Coming up roses

Guns N' Roses' frontman Axl Rose and guitarist Slash (both above) heating up the stage.
Guns N' Roses' frontman Axl Rose and guitarist Slash (both above) heating up the stage.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

American band Guns N' Roses' first gig in Singapore had solid showmanship and a choice setlist



Changi Exhibition Centre

Last Saturday

Guns N' Roses' (GNR) first concert in Singapore might have drawn complaints on social media about the long wait for food, drinks and transportation, but performance- wise, the iconic American band put on a top-notch rock show.

Frontman Axl Rose and his reunited band mates, guitarist Slash and bassist Duff McKagan, tore through a scorching set at the Changi Exhibition Centre last Saturday night.

All the GNR trademarks were on full display during the two-hour, 45-minute set: Rose's screeching wail and hip-swaying moves, Slash's top hat and slithering solos and McKagan's low slung bass and frequent runs across the massive stage.

The setlist was classic GNR, with the bulk of the songs from their iconic 1987 debut album Appetite For Destruction and 1991 double release Use Your Illusion I and II, as well as a smattering of covers including Bob Dylan's Knockin' On Heaven's Door and Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here.

According to organisers LAMC, the audience of rock-lovers - comprising men and women mostly in their 30s and 40s - numbered 50,000, which made the gig one of the biggest rock shows held here.

And for them, the three-decade wait for a GNR show in Singapore was worth it.

There were plenty of singalong opportunities for originals such as epic ballads November Rain, which featured Rose on grand piano, and Estranged as well as red-blooded rock numbers such as Paradise City and Welcome To The Jungle.

Rose's vocals and the guitars seemed buried and could do with more punch, but the band's solid showmanship and choice setlist made up for the less-than-stellar sound.

The GNR distinctive brand of rock, a brash mix that dips into multiple genres such as punk, blues and baroque piano pop, has held well over the years.

Slash's guitar intro on Sweet Child O' Mine, for example, is a timeless riff that still sounds fresh.

While they were tight musically, there was little interaction on stage among core members Rose, Slash and McKagan. Each would take up different corners of the stage and the podium in the middle seemed reserved exclusively for Rose.

The Singapore show is part of the band's global Not In This Lifetime tour. When it started last year, it marked the first time the three had performed together since 1993.

The rest of the band members on stage lacked the trio's star power, but were no less potent on stage.

Long-time keyboardist Dizzy Reed, drummer Frank Ferrer, keyboardist Melissa Reese and guitarist Richard Fortus held their own despite getting less of the spotlight.

The band came on 35 minutes after the scheduled 8pm start time, a marked improvement from the old days when they used to keep the crowd waiting for hours.

Earlier in the day, opening bands Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown from the United States and Wolfmother from Australia warmed up the crowd, which started streaming into the venue in the afternoon.

Because the venue is not near any MRT station or even bus stops, many in the crowd relied on shuttle buses which, after the show, sent them to various locations, including Singapore Expo and City Hall. There were long queues to board the buses and the mass of vehicles trying to exit Changi Exhibition Centre resulted in heavy traffic around the area.

Most of the complaints took aim at the long waiting time to buy drinks and food though, with fans lamenting that the organisers should have set up more stalls to cater to the large crowd.

And because they could make purchases only with pre-paid tags, many were left with unused credits after the show. Organisers LAMC posted on social media that the company will refund unspent credits.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 27, 2017, with the headline 'Coming up roses'. Print Edition | Subscribe