By John Katsilometes
Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2011 | 12:45 p.m.
As a live act, Guns N’ Roses has long been the Judy Garland of hard rock: Classic but unsteady. Classically unsteady, even.
Even in its late 1980s and early 1990s heyday, Guns N’ Roses was not known for its punctuality or dependability onstage. Famous for showing up hours late for concerts frequently marred by riots, and punctuated by the between-songs rants of frontman Axl Rose, Guns N’ Roses has always represented a wild card among rock acts. This is a band whose lead singer -- Rose -- once got into a scuffle with Tommy Hilfiger at a New York nightclub. Not a guy wearing Tommy Hilfiger clothing, but the real Tommy Hilfiger.
And if you find yourself in a dust-up with Tommy Hilfiger, the possibilities for conduct are boundless.
Even on its current U.S. tour, Guns N’ Roses has roused some discord. The band has had to win over fans who have waited up to 3 hours after the posted start time for the musicians to charge onstage.
GN'R walked onstage at 11:30 p.m. for its show in Hartford, Conn., on Saturday. Tuesday in Chicago, they hit the stage at 11:10 p.m. In each instance, fans grew restless, and the growling audiences have been turned over to such GN'R contemporaries as Sebastian Bach to extend opening-act segments to appease the impatient.
Accounts of those shows are typically qualified by the band’s tardiness, with reviewers gauging the performances not on their own merit, but if the shows were actually worth a 2 ½- or 3-hour wait.
Fortunately -- and here is where the current incarnation of GN'R prospers -- the band has soared in its current live performances. Betting on the band’s resurgence as a fulfilling-if-tardy live act, officials at the Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel have signed Guns N’ Roses to play New Year’s Eve.
A roll of the dice? Maybe. But Hard Rock Hotel Vice President of Entertainment Paul Davis says the risk (calculated) is worth the reward (a terrific show to usher in 2012).
“On this tour, I’ve heard about a lot of shows and gotten some good, good reports,” Davis said during an interview last week. “They’ve been playing for 2 ½ and 3 hours. Word of mouth is really good. The candid reports I’ve been getting back are good.”
Davis is relying primarily on his colleagues with AEG Live, which is producing and promoting the Guns N’ Roses tour.
“People with AEG have been telling me the shows are coming off with no issues,” Davis said, but did add, “Axl is Axl, and we understand the rock and roll business.”
Before Davis’ arrival as an official at the hotel, Hard Rock hosted a Guns N’ Roses show at the old Joint in 2001. “Most of my staff who was at the hotel then said it was a great show,” Davis said.
The concert will be one of New Year’s Eve’s more fascinating events in Vegas, regardless of the outcome. The current lineup is loaded (musically), with Rose in fine voice as the band’s only remaining charter member. Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal is a “crazy, crazy” guitarist, as Davis notes. The band is expected to play all the hits you’d want to hear at a GNR show (“Mr. Brownstone,” “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” “Welcome to the Jungle,” all of those), along with covers of such hard-rock classics as AC/DC’s “Whole Lotta Rosie.”
It’s a great idea -- on paper.
“Part of my job is risk management and mitigation,” Davis said. “We understand what we’re getting into. But I feel really good.” It’s such a feeling worth waiting for.
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