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Guns N’ Roses Welcome Coachella (Back) to the Jungle

perform onstage during day 2 of the 2016 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival Weekend 1 at the Empire Polo Club on April 16, 2016 in Indio, California.

Fans camped out at the Coachella stage on Day Two got the news just three hours before Guns N’ Roses showed up: Axl Rose to join AC/DC on “Rock or Bust” world tour. The AC/DC announcement electrified fans on Twitter, none of whom were there to see CHVRCHES, Disclosure, or Ice Cube perform. Rose, a notable recluse, is now going to be the most reviewed rock star on the planet. The singer currently has 35 scheduled shows around the world as both the frontman of AC/DC and GN’R. His stock is rising higher by the week. What a way to kick off the most anticipated Coachella performance of the weekend, maybe ever, where the band would collect a reported fee of $8 million for two weekend sets.

The historical ramifications of the night were unimportant for the vast majority of fans who came to feed off the nostalgia. Early in the day, the most popular GN’R T-shirts at the merch table were sold out. “F**king Guns N’ Roses?!” asked one girl, surprised that this was really happening in her lifetime, who was wearing a $40 dollar GN’R skull-and-cross T-shirt. She then screamed: “Play ‘November Rain’!”

Most of the crowd just wanted to hear the hits. “November Rain,” which is GN’R’s most viewed music video on YouTube, was being requested every few minutes. When Slash played guitar on “Chinese Democracy,” which is surreal to see, nobody cheered. Many didn’t recognize the song, while others, even fanboys, clearly would have preferred a deep cut off Use Your Illusion I and II. When Slash strummed the first twisted note to “Welcome To The Jungle,” everyone, especially the less diehard fans in the VIP section, screamed as if they were literally in the jungle, about to die. Rose even updated the songs intro for the evening: “You know where you are? You’re in the jungle, Coachella.”

Around 10:40 p.m., just ten minutes after their scheduled start, GN’R took the stage with an introduction that included a jumbo-sized graphic of pistols firing off into the desert. With his long-ish ginger hair and black leather jacket, Rose took his seat on Dave Grohl’s broken-bone throne, now wrapped in a black-and-white GN’R graphic. Rose also upgraded his hard cast with an air cast. “There are some privileges to being f**ked up,” he cheekily said as he was handed his red-cushioned microphone by a sexy nurse, who made her first appearance at the Las Vegas shows on April 8 and 9.

In fact, GN’R’s Coachella set, aside from more spectacle, was very similar to their Vegas gigs. GN’R also brought with them three go-go dancers and what looked like an armory of fireworks. This was Vegas, on steroids. There’s also the giant crystal display GN’R turned into a landscape of provocative images: a skeletal sex scene during “Rocket Queen” and machine guns during “Civil War.” When Slash pulled out his double-neck guitar, thunderous clouds appeared for “November Rain,” then a sci-fi EKG for “Coma” — a ten-minute track GN’R only played live a handful of times in the ‘90s. As expected, when “Coma” came on, most of the Coachellans were asking for “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” GN’R’s only number-one hit.

It took the Gunners about five songs to warm up, as Rose initially had in-ear monitor issues. By the time he belted out his manic yell on GN’R’s cover of “Live and Let Die,” highlighted by fireballs lighting up the stage behind him, he had won the crowd over with his cold stare. Even with his falsetto softened due to throat issues over the years, Rose still has more range than most rock singers today. His only handicap is the broken left foot, which appeared to frustrate him as he kept shaking throughout the set like he was strapped to an electric chair. “Since I can’t run around, we’re gonna bring out a friend,” he said. “Mr. Angus Young.”

The AC/DC guitarist got a thunderous reaction. Wearing a blue velvet schoolboy outfit, Young duckwalked around stage covering Bon Scott-era songs like “Whole Lotta Rosie” and “Riff Raff.” Rose, who at one point rolled up his left sleeve to reveal his “Victory or Death” tattoo, proved, once and for all, that he can nail these songs.

At one point during their set, Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger walked into VIP section. Courtney Love was there too, adding to the recent Nirvana-GN’R lovefest. “Sure is an awful lot of you motherf**kers here tonight,” said Rose, looking out into a Coachella crowd that probably doubled what LCD Soundsystem drew the previous night. When Grimes, who was booked at the same time GN’R was, managed to pack the Mojave tent, it was clear that Night Two drew somewhere close to Coachella’s 99,000 capacity.

GN’R worked hard to live up to all the hype and big-show expectations: Slash, with his silver skull ring rattling off his fretboard as he ripped solo after solo, was GN’R’s Coachella workhorse. He kept the show going by adding a bit of Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child” into the set, and while Rose was backstage for one of his several outfit changes, the band came together for an instrumental version of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” as an intro to “November Rain.”

After closing with “Paradise City,” the Gunners left the stage, and fireworks exploded over the palm trees, resembling a Super Bowl halftime show. Coachella marked the end of the first chapter in GN’R’s deliciously entertaining comeback, and we can now sit back and wait for the next injury update from Rose’s bizarrely attractive foot specialist, Dr. Rachel Triche. Or, if we’re lucky, an update on whether GN’R is working on new material. Either way, it’s rock theater on a scale we may never see again.

Guns N’ Roses Coachella set list:
“It’s So Easy”
“Mr. Brownstone”
“Chinese Democracy”
“Welcome To The Jungle”
“Double Talkin’ Jive”
“Live and Let Die”
“Rocket Queen”
“You Could Be Mine”
“Attitude” (Misfits cover)
“This I Love”
“Theme from The Godfather”
“Sweet Child O’ Mine”
“Civil War”
“Whole Lotta Rosie” (AC/DC cover)
“Riff Raff” (AC/DC cover)
“Wish You Were Here” (Pink Floyd cover, instrumental intro)
“November Rain”
“Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”

“The Seeker” (The Who cover)
“Paradise City”