Appetite For Domination: Guns N’ Roses Play Triumphant Homecoming Show At Dodger Stadium

Review by Andrew Bansal, Guns N’ Roses photos by Katarina Benzova


August 18th 2016, Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles CA: Welcoming the return of original members Slash and Duff McKagan, hard rock icons Guns N’ Roses have been going strong with their ‘Not In This Lifetime’ reunion tour in 2016, and having started out with an intimate secret show at the Troubadour in West Hollywood on April 1st, they brought it home to Los Angeles four months later for two nights at the Dodger Stadium. The Cult were chosen as the opening act for these shows, which have undoubtedly been among the most highly anticipated and eagerly awaited events in the Los Angeles concert calendar ever since they were announced. The first show was a sold-out affair and took place on Thursday August 18th. Fans grabbed any tickets they could afford as soon as they went on sale months ago, but even the most diehard Guns N’ Roses faithful perhaps would not have expected the kind of show they witnessed last night, and as for the haters, they were about to be proven very, very wrong.

Some ticket holders were wise enough to arrive as early as 4:30 PM to beat the impending traffic, and lined up even before doors opened at 5. The show started promptly at 6:30, as The Cult took the stage for a 10-song, 50-minute, no-bullshit set wherein they focussed on playing their tunes one after the other, and there was little to no crowd interaction from the usually more talkative vocalist Ian Astbury. The band sounded precise and powerful, guitarist Billy Duffy yet again proving himself as the master of the clean electric guitar tone, a level and quality of sound most other guitarists can only dream of. The Cult played a fine selection of tunes from their ten-album catalog, including the slow, bluesy jam ‘Deeply Ordered Chaos’ off of the 2016 full-length release ‘Hidden City’. Drummer John Tempesta, very much familiar to metalheads for his exploits in bands like Slayer, Testament and Exodus, was hitting the skins with a sense of purpose and played a crucial role along with forerunners Astbury and Duffy. New members Grant Fitzpatrick (bass) and Damon Fox (keyboards) also pulled their weight, and altogether, the five musicians put forth a performance worthy and deserving of being the opening act for the epic headliner to follow soon. “Sorry we’re not Green Day, but with all due respect, we were here first”, said Ian Astbury gleefully, as old-school rockers in the crowd cheered loudly. Guns N’ Roses opened for The Cult on their ‘Appetite For Destruction’ tour in ’87, and GNR returned the favor to The Cult in 2016, which is rare in itself, as more often than not, successful rock bands forget where they came from and who got them to where they are. It was a bit of a pity that many ticket holders were not even aware of The Cult’s participation in this show, or the fact that there was an opening act at all, but those that arrived in time to see The Cult’s set certainly did not regret doing so. A classy set by a masterful band.

The Cult set list:
01. Wild Flower
02. Rain
03. Lil Devil
04. Rise
05. The Phoenix
06. Deeply Ordered Chaos
07. Sweet Soul Sister
08. Fire Woman
09. She Sells Sanctuary
10. Love Removal Machine

Even for a sold-out show, there were a lot of empty seats in the stadium before and during The Cult’s set, simply due to traffic congestion on all freeways leading to the venue, but it was getting increasingly filled, and a nearly packed house waited for Guns N’ Roses to hit the stage. At 8:10, just 10 minutes past the advertised start time, the classic GNR logo appeared on the stage backdrop and on the giant screens either side of the stage, as the Looney Tunes intro was played on the PA, followed by ‘The Equalizer’ theme song, and the seven band members took their positions to begin with ‘It’s So Easy’, starting a set that lasted all of two hours and 45 minutes with no breaks whatsoever. In recent years, there has been much talk and speculation surrounding Axl Rose’s vocal performance, some of it completely unsubstantiated, but here he was, hitting all the notes, singing like he has never sung before, and while doing so, running a marathan from one side of this massive stage to the other throughout the set. In comparison to Metal Assault’s previous Guns N’ Roses live concert experiences in 2011, 2012 and 2014, which were all great performances, this was a much stronger Axl Rose, a singer who has found his peak at the age of 54. Regardless of the participation of other original members, this reunion would fall apart if the singing was not up to scratch, but thankfully, that’s not the case, and Rose is proving himself to be nothing less than a music legend by bringing his A-game when it matters most.


All the expected selections from the band’s iconic ‘Appetite For Destruction’ record were included in the set, along with tunes off of the two ‘Use Your Illusion’ albums, a song from ‘G N’ R Lies’, and even a bit of ‘The Spaghetti Incident’ as Duff McKagan took over lead vocal duties to deliver a thoroughly enjoyable rendition of Misfits’ ‘Attitude’ in the first half of the set. As has been the norm for GNR shows in recent years, a few covers were worked into the set as solo/instrumental spots to let all members of the band shine in the spotlight. The one surprise item was ‘Yesterdays’ off of ‘Use Your Illusion II’, a song most people weren’t expecting to hear. But the most notable aspect of the set list is that the ‘Chinese Democracy’ songs have been retained, and the original members that were not even on the recording are doing a mighty fine job playing these songs, bringing them to life like never before. ‘Chinese Democracy’ was musically never a bad album, and suffered mainly from sub-par production, bad timing and excessive lineup changes, but songs like ‘Better’, ‘This I Love’, ‘Catcher In The Rye’ and the title track stood strong amidst the much better-known classics, and sounded as great as anything else GNR has done. Fans would have expected and probably been totally fine with GNR dropping all of this material and just playing the classics, but to Axl Rose’s credit, he didn’t discard this piece of the band’s history, and Slash and Duff also must be commended for agreeing to play these songs.


This was by no means a show for the casual fan, as it was a hefty dosage of GNR for nearly three hours. Except for very simple, soft-spoken two-word sentences of ‘Thank You’, Axl Rose did not waste any time talking to the crowd, and this performance was all about the music. The production was also tastefully done, the visuals accompanying the songs done with perfection and not overly flashy or tacky like some old rock bands are doing these days (like the Scorpions, for example). It was majorly relieving to note that no giant lyrics were flashed on stage for any song, old or new. Besides, there was the addition of pyrotechnics, which the band was able to use fully with no restrictions, with this being an open outdoor venue. The fireworks flew high in the sky during key moments, specially during and after the set-closing ‘Paradise City’, truly a sight to behold. If any LA residents living within a few miles of Dodger Stadium did not know that GNR was in town, the night sky fireworks view would have told them so.

As much as the three core members were in focus, one must not forget the other four. Guitarist Richard Fortus matched Slash note for note, keyboardists Dizzy Reed adding that extra touch of class on the keyboards, and new synth/keyboard player/backing vocalist Melissa Reese also injecting some freshness into the band’s sound and look. But among the non-original members, the biggest accolades were surely won by drummer Frank Ferrer. A lot of hardcore fans have been lamenting the fact that Steven Adler is not part of this reunion, but there is absolutely no chance Adler would have lasted even one-third of this three-hour set, and Ferrer proved himself to be a real beast, hitting relentlessly with ferociousness throughout the set. Reunions shouldn’t merely be about the names, but more about the quality of musicianship, and whether the said reunion would do justice to the reputation of the band. This is where Adler does not fit in, and Ferrer does. But talking of the other original members that did find a place in this lineup, Slash was phenomenal on guitar and the same with Duff on bass and vocals, and watching and listening to Axl, Slash and Duff, one thing is overwhelmingly clear: they bring the best out of each other, and are performing better together than they’ve ever done separately in other projects.

There was a time when GNR would be upstaged by Metallica, their opening act, but that time has long gone, and this is an incarnation of GNR that has finally fulfilled its true potential and lived up to all its hype and legendary status, so much so that they should challenge the likes of Metallica to play with them again, because the GNR of 2016 will undoubtedly emerge victorious as the true headliner. The ‘Not In This Lifetime’ tag for the tour is very much apt, because no rock fans in their right minds would have imagined a reunion, leave alone the possibility of the band sounding great, and one hopes for this tour to last for the rest of these musicians’ careers.

Guns N’ Roses are delivering a rock show of epic proportions like no one else is, worth top dollar and more, and are re-instilling much needed excitement in rock n’ roll. Rock is not dead, because GNR is alive and kicking.

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Guns N’ Roses set list:
01. It’s So Easy
02. Mr. Brownstone
03. Chinese Democracy
04. Welcome to the Jungle
05. Double Talkin’ Jive
06. Estranged
07. Live and Let Die (Wings cover)
08. Rocket Queen
09. You Could Be Mine
10. Attitude (Misfits cover)
11. This I Love
12. Civil War
13. Coma
14. Love Theme from the Godfather – Slash solo
15. Sweet Child O’ Mine
16. Better
17. Out Ta Get Me
18. Wish You Were Here (instrumental) – Slash & Richard Fortus guitar duet
19. November Rain
20. Layla (instrumental) – Axl on piano
21. Yesterdays
22. Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door
23. Nightrain
24. Catcher in the Rye
25. Patience
26. The Seeker (The Who cover)
27. Paradise City

Guns N’ Roses remaining tour dates:
08/19/2016 – Los Angeles, CA @ Dodger Stadium (w/ The Cult)
08/22/2016 – San Diego, CA @ Qualcomm Stadium