.” Oh shit, that’s me.

As detailed previously, Kings Of The Sun were kicked out of the Entertainment Centre after the Gunners read the issue of OTS in which Kings drummer Clifford Hoad said “and you go over there to LA and you see Guns N’Roses and Motley Crue doing the whole tattoo business and ripping them (Rose Tattoo) off completely. They (Guns N’Roses) even did one of their songs in their set, “Nice Boys (Don’t Play Rock’n’Roll)”.”

The Gunners later played “Nice Boys” live for the first time in two years during their first encore.

There is barely a stage set, just the familiar Guns N’Roses logo draped across a curtain, black amps and a drum riser so small it would embarrass the humblest of pub bands. The lighting is unspectacular, to be polite. But you don’t look away. Not for a minute. Rose, an enigma of the highest order, is firey, volatile and utterly hyperactive.

Lead guitarist Slash is dropping more and more notes as his bottle of Jack Daniels becomes progressively empty. But his ambling from one side of the stage to the other, his Chuck Berry bunnyhops and his impossibly lock, curly, face-covering hair, make him the flashiest lead guiatarist around, bar none. More flash than Vai or Neilson (who once punched him out)  or Young or anyone.

By comparison, Keith Richards lookalike rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin, blonde drummer Steven Adler and leering bassist Duff McKagan are unobtrusive and play well.

Rose, who left the stage up to 10 times during the two-hour set to be administered oxygen and brush his hair, announced he had “been on drugs the last few days”. He takes medication after being diagnosed as manic depressive, so despite what police minister Ted Pickering later suggested, Rose’s words are not an admission of guilt.

In introducing “Mr Brownstone”, which is about drug use, Rose warns “anything that comes between you and your dreams is fucked”.

During “Nice Boys”, Rose reaches for the microphone only to find it not on its stand. Without warning, he dived headlong into the seething crowd and is followed by three horrified security guards.

Just as they managed to haul a sockless Rose out, he keeled over and fell back again.

Exhausted fans are constantly being plucked from the stageside crush and large groups of security staff can often be seen sprinting to the back of the hall to break up fights. The hall shouts “hey fuckers” in unison at Slash’s prompting.

There could be a riot, if Axl decided he wanted one. He doesn’t. In fact he constantly pleads with his captive audience to behave itself. This is clearly not just another gig – this is a band of angry young men at its peak produced enough electricity to light up all of New South Wales for the night. What live rock used to be. Sure, they’re hitting some bum notes and being arrogant, but if you want polite perfection, go listen to Mozart.

“One of the main reasons this band got together was a song called ‘Take A Long Line’,” Rose announces.

Earlier, Doc Neeson had donned his best three-piece suit as the second on a three-band bill. Their new set, with an elevated rhythm section and a good light show, was far more elaborate than those of the headliners.

Neeson, too, was giving everything in the sweat department. His eclectic, frenzied movements returned to their pre-wheelchair pace and he ventured into the stalls for an enthusiastic recitation of “Marseilles”.

– STEVE MASCORD

Filed for ON THE STREET Appeared January 4, 1989

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