News Segment


December 2, 2006

“Rock ‘n’ roll all night” was just a cliche until Friday and Saturday with Guns N’ Roses at Hilton Coliseum in Ames.

Hard rock singer Axl Rose more than lived up to his eccentric reputation by not taking the stage with his band until 12:30 a.m. Then he grinded out a two-hour, 18-song set in a shaky voice. Chose ponderous new songs from his forever-delayed “Chinese Democracy” album. Skittered off stage during the many extended solos doled out by his crack seven-piece band loaded with three ace guitarists.

All told the five-act concert lasted more than seven hours and tested the patience of the 5,363 fans to the point that fights nearly erupted on the general-admission arena floor just prior to GNR’s appearance.

For fans it wasn’t so much a rock show as a work shift or endurance test.

On stage the atmosphere might have been best described as an Axlpalooza hodgepodge that featured: unknown, nondescript St. Louis rock band Modern Day Zero; the pile-driving riffs and jazz-influenced solos of Helmet from New York, loudly booed by most of the audience; and five Goth strippers from the Suicide Girls troupe who twirled a flaming hula hoop and slathered each other’s bare chests in chocolate syrup.

And don’t forget former Skid Row frontman Sebastian Bach. The eager-to-please hair-metal ham and “Gilmore Girls” cast member doled out sing-along ballads such as “18 and Life.”

This surreal marathon arrived after Rose, 44, spent most of the week on hiatus (including a scrapped concert in Milwaukee) to heal from strep throat and an ear infection.

After four GNR songs — three from its landmark 1987 “Appetite for Destruction” debut album plus a cover of Paul McCartney’s “Live and Let Die” — Rose apologized for his tardiness, then joked about it.

“In the words of David Lee Roth, I don’t feel tardy,” he smirked.

Cute. And so GNR’s first concert at Hilton in 18 years and its first in Iowa since 1993 didn’t lack for drama. (It did of course lack for original band members; Rose has continually retooled the lineup that now includes familiar keyboardist Dizzy Reed and Tommy Stinson of the Replacements on bass.)

Rose not only sang but shook maracas and slid behind a grand piano. He whistled his way into “Patience.” His waistband has widened since the ’80s, but still the pony-tailed singer sprinted back and forth across the stage. And despite his ailing voice he out-crooned Bach on their duet of “My Michelle.”

Instead of repaying fans for their loyalty in the wee hours Rose demanded even more patience during the encore. He trotted out the politically charged “Chinese Democracy” title track, followed by a trippy guitar solo from Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal. The dated electronic rhythms of the worst of the new tunes, “Madagascar,” completed the concert’s transition from oddity to status as the lost chapter of a Lewis Carroll novel.

Maybe call Rose the Orson Welles of hard rock — not for the genius tag, but for struggling to live up to the massive success of his debut project by endlessly tinkering and often serving as his own worst enemy.

The last words Rose sang Friday night — I mean Saturday morning — were “Take me home.”

Exactly what I (and likely a few thousand other hardy souls) were thinking by 2:45 a.m.

Courtesy of