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The latest lineup (from left to right): Tommy Stinson, Frank Ferrer, DJ Ashba, Dizzy Reed, Axl Rose, Bumblefoot, Richard Fortus and Chris Pitman.
At the height of rock music popularity in the 1990s, there was Guns N’ Roses (GN’R), a virtuoso band that attracted leagues of music fans across the genres.
With the banshee shrieks of Axl Rose and rough melancholic tunes, the group united the heart-wringing heavy metal fans with the blues boys. Its first work Appetite for Destruction in 1987 was the largest-selling debut album in rock history.
The next decade was their best and — like so many others in the cradle of fame — the most tumultuous, when they contributed their finest while struggling to keep the group together.
At the beginning of the new millennium, only Rose and keyboardist Darren Arthur “Dizzy” Reed remained in the band. Iconic guitarist Saul “Slash” Hudson and band co-founder and guitarist Izzy Stradlin were long gone along with the storm.
When the band released Chinese Democracy, its latest album, in 2008, the chemistry was over and the album was critically considered as a failure despite its long preparation.
This year Rose and the band started a nostalgia tour to relive their hits and Indonesia, which was overlooked during their heyday, is the only Southeast Asian stop. Despite sounding outdated amid the present-day soulful rock from Kings of Leon and Coldplay and toned-down grunge champion Foo Fighters, GN’R surely still has its fans — now mostly in their 40s — who will still come to the show, maybe minus their boots, chain and studs.
Scheduled to perform in Senayan Sports Stadium, Senayan, Central Jakarta, on Dec. 15, the legendary band promised to give their best in a three-hour show, delivering all hits, including “November Rain” and “Sweet Child O’ Mine”.
“Our goal is just to get our music out to everybody. Yes, it’s long overdue [the concert in Indonesia], but we’re going to come down there, and we’ll do our best to not disappoint you guys,” Dizzy Reed, currently responsible for keyboard, piano, percussion and backing vocals in the band, told The Jakarta Post during a recent phone interview.
Established in 1985, the band’s original line-up was vocalist Axl Rose, rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin, lead guitarist Tracii Guns, bassist Ole Beich and drummer Rib Gardner. They were struggling for a record deal.
In June 1985, the band replaced its lead guitarist with the iconic Slash, as well as signing up bassist Duff McKagan and drummer Steven Adler. In this classic line-up, GN’R released Appetite for Destruction in July 1987 and G N’ R Lies in November 1988, as well as several singles including hit “Sweet Child O’ Mine” in August 1988.
Reed joined the band in February 1990 as pianist as well as backing vocals and produced the single Civil War in May 1993.
“I loved Appetite for Destruction when it came out. That was one of the best ever rock records. So, I was there, starting as the fan of the band and then joining the band. It means everything for me to be in Guns N’ Roses, and I feel really lucky to still be able to do this for a living, and it’s still a lot of fun,” said the 49-year-old musician.
In the second classic line-up (July 1990-November 1991), drummer Adler left the band and was replaced by Mat Sorum. In this era, GN’R released two records, Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II in September 1991. There were numerous hit singles including “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” and “November Rain” respectively in May and June in 1992.
In November 1993, the band released The Spaghetti Incident? with new rhythm guitarist Gilby Clarke replacing Stradlin.
The current lineup consists of Rose, Reed, bassist Thomas “Tommy” Eugene Stinson, another keyboardist Chris Pitman, guitarists Richard Fortus, Ron “Bumblefoot” Blumenthal, Daren Jay “DJ” Ashba and drummer Frank Ferrer.
It’s unlikely that we’ll ever see the band’s original lineup getting together again on a stage. In April this year, Rose was scheduled for a reunion performance with Slash, McKagan, Clarke, Adler and Sorum, but he didn’t make it.
Over a possible new record, Reed said that the band was in the early stages with each member sharing his ideas.
“We had a lot of stuff that we haven’t finished from the past, some great songs… I just hope it won’t take us to another 10 years,” he said.
Despite numerous changes in lineup as well as drug abuse along the way, Reed said that the band had grown into a better form, although he was not sure whether the band would survive another 20 years.
“Sometimes you just have to take things one step at a time. It’s good to have a plan and place, and so I hope we’re still rocking 20 years from now. I hope that we don’t look bad doing it.”
— Photos courtesy of Guns N’ Roses