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Review: Guns N' Roses at the Covelli Centre
December 8, 2011 - Andy Gray
Wednesday night – OK, mostly Thursday morning – a band entertained a rock crowd in Youngstown with songs by Pink Floyd, AC/DC, The Who, Elton John, Paul McCartney & Wings, Bob Dylan and, oh yeah, Guns N’ Roses.
That set list could describe any cover band playing a downtown bar. The difference is these guys just got into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Well, one of ‘em did anyway.
On the day Guns N’ Roses found out it will be inducted into the Rock Hall, the band played at the Covelli Centre. It may have taken a Groupon deal to help move the tickets, but the venue was mostly full as the band launched into a marathon set that included plenty of GNR songs as well as the many covers.
Axl Rose is the only remaining original member. The current lineup might not fit some old-school fan’s definition of what constitutes Guns N’ Roses, but it also isn’t Rose & His Hired Guns.
Wednesday’s show had a band feel to it. Rose doesn’t treat these guys like his backup band. GNR isn’t a democracy, Chinese or otherwise, but Rose comes across at least as a benevolent dictator, generously sharing the limelight with long-time keyboard player Dizzy Reed, keyboard player Chris Pittman, bassist Tommy Stinson, drummer Frank Ferrer and the guitar triumvirate of Richard Fortus, Ron ``Bumblefoot’’ Thal and DJ Ashba.
That’s one of the reasons the show is so long. Wednesday’s main set was 27 songs (including the instrumental showcases) and about 140 minutes before the encores. Reed did an extended instrumental version of The Who’s ``Baba O’Riley,’’ and Rose did his own stint at the grand piano playing Elton John songs.
Thal wove the ``Pink Panther’’ theme into his shredding showcase while Fortus played a buzzsaw version of the ``James Bond’’ theme. Stinson gave a shout out to ``Youngstown’s own Stiv Bators’’ (actually Girard, but close enough) before launching into the Dead Boys’ ``Sonic Reducer.’’
And each musician has opportunities to show off on the GNR material, which included a few tracks from ``Chinese Democracy’’ but drew heavily from the ``Appetite for Destruction’’ and ``Use Your Illusion’’ discs -- ``Welcome to the Jungle,’’ ``Mr. Brownstone,’’ ``Civil War,’’ ``Sweet Child O’ Mine,’’ ``November Rain,’’ ``Nightrain’’ and ``It’s So Easy.’’
Rose might not have been at his kilt-wearing weight, but he looked good, certainly not as puffy as he did in those AP photos from Brazil, where his yellow slicker stage attire drew comparisons to Paddington Bear. And he can still do that serpentine shimmy.
His voice also sounded reasonably strong, although it was far enough down in the mix that the roar of the three guitar players helped cover any shaky notes. Even at its commercial peak, GNR had an uneven rep as a live act, but Rose’s notoriously prickly attitude wasn’t in evidence Wednesday.
One thing hasn’t changed, though. GNR came on stage Wednesday at 10:55 p.m., which is the time most Covelli Centre headliners are saying goodnight. The start time of the show was pushed back two days before the concert, and the doors didn’t open until 8 p.m. Those who showed up early expecting the music to start at 8 were left waiting in the cold.
On a weeknight when many folks have to get up for work the next day, starting a concert – one that runs close to three hours – that late really is a disservice to the audience. I confess I bailed at 1:15 a.m., just as the encore was starting. And considering how many empty parking spots I saw then, many didn’t last that long.
It’s too bad. Because this lineup delivered a show worth enjoying to the end.
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Axl Rose performs Wednesday at the Covelli Centre in Youngstown. (Photo by Bob Jadloski)