The legend of Guns N’ Roses is so powerful that seeing the band live, even today, is almost overwhelming.

Sure, GNR’s music evokes sweet feelings of nostalgia for anyone who was young, angry and confused in the late 1980s and early 90s, the Hessians and the outcasts who listened to Appetite for Destruction for the first time and realized that finally, they were not alone.

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But unlike their hair metal counterparts like Winger, Whitesnake and Tesla whose power ballad performances are today reserved for the casino circuit, Guns N’ Roses remains the world’s quintessential rock n’ roll band nearly 30 years after their prime. The boys from Hollywood are proving they can still sell out an arena show and probably steal your girlfriend the second they walk off stage.

Guns N’ Roses played their second of three LA shows Friday at the at the 17,500-capacity Forum — they performed (Nov. 24) Friday at Staples Center and are returning Wednesday to close their tour out at the Forum. While the band’s falling out over the years made them nearly as famous off stage as on, three original members – frontman Axl Rose, guitarist Slash and bassist Duff McKagan – have been circling the globe for 19 months on their reunion tour, perfectly coined, “Not in This Lifetime.” The Live Nation-backed run is the second highest grossing tour of 2017 behind U2’s “Joshua Tree” tour, bringing in $313 million in tickets sales, according to Billboard Boxscore. The band is represented by Ken Fermaglich at UTA and managed by Team Brazil. The Not in this Lifetime tour was honored earlier this month at the 2017 Billboard Touring Conference & Awards, winning the Top Tour/Top Draw award. It is the first time Axl, Slash and Duff have performed together since 1993’s Use Your Illusion tour.

“It’s just such a tradition for me to see them live,” said Ryan Seaman of Hanford, California, who brought his 15-year-old son Daylan to Saturday’s show. “It’s a part of history I wanted to share with him. He loves it.”

The rest of the crowd at the Forum loved GNR, too. The band’s fans are obviously much older than they were the first time they heard “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” but the show gave them the chance to embrace leather jackets, concert tees, ripped jeans and 24-ounce beers just as they did in their teens and 20s.

For their part, Guns n’ Roses took the stage looking how one would have expected them to have looked in their heyday. Slash’s mess of dark curls were covered by his iconic top hat. His classic shiny Les Paul guitar and steadfast musicianship drove home the notion that Slash is still one of the greatest solo guitarists of all time.

Duff was tall, blonde and lanky in black jeans. He coolly eyed the crowed as he strummed his bass and sang backup for Axl.  

Axl himself wore a T-shirt and jeans, with a flannel tied around his waist. He put on his signature bandana and a cowboy hat; his energy on stage was relentless for a man who, at age 55, has likely put his body through more than most people have in a few lifetimes.

Adding to the sensory overload, general disorientation and deja vu feel of the night was rhythm guitarist Richard Fortus, who bore an astonishing, almost creepy resemblance to former band member Izzy Stradlin. Fortus beautifully played a long guitar solo during “Rocket Queen.”

Axl’s voice was clear, hitting every high and low note with what sounded like little effort. Gone was the overt volatility and chronic lateness the singer became so well-known for years ago; not only did Axl show up on time – the band started a few minutes early and played for more than three hours. 

“We’re gonna do that thing now where we get all deep and romantic,” Axl told the crowd. “All warm and fuzzy.”

The band then kicked off a roaring rendition of “You Could Be Mine.”

“See, doesn’t that warm you?” Axl joked afterward. “I told you.”

Guns n’ Roses played a mix of hits from their biggest albums: Appetite, Use Your Illusion I and II and Chinese Democracy. They performed “Sweet Child O’ Mine” about halfway through the show.

They killed it with “It’s So Easy,” “Mr. Brownstown” and the title track to “Chinese Democracy.”

GNR also performed Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” to honor lead singer Chris Cornell, who committed suicide earlier this year, and The Who’s “The Seeker.”

“You hear that coming around the proverbial bend?” Axl said, before launching into “Night Train.”

GNR encored the show with an outstanding performance of “Paradise City,” the song that first showed the world that these are guys who can bring down the house before an enormous crowd who is hanging onto every word – and every note.

But that’s the thing about GNR. You want to hang on. Seeing Guns n’ Roses live reminds you of what it’s like to be young. To be sad and happy and pissed off and exhilarated. To be alive.

“DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOU ARE?” Axl screeched as Slash began to strum the haunting and electrifying opening of “Welcome to the Jungle.”

We knew, Axl. And we didn’t want to leave.

Maggie O'Brien

Maggie O'Brien

Maggie O'Brien has been a journalist for more than 15 years. She's covered everything from from crime to politics to fitness. Writing about bands and shows takes her back to the days of going to punk rock shows in the Midwest.
Maggie O'Brien

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