The Jakarta Post
Axl Rose, lead singer of United States rock band Guns N' Roses, performs during a concert at the Friends Arena in Stockholm on June 29, 2017. (AFP/Vilhelm Stokstad / TT News Agency)
Back in the early 1990s, when the Los Angeles band Guns N' Roses was still considered the "most dangerous band" on the planet, there was little that could go wrong. Despite the excess and debauchery, everything fell right into place for a brief period between the release of its debut album Appetite for Destruction in 1987 and Use Your Illusion II in 1992.
Band members' collective efforts to burn studio time, with only acoustic guitars accompanying Axl Rose vocals, resulted in Lies, an EP that sold almost 10 million copies worldwide. The band's cover of Bob Dylan's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" blew the original version out of the water. Millions of fans knew about this song only after buying the album Use Your Illusion II.
When members of the band were at the most acrimonious point of their relationship and managed only to record a collection of covers, the end result was a blockbuster record in the shape of The Spaghetti Incident?
Serious Guns N' Roses fans, however, would only swear by the band's music from the five years it stood at the top of the world. These are five songs that many consider to be Guns N' Roses’ best work and that you must rehash before joining the crowd of thousands for the band's Not In This Lifetime... tour on Thursday. You may need help with that high-pitched impersonation of Axl Rose though.
5. "Sweet Child O' Mine"
It has one of the most recognizable opening guitar lines in rock that must have inspired millions of suburban kids to pick up guitars and learn to do the solo. The song also highlights one of guitarist Slash's best guitar solos, made by a clean-sounding Les Paul guitar that by the end of the song takes listeners on a roller coaster of emotions. It also has Axl Rose delivering one of his best vocal performances, alternating between wide-eyed innocence to his trademark writhing and moaning.
4. "Civil War"
Guns N' Roses' antiwar message was for all intents and purposes less sophisticated than those peddled by politically minded bands like Rage Against the Machine or R.E.M., but what the band lacked in sophistication, it made up in a sprawling musical composition that runs the gamut from blues, rock and roll, hard rock and a dollop of progressive rock that make the song's running time of close to eight minutes feel like a brief interlude.
After the monster success of Appetite for Destruction, Guns N' Roses needed to kick back a little and took time to enjoy their success. Band members took up their acoustic guitars, worked on some key changes and acoustic solos that feel like throwaways from an aborted jam session. Rose even began this song by whistling his way into the first line, before tenderly addressing his lover to have patience with him. This type of song was a dime a dozen at the peak of the hair metal era, but Guns N' Roses made it feel special.
2. “November Rain”
A hard rock band like Guns N' Roses should not do opera, but there they were. Second to Queen's “Bohemian Rhapsody”, "November Rain," could be rock's most operatic song that people would still listen to two centuries from now. Everything about this song is epic, from Rose's decision to have a full-string arrangement, Slash's extended sky-scouring guitar solo that brought the house down, to shooting a US$1 million video that would amp up the sense of grandiosity of the song. Guns N' Roses never reached that same height again.
This is Guns N' Roses at its most bombastic. Axl Rose is one of those rare talents who could wring out so much emotion from one of the most basic aspect of romance like breaking up, and managed to marshal some of the most inspired performances from everyone involved in making "Estranged", a nine-minute masterwork inspired by Rose's breakup with his then-girlfriend Stephanie Seymour. Slash's multiple guitar solos alone are worth more than the concert’s admission fee while the band's rhythm section works up a storm that ebbs and flow, matching Rose's fragile emotions.