Every legendary band has a home city. The Beatles broke ground in Liverpool before making it big, as did The Rolling Stones in London and Aerosmith in Boston. For Guns N' Roses, Los Angeles is where it all began.
While Staples Center is demonstrably bigger than the humble roots of the Troubadour and Whisky A Go Go, it was a necessary upgrade for the dozens of thousands of fans fulfilling a lifelong dream of seeing the bad boys play what could always be their final show. While it isn't the original lineup, Slash, Axl Rose, Duff McKagan, and Dizzy Reed represent enough of the original item to get a pass.
It's only been 18 months since the band got back together. First, for a "secret" Troubadour reunion and then to headline Coachella 2016. Poetically, Rose broke his foot during his comeback and had to croon from Dave Grohl's guitar throne during the Indio headline set. For this performance, the feet were fine as Rose made sure to use all sides of the stage with his trademark shimmy and serpentine shake. Axl's patented scream was also intact, impressive given their time away, the massive set lists, and compacted touring schedule. They smartly staggered the set enough to give him time between songs backstage, but when he asked “Do you know where you are?” it felt like it did in 1987.
He took impressive but definitely unneeded risks, like belting “This I Love,” a piano-backed vocal marathon from Chinese Democracy. It is assuredly a low percentage of GNR fans that would have gone home thinking “30 songs were great and all, but I would have loved one more song off of Chinese Democracy that really punished Axl's voice a third of the way through the show.”
That impressive set list covered over 30 songs from their entire catalog, including a few covers. Just looking at the tracks, it's hard to see how this went for nearly four hours, but five-minute songs went on for 10,10 for 15, and "November Rain" for an eternity. Having Duff McKagen do his best Dave Vanian impression on an impressive cover of “New Rose” by The Damned definitely helped break things up, as did the myriad of Slash solos and guitar wankery.
While not an original GNR member, rhythm guitarist Richard Fortus did more than filled the gaps Slash created during his spiraling solos. He even took center stage during "Rocket Queen" and proved why he was fit for the band as he ripped his strings to shreds and captivated the audience. Of course, Slash immediately topped him with his own shredding vocoder solo that went on for days. Drummer Frank Ferrer might actually be the best backing member, as he kept the band together like super glue, never letting up and sucking everyone onto the beat like a black hole.
In the end, GNR put on one of the loudest shows imaginable, with fireworks and gunshots crashing off of the arena walls like slapshots and slam dunks normally do. While prices reached up into the quadruple digits for a chance to be a few feet away from rock royalty, the show was big enough, loud enough, and long enough to give even those in the upper deck a night to remember.