“Not in this lifetime.”
That’s what Axl Rose said in 2012 when asked about the chances of a Guns N’ Roses reunion happening.
On Friday, April 1st, the marquee of The Troubadour in LA read only that phrase in cryptic suggestion. Hours later, the West Hollywood club was at capacity for the (surprise) first show in decades from the reunited GNR featuring Rose, Slash, and Duff McKagan. The impossible had become possible. Because if not in this lifetime, then when?
If I have two regrets as a writer and fan of rock music, it’s that I sold my ticket to see The Replacements play their homecoming show at Midway Stadium in Minneapolis and that I wasn’t at The Troubadour on Friday night. These were the reunions that weren’t supposed to happen: The band members so far estranged that even their fans had given up any realistic hope. It wasn’t until I saw the footage of Guns N’ Roses playing “Welcome to the Jungle” (shot covertly, as the show was strictly no-cellphones-allowed) that I realized GNR is officially back. In the video, Rose commands the small stage just like he did in ’86, Duff and Slash on either side. And they sound good.
The dream is reality, the nostalgia is real, and the “Not in This Lifetime” stadium tour no longer seems like a hackneyed scheme to make millions of dollars (though that will happen regardless). There was a mutual joy captured in that video — fans reliving their favorite band, some seeing them for the first time, and the band responding with enthusiasm — that gives me hope for this tour, that it won’t fall to pieces like the naysayers and ornery commenters project. In anticipation of this ultimate victory lap, Dan Bogosian and I give you our picks for the 10 songs GNR should play on their tour. None of these songs were on the setlist for the Troubadour show, but we’d sure like to see the band bust them out in the coming months.
Senior Staff Writer
Playing this multi-movement epic at The Troubadour wouldn’t have made sense, but with some stadium-show production behind it, this Use Your Illusion track would be a poignant inclusion to the set for a band that was itself estranged for so long. This song’s legacy is forever tied to its super expensive and gaudy music video, though it stands as one of the most accomplished compositions, conducive to the theater of the live stage. –Jon Hadusek
“Think About You”
If it’s the classic lineup, play the real fan favorites, not just the radio hits. Everyone knows GNR worshipped Aerosmith, and “Think About You” is the closest the group ever came with their original compositions to recreating Joe Perry and Steven Tyler’s Boston rock sound. Handclaps during a surfy guitar solo? That quirky cowbell intro? Throw in those ghostly “oohs” in the background, and I’ll be upset if I throw down football stadium prices and don’t get to think about this one. –Dan Bogosian
This is such an uplifting song, expressing a sentiment universal to many great pop songs. “Yesterday, there was so many things I was never told.” Tell that to the Axl Rose from 2012 who wouldn’t give this tour a chance in hell. As one of the band’s most concise and wholesome tunes — I can imagine Rose pointing the mic at the crowd and letting them sing this one — it’d be a crime for them not to carve out three minutes of an inevitably lengthy set for “Yesterdays”. –Jon Hadusek
“Get In The Ring”
On one level, “Get in the Ring” still applies, because it’s not like Rose and his posse have gained positive affection over every move from music critics worldwide. On the other hand, it would be new turf for the group: they’ve never played this song live. Not with Slash and Duff, not without them, not Rose acoustically, nowhere. I don’t even think Rose has sung it in the shower. The fact that it’s one of the most cuss-filled rock songs in history and perhaps Guns N’ Roses’ most hate-filled song would make it quite the charming performance. –Dan Bogosian
The Troubadour set was weak on Use Your Illusion cuts, hence the inclusion of so many on this list. Like “Yesterdays”, “Don’t Cry” was included on Greatest Hits, and while I’m glad Rose squeezed in “Better” and “Chinese Democracy” at the first show (the strongest cuts off the perpetually underrated Chinese Democracy), it’s hard to rationalize their inclusion over these now legendary songs. –Jon Hadusek
You know who’s not a great singer but was a great band member? Izzy Stradlin. You know who sang lead on a song other than Axl Rose? Izzy Stradlin. It’s not that “14 Years” is something everyone on Earth needs to see live; the implication is that if they play “14 Years”, Stradlin hopped on for a couple dates. Throw in that and an appearance by Matt Sorum or Steven Adler on drums, and you don’t get to argue about whether it’s the classic GNR lineup or not: the boys would be back in town. The fact that the song is also a badass commentary on the burdens of relationships helps for its inclusion. –Dan Bogosian
“I’m on the nightraaaiiin.” I don’t know about everybody else, but that’s the chorus I want to shout in unison with 75,000 other people when I see GNR this summer. Frankly, every track on Appetite should be played before anything on any other album, and the absence of “Nightrain” in the Troubadour set is surprising considering it’s Slash’s favorite song to play live. “That song has a rhythm to it in the verses that from the start always made me go crazy,” he wrote in his biography. “I’m not sure why, but no other song we’ve ever played live made me move like that.” It was played before the encore at the Chinese Democracy shows, so it will likely make an appearance on the reunion tour. –Jon Hadusek
Sometimes whistling in songs can feel cheesy; sometimes it can really sell the song. In “Civil War”, the mood is set by the whistle of an army’s march; the song originally took to a literal anti-war meaning, a political slant that never expires. There’s just as much conflict in 2016 as there was in 1990 when it first appeared on the Nobody’s Child compilation. With the peace made between McKagan, Slash, and Rose, it could double as a metaphor for pointless fighting in general. Throw in the delicious Slash solo, and we need to see it at the band’s full shows. –Dan Bogosian
You know what really got me going, what really got me stoked for this tour? I was driving down I-70 the other day with a friend to see a show in St. Louis, and if you’ve ever spent time on the Missouri stretch of that highway, you know it’s bleak as fuck. Anyways, I’m in the passenger seat and I look over and there is an electronic billboard displaying the word “Patience” in the Appetite for Destruction font. Talk about advertising that cuts straight to the heart. I’m personally invested here — “Patience” is my favorite GNR song and the finest power ballad ever written — and I imagine a softer moment in the reunion set, the band picking up acoustic instruments for a soft rendition to break up the rocking pace. Hoist those lighters. –Jon Hadusek
How could you claim to have the classic GNR lineup and not play their most bold, pretentious, awesome, and defying song? “November Rain” has what many consider Slash’s defining guitar solo and Rose’s defining songwriting. Originally, they needed a monster string section for it, but now there are two keyboardists playing: perennial member Dizzy Reed and first-female-in-the-band-ever Melissa Reese. Let one of them fake the strings and the other play the piano. Bring us the Guns N’ Roses we signed up for. –Dan Bogosian