Guns N' Roses Kick Off 'Chinese Democracy' Tour

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GNR's Axl Rose / Photo by Boris Minkevich/Winnipeg Free Press
WRITTEN BY
Rob Williams

It took Axl Rose 17 years to finish Chinese Democracy, so to only have to wait a year or so to hear it live is a relatively brief delay in the world of Guns N' Roses.

And it's not like he and his current version of the band haven't been touring. Since 2001 they've hit the road for four legs of the Chinese Democracy Tour, supporting an album that didn't really exist, with the exception of the few tracks that leaked online over the years.

Wednesday night, the band kicked off the Canadian leg of their 2010 tour at Winnipeg's MTS Centre with a full-out rock'n'roll spectacle that requires 15 semis of equipment and eight buses for the band and crew. There are explosions and confetti, along with seven video screens and a massive mobile lighting rig.

The show itself featured more than 25 songs, covering most of the new album and almost all of the band's greatest hits over the course of two-hours and 50 minutes.

At 10:45 PM, a series of fireworks shot into the air to signal the beginning of the Gunners set before the opening chords of "Chinese Democracy" kicked in and Rose ran on stage zigzagging his way through his seven-piece band. He was in constant motion throughout the song, dressed in jeans, a white shirt and fedora, which he later removed in favor of his characteristic bandana.

More explosions marked the end of the opening number before the familiar riff to "Welcome to the Jungle" rang out and a huge roar erupted from the crowd of 7,500 as Rose screeched: "Do you know where you are? You're in the jungle, baby. You're gonna diiiiiieeee."

His distinctive nasally whine is still in fine form, as he displayed on the swaggering "It's So Easy" and the drug ode, "Mr. Brownstone," two classics from the band's 1987 debut, Appetite for Destruction.

At 47, Rose looked and sounded as good as ever, relying on TelePrompters to help out in case he forgot some lyrics. He even appeared to be enjoying himself, flashing the occasional smile and offering up some between-song banter with the crowd:

"It's nice to be with you tonight. It's nice of you to turn up the heat for us while we're here," he said, referencing the freakishly warm weather the city has been experiencing, before launching into the new "Shackler's Revenge," which gave his three guitarists --- Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal, Richard Fortus and DJ Ashba--- a chance to show off some riffs ex-guitarist Slash didn't write and allowed Rose to head backstage, something he did often throughout the night.

Massive flames shot in the air and concussion bombs exploded for the band's wall-of-guitars cover of "Live and Let Die," before they slowed things down with "Sorry," "If the World," and "Street of Dreams," three new songs that show off Rose's two best-known emotions: ticked off and tender.

Then out came some more old faves, including "You Could Be Mine," "Sweet Child O' Mine," and "November Rain," featuring Rose playing a grand piano at centre stage. Each song was given extra heft by the seven musicians on stage, each of whom got his own solo.

The paranoid bluster of "Out Ta Get Me," a cover of Bob Dylan's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door," and the metal-blues drinking anthem "Night Train" finished the main 130-minute set before the band returned for a six-song encore, highlighted by "Rocket Queen," "Patience" and customary show closer "Paradise City."

Then came more confetti, and explosions, and a last bit of the genial Axl: "Have a good night, be safe. We love you and we'll see you again." Okay, but next time, don't wait so long.

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