When you think ‘GnR’, images of sweaty drunken nights on the Sunset Strip come to the peripheral. Visions of leather and hair, a cigarette dangling from under Slash’s top hat; girls and grit. Unless, that is, you have been following media the past few years, in which case you may just instantly think: ‘Fat Axl’.
The press surrounding Axl has never been, ahem… complimentary, but when I heard they were breaking out their Not In This Lifetime tour this summer, I was intrigued. GnR is one of the few ‘must-see’ bands that I have yet to see. The question became, “Do I want to ruin my mental attachment to them by seeing an overweight, aged Axl hobble around the stage (Rose suffered a broken leg at the start of his tour)?”. I wasn’t sold. My husband grabbed two tickets and went with a friend to the Tuesday night show at Gillette Stadium. He returned full of ecstatic energy, and dead set on me going to their second Boston show the following night. By the time my incredible husband got out of bed the next morning, he had two 7th row tickets for me, bought and paid for. Called my girl to clear her schedule, and it was on.
A quick trip to Will Call and I was in. A lifetime of concerts and celebrity encounters behind me, I set my sights on the closest concert security guard. If I could make friends with him, I could totally hop the gate to the pit for encore. We took a few selfies that he happened to be in, and I asked him if he wanted me to tag him in them on fb. We exchanged mutually annoyed looks when the rest of our row wouldn’t stop creeping into the aisle. My new friend was a good dude.
Flash forward 15 minutes: A guy casually strolling the aisle gave me the once over and I shot him a death look. My new friend walked up to me laughing.
“You don’t know what just happened.”, he said smirking.
“Yeah, some dude was hitting on me and I told him to screw.”, I said.
“THAT GUY was looking at you because HE is the one who brings you backstage.”, my new friend said, shaking his head.
“I’ll be right back.”, I said to my girlfriend, and shot up the aisle behind him.
“Hey.”, I tapped him on the shoulder. “You are looking for me.”
“I am?”, he said.
“Yup, give me a pass.”
“You go to bed?”, he asked.
Seriously?! Did he just flat out ask me that? GnR is so exactly their image, that they have this dude on payroll, just to walk the aisles looking for girls to go to bed with the band. This is precisely what should be happening at a Guns N Roses show; my faith in the band was restored. My mind went to jokes (‘The whole band, or can I chose one or two?’), but I kept it chill and casually avoided the question.
“I want backstage.”. He handed me a pass, seeming to understand that there was no way I wanted to sleep with the band, but was still worthy of the golden ticket. I got the Octagon pass, the GnR Guest pass, as opposed to the Groupie Triangle.
“I have a friend.” He handed over the second one. I kept it together until I got back to my seat and handed my bf her backstage pass and pit bracelet, at which point a few squeals emerged before channeling my inner Penny Lane once again.
Watching the rest of the show from front row pit, I was able to see GnR in their filthy excellence. Axl wasn’t doing as much snake as I would have liked, but he definitely wasn’t hobbling around. Jumping on amps, changing into at least half a dozen trashy t-shirts (The Bitch is Back being one, another – just a pair of breasts), the band powered through a set reminiscent of their Use Your Illusion tour set list. PS- We definitely both agreed that Axl looks so much better in person. The camera definitely adds 10 lbs. No sign of Fat Axl here, he just looks like a guy that could hit the gym if he felt like it.
Speaking of ‘in great shape’: Duff McKagan kicked serious ass, as one would expect after watching his documentary It’s So Easy, And Other Lies, which outlined his rigid training schedule with mentor Sensei Benny Urquidez. He spent most of the show directly in front of me, egging the audience on with the smirks and moves of a seasoned showman, his bass lovingly adorned Prince’s symbol.
During one of Axl’s million t shirt changes, Slash slipped the audience into a swaying trance playing an instrumental version of Wish You Were Here, seguing into the coda of Layla. Axl jumped onto the piano for a version of November Rain that ended in shooting flames so hot my makeup instantly singed to my face, and fireworks so dazzling, I immediately understood the need for the 26 semi trucks they have lugging their stage from show to show. It was everything I needed it to be. Hard, loud, brutal rock.
Not only was I shocked that this notoriously late band, started on time; I was shocked that their notoriously a**hole-ish frontman said very little to the audience, instead saving the rage for immaculate versions of Welcome To The Jungle, Night Train, and Paradise City. They traded up Patience, which they played Night 1, for Don’t Cry, Night 2. I would have preferred they traded it for Chinese Democracy, but whatever.
As the show started to near it’s 3 hour end, my nerves started vibrating. I WILL BE BACKSTAGE SO SOON. Everything I knew about the band came flooding at me, excitement compounded with nervousness. I had recently heard that GnR was stopped at the Canadian border for concealed gun possession, which Axl shrugged off in an interview, “You know, it happens — you can forget you had a f***ing gun.”, Axl’s rape scandal, stories of them stealing from groupie’s purses, and the drugs… oh the drugs. Knowing that, and also knowing I would probably have to leave my phone in some untouchable dish made me nervous. I texted my husband, ‘what should I do? should I just come home?’, to which he replied ‘whatever you do be safe, don’t get roofied, only drink bottled water, and keep texting me’ with an added ‘please don’t ruin my 30 year love of this band’. My sentiments exactly.
I made my way to the gate flashing my pass, I was escorted to the final gatekeeper, who was divvying us up by passes. Right in front of me, was the guy who gave me the pass in the first place, gathering a gaggle of 20-something leggy blondes, who had clearly answered his question “yes”. He locked eyes with me, giving me an opportunity to change my answer and join the girls on the motorcoach. I took a step back and looked away. He and the girls turned, and made their way backstage. Dammit! Of course I don’t want to sleep with the dirtiest band in rock and roll; I am a married mother, with a brain in my head. What I DO need is to tell them how much I love Guns n Roses pinball, and attempt to get Slash to let me try on his hat.
We were escorted back to Lenny Kravitz’s dressing room (AKA Belichik’s locker room) and were told to chill there until the band sent for the rest of us. The amount of people GnR had on staff handling our backstage experience was astounding. We had a different person to walk us down every different section of the hallway. We had security making sure no golf carts got too close or bothered us, we had security sitting outside the dressing room door making sure no one got in, and (oddly) no one got out. GnR definitely still has it. Power and prestige, a sound that still hasn’t quit, and clearly the DGAF attitude that gets them just about anything they want, (as in: a motor coach full of young blondes). As we sipped Lenny’s last Perrier and furiously snapped our real life Almost Famous scenario, all I could think was:
‘IT’S SO EASY, EASY, WHEN EVERYBODY’S TRYING TO PLEASE ME BABY’