Guns N’ Roses to play The Palace on Dec. 1Written by John Benson | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Nothing epitomizes the push-pull dynamic of being a Guns N’ Roses (GNR) fan more than the opening lyrics of “Estranged” (from its 1991 album “Use Your Illusion II”) — “When you’re talkin’ to yourself/And nobody’s home/You can fool yourself.” The good news is the current lineup of GNR, which comes to Detroit on Dec. 1 at The Palace of Auburn Hills, is currently playing that tune.
The bad news is, in many ways singer Axl Rose has been fooling himself for the past decade and a half, thinking his hard rock vocals — not Slash’s raunchy guitar or Izzy Stradlin’s keen songwriting or bassist Duff McKagan (an in-law of former Toledo Mayor Jack Ford) — were solely responsible for turning GNR into the biggest hard rock act in the world in its heyday.
The train derailment that GNR became shouldn’t have come as a surprise. After the success of its platinum debut, “Appetite for Destruction,” the band took nearly four years to record its sophomore effort, which grew into two albums in the form of 1991’s “Use Your Illusion” records.
Aside from Rose, the only other person to straddle the old and new GNR is keyboardist Dizzy Reed. Toledo Free Press talked to Reed, in Cleveland, where the band had a stopover but no show was booked, about “Chinese Democracy,” the current tour and his friendship with Rose.
Toledo Free Press: Considering your hotel is literally a mile away from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, what are your thoughts on GNR’s chances of being a first-ballot inductee?
Dizzy Reed: No one has said anything to me about it, I’ve just heard about it because people have asked me about it. It would be an honor because of the other people that are there.
Toledo Free Press: Does GNR belong in the Rock Hall?
Reed: Sure, yeah, why not?
Toledo Free Press: Also, speaking of Cleveland, the last time GNR was in the Rock Hall City, Axl — after not taking the stage until well after midnight — famously fired opening band Eagles of Death Metal while on stage.
Reed: I sort of block that one out.
Toledo Free Press: For the band’s current tour, what are the set times like? Any late-night starts?
Reed: I haven’t been to a concert in so long I don’t know when the normal time is but we’ve been starting not late and we give a pretty long show. It’s a good three hours of rock ’n’ roll. We’ve been going on on time.
Toledo Free Press: From this reviewer’s standpoint, despite the hype surrounding “Chinese Democracy,” the album is pretty solid and definitely didn’t leave fans with the same under-whelmed feeling they experience when listening to new material from ’80s rock acts. Was there ever a point when you felt the project wouldn’t see the light of day?
Reed: Certainly there was a lot of disappointing moments with setbacks, but I never really gave up on it. I always thought it had to [be released]. It was too good.
Toledo Free Press: What “Chinese Democracy” tracks stand out in the current set?
Reed: All the ones we’ve been doing seem to have been working really well. I like playing “Street of Dreams,” it’s a treat for me to come out and play the piano. And I like some of the heavier stuff, it’s fun to play those. They seem to go over really well like “Shackler’s Revenge.” Sometimes it’s fun to do the heavier stuff.
Toledo Free Press: Something that does standout from a set list perspective is the epic “Estranged.” What’s it like to play that song again?
Reed: It’s kind of a beast for me, and for everybody, but it’s such a great song. At the end of the song you look out and people seem really appreciative to hear that again, so that’s been very cool. When we first started playing that way back when, before even the “Use Your Illusion” albums were out, it was almost kind of the opposite; people were scratching their head going, “What the hell?” But so many years later, they seem really into it and seem to really appreciate that we’re doing that song. It’s a lot of fun to play now.
Toledo Free Press: There are some fans that feel it won’t truly be GNR until the original lineup is back in the fold.
Reed: I’d say phooey. I can’t comment on that.
Toledo Free Press: How would you compare the current lineup to seeing GNR 20 years ago?
Reed: I think very kick-ass and possibly a little more sober, but not entirely.
Toledo Free Press: Considering you’ve been around the longest, does “Chinese Democracy” sound like GNR 1.0 or its GNR 2.0 lineup?
Reed: Is that computer lingo? Are you talking about the lineup?
Toledo Free Press: Let me rephrase, how are the two eras of GNR connected?
Reed: To me they’re connected because I’ve been around for the whole thing. Someone quit and we brought in somebody else. And that kept happening so I guess the main thing that links everything together really is the guy singing, Axl. He has that kind of voice, that’s what does it.
Toledo Free Press: As for Axl, his image in the media is as a megalomaniac among other things. Are these accurate portrayals?
Reed: I think most of it is cruel and malicious and unnecessary. I don’t think he’s like that at all. He’s a good friend. He’s like a brother.
Toledo Free Press: Is your relationship different with him than other people?
Reed: I don’t think so. We started writing songs for a new record so long ago, and I just wanted to see it through. It sort of became an obsession. And Axl gave me a shot, and I never really felt like I had any reason to turn my back on him. I wanted to finish.
Toledo Free Press: So why have you lasted with GNR after so many haven’t?
Reed: I’m just a determined mother******. I’m a loyal friend and a determined mother******.
Visit palacenet.com for ticket information.