It has been over two years since Guns N’ Roses last came to the greater Philadelphia area and in that time much as happened. DJ Ashba departed the band to return to Sixx: A.M. , months of silence made many wonder if the band was done, Axl Rose joined AC/DC and the biggest news of all the band announced the return of Slash and Duff Mckagan for a Coachella show that would turn into the hottest tour this summer, The Not in This Lifetime Tour. The band skyrocketed back to their early 1990’s levels of fame when they announced a stadium tour across the United States which included Lincoln Financial Field last Thursday night. Support for the tour varied from date to date but Philadelphia was treated to a solid set from Wolfmother who was just in the market this past May at the MMRBQ in Camden.
Tickets were a premium for this show with many of the high quality seats and standing room pit up front selling out moments after going on sale. Guns N’ Roses has always had a huge following in the Philadelphia area, the band actually played an intimate show at the Electric Factory a few years back that sold out within seconds as well. Before that they hit the BB&T Pavalion during the first Chinese Democracy tour and of course the Sands Event Center for a one off nearly two years ago to the date. Lincoln Financial Field was packed to the brim with fans of all ages and types, many of whom were wearing Guns N’ Roses shirts of all decades. While the band had an opening act for their show the real entertainment came from the sharing of stories between fans in the crowds. Over the years Guns N’ Roses have impacted hundreds of thousands of people, many of which never got to see the band with the Slash and Duff in the band so the excitement for the Not in This Lifetime Tour was palpable in the air. The excitement only grew further as their logo was illuminated across the stage for the 45 minutes before they took the stage, beers were purchased, stories were told and fans knew that the wait was finally almost over for them.
As the opening lights flashed off the screech of guitar was heard as Slash walked out on stage to the loudest roar of a crowd I have ever heard. He was soon joined by Duff McKagan on the far side of the stage as the stage came to life around them with massive LED screens flanking them on either side. Axl Rose burst onto the stage full of energy and no longer restricted by the broken foot that left him sitting in a throne for the Coachella shows. As he began singing the first song of the night, “It’s So Easy” it became clear the Philadelphia was in for one hell of a show that evening. The first song flew by quickly for most as the crowd was a never ending sea of cell phones being held above people’s heads as they documented a moment they never thought they would see again. It didn’t take long for them to disengage from their screens and live in the moment, watching Slash play the riffs on “Mr. Brownstone” and “Chinese Democracy” is a much better experience with your own eyes than with a 3 inch screen. Explosions rocked the venue as fireworks burst into the sky as the band ran through a sped up version of “Welcome to the Jungle” that felt like it was straight out of 1991. Slash had his guitar lifted up high to his side, Axl was bending over backwards hitting the notes in near perfect fashion and Duff was slamming his bass around with fury.
Since the show I have been asked by over a dozen people the same question, “how did Axl Rose sound?!” Well, let me tell you a little something about how he sounded. I’ve seen them perform before on this seemingly never ending Chinese Democracy tour and I can honestly say that this is the vocally best I have heard Axl Rose perform in recent memory. Was it perfect? No, but Guns N’ Roses was never about technical perfection. It is a gathering of talent, raw unbalanced emotion and energy. Axl Rose has recaptured his early spirit on stage and gave a performance that Philadelphia had been waiting to see for a decade. There was grit, there was power and there was happiness. Rose thanked the crowd after nearly every song and was in good spirits with Slash and Duff, even going as far as tickle Slash during a solo to try to make him smile. The highlights of the show were some of the deeper cuts the band performed. Rose sounded incredible on “Estranged” and “Coma,” both songs that are truly undervalued in the band’s catalog of music. It was also a pleasant surprise when the band broke out “Sorry” for the first time with Slash and Duff, that song is one of the better tracks off of ‘Chinese Democracy.’
Guns N’ Roses Setlist from July 15, 2016 – Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, PA
It’s So Easy
Welcome to the Jungle
Double Talkin’ Jive
Live and Let Die (Wings)
You Could Be Mine
You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory/New Rose (Johnny Thunders/The Damned)
This I Love
Out Ta Get Me
Band intros into Slash solo – Speak Softly Love
Sweet Child O’ Mine
Jam (“Wish You Were Here” Pink Floyd/Layla (Derek and The Dominos)
Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door (Bob Dylan)
Encore: Jam into Don’t Cry
The Seeker (The Who)
By the end of the night the venue was still packed to the brim with only a few people leaving before the encore’s end to try to beat the traffic out of the venue it would seem. As Paradise City concluded confetti was shot out across the venue and Rose shouted goodnight as he tossed the microphone into the crowd and stormed off stage with a smile. He returned with his band mates to take a quick bow before the night ended and everyone departed the show they thought would never happen in their lifetime.