There’s nothing quite like the first time you experience something amazing. Think about it: the first time you saw what became your favorite movie; the first time you ate your now favorite food; the first time you had really, REALLY good sex… not the first time you had sex – the first time you had good sex.
All of those experiences are followed by you repeating the scenario again and again trying to recapture the euphoria of the the initial sensation. You watch that movie again; you eat that food some more; you…
You get the picture.
I became a fan of Guns N’ Roses in high school. They were the opposite of what I was at that point in my life: edgy, loud, and borderline offensive. They were also creative, amazingly talented, and something I connected with. I’ll never forget the day my dad walked into my bedroom while I was listening to my Appetite to Destruction CD just to tell me that he actually thought they sounded like a good band. (My parents were about as far from musically inclined as you can get – but the compliment still meant the world to me.)
I saw Guns N’ Roses for the first time December 28, 1991 in St. Petersburg, Florida and the experience was transcendent. I had been to concerts prior to this, but not an “arena rock concert”. I went with a few friends from high school and one of their parents came along to chaperone and get us a hotel room. My room was supposed to be me, one of the guys, and the one girl on the trip. He and I were supposed to share a bed with her in the other.
After the concert, it didn’t end that way… but I digress.
The concert was an impact on me, so much so that I jumped on the opportunity to see them again at the concert I remember even more: Guns N’ Roses, Metallica, & Faith No More at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida on September 2, 1992. It was a-fucking-mazing. Loud, over the top, and larger than life – Axl Rose and Slash shook the arena with screams, chords, and rock and roll.
Robert Frost called it, though: nothing gold can stay. Shortly after, Guns N’ Roses broke up and my experiences became something I got to talk about as legend.
A few years back, I went to see Axl’s versions of GNR without Slash and any of the original crew – something my friend Ryan (who was with me) and I dubbed “Axl & A Bunch of Guys”. It was a good show, but it was like getting McDonalds when you know that In-N-Out exists somewhere else. It was a concert, but not an experience.
When the Not In This Lifetime Tour was announced with Axl, Slash and Duff in the lineup – I thought long and hard about wanting to go. I have fond memories of the concerts of my youth, and the risk of sullying them was a very, very real. I wanted to hold on to the memories of my younger days – but like our other favorite things: we yearn for the experience of “one more time”.
So I got the tickets, and last night I took my wife (note: not a GNR fan) to the concert. At least if it was horrible, I had someone there to console me.
It was euphoric.
I was nineteen again.
The concert was in the exact same venue I saw them in last time – 23 years ago. Close to a quarter century later, Axl and Slash still owned the stage. The energy was there, and, for the first time for as long as I could remember, I felt connected to the music again.
Sure, I had to sit through three songs from Chinese Democracy that I didn’t know – but it was worth it to feel the sound of Sweet Child O’ Mine, Welcome to the Jungle, You Could Be Mine, and (my favorite) Paradise City.
We even got the usual ode to Scorsese films by way of Slash solos. (The Godfather and Goodfellas/“Layla”.)
Shannon even pointed out that while she always knew that Slash was supposed to be a good guitarist, seeing him live made her believe that he might not just be one of the greatest guitarists alive – but one of the guitarists of all time.
Nineteen year old me high-fived future me at the moment for finding an amazingly astute woman to marry.
So thank you, Axl and Slash, for putting aside your differences long enough to grant this old man his once in a lifetime experience for a third time.
Welcome to the jungle, we’ve got fun and games…
ADDED NOTE: The Cult opened for GNR and were entirely forgettable.