The Guns N’ Roses Reunion Tour That Wasn’t

“I heard you guys went a little crazy the last time you won the Stanley cup,” the serpentine singer, dressed in black leather pants and a snakeskin jacket, teased. “Heard you tore the city apart.” The crowd cheered loudly. “Are you going to do it again tomorrow night?” More cheering. Long-haired dudes in black t-shirts, jeans and hightop shoes; girls in painted on jeans with hair teased up to the ceiling, and even the odd parent, yelled and raised their fists in the air. It was electric.

“I like that shit,” the singer continued. “I’m not telling you to do it, but I like it.” More cheering. “Are you going to turn this place into a madhouse?” The small crowd of just under 2000 raised the decibel level in the NHL arena to the ear-splitting level normally reserved for headlining bands. Then the line everyone was waiting for. “Are you going to turn it into a F**king jungle?” The place erupted as the band’s top hat-wearing guitarist began peeling off the hypnotic riffage of the lead track from the group’s debut album, Appetite For Destruction.

Gun N’ Roses, in all their raw glory, before the monster fame, before they were a headlining act, before the insane worldwide album sales; before booze, drugs and egos ripped them apart, were as good as any rock band before or after them. Singer Axl Rose owned the stage as he shredded his voice and paced like a rabid beast. Drummer Steven Adler and bassist Duff McKagan locked down the bottom end with the fury of a coastal hurricane, while rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin, the epitome of cool, chunked out meaty chords for lead man Slash to slather his razor-sharp licks over.

On Wednesday December 07, 2011 Guns N’ Roses were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. Everyone knows the story of how the world’s greatest rock band unraveled and became nothing more than a punchline, as one by one the original members quit until all that was left was egomaniacal and mercurial frontman, Rose. Rose’s revolving door tribute version of GN’R hit the nostalgia circuit for years, and hardcore fans wondered if the singer would ever put aside his ego and give old-school fans a reunion of the original lineup. This year, fans got their wish. Or did they?

Call the Not In This Lifetime Tour a reunion if you want, but Axl Rose, Slash and Duff McKagan are only three-fifths of the lineup that made history. Guns N’ Roses are in the Hall of Fame because of Rose, Slash, McKagan, Stradlin and Adler. Take away one of the parts, and it’s not the same. And forget about the Gilby Clarke and Matt Sorum arguments. Clark, who replaced Stradlin when the guitarist hit the eject button in 1991, and Sorum, who replaced Adler in 1990, after the drummer was fired, never had a hand in the writing.

Sorum may have been a full member after the Use Your Illusion albums, but he arrived after the songs were written (and demoed with Adler). Clarke, like all of the players who participated in Rose’s tribute circus, was a hired gun, a salaried musician who had no input in the band. Both Sorum and Clarke are world-class musicians, but they were never part of the original magic. The same thing goes for Dizzy Reed, who joined the band on keyboards during the Illusions sessions (and has managed to be the only guy who has stayed employed by Rose since the ’90s).

When news broke earlier this year that Rose, Slash and McKagan would be playing Coachella, and then embarking on a tour, the internet was abuzz. Guns fans were beside themselves. No official word on who would be joining the trio, but rumours swirled about who was in, who was out. No official word came from the Guns camp, which left fans and the media speculating. In the end, Adler and Stradlin would not be part of the tour. Adler reportedly had back surgery and was unable to tour (although he did play a couple of songs on a few dates with the band).

Rose stated in a recent interview with Brazilian tv that Stradlin didn’t join the tour because, “Izzy is Izzy, that’s just something that…I can’t really describe to say…I don’t really know what to say about Izzy.” There were rumours that Stradlin was offered less money than Slash and Duff, something Stradlin confirmed on his Twitter account this week. According to Stradlin, “They (Axl, Slash and McKagan) didn’t want to split the loot equally.” Everyone knew Rose was a giant douchebag, but who knew Slash and McKagan were, too?

Without Stradlin’s songwriting contributions, the lot of them would likely be flipping burgers at McDonalds. Guns N’ Roses truly was the sum of its parts. Listen to Axl Rose’s tribute GN’R album, Chinese Democracy. The disc was a bloated, over-produced, steaming pile of sh*t. An unfocused mess, the album sounded like exactly what it was – an Axl Rose solo release stamped with the Guns name. Rose hasn’t written a good song since the ’80s.

In the end, as good as the reviews were, the Not In This Lifetime Tour was nothing more than a financially (and ego) driven trek. Maybe once the novelty of seeing Slash and McKagan playing with Rose again wears off, fans will demand the real thing, and Rose will do whatever it takes to get the original lineup back together. The 30th Anniversary of Appetite For Destruction is coming up next year, and it would be nice to see the five guys who created the 12 track masterpiece back onstage together.