When is a reunion not a reunion?
That’s a question especially worth pondering in the case of Guns N’ Roses, whose Not in Your Lifetime reunion tour concludes Monday night at Qualcomm Stadium.
Guns N’ Roses, with opening act to be announced
When: 7 p.m. Monday
Where: Qualcomm Stadium, Mission Valley
Tickets: $45-$350, plus service charges; “official platinum seats” are $350-$435
Phone: (800) 754-3000
The international concert trek finds lead singer W. Axl Rose - who owns the band’s name and hires and fires at will - back together with lead guitarist Slash and bassist Duff McKagan for the first time since 1993. Missing are rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin and drummer Stephen Adler (who has made two cameos on the tour so far).
The lineup is completed by keyboardist Dizzy Reed, who joined GNR in 1990; guitarist Richard Fortus, who Rose hired in 2001; drummer Frank Ferrer, hired in 2006; and keyboardist Melissa Reese, who was hired for this tour. Perhaps prophetically, Rose broke his left foot onstage during the revamped GNR’s April 1 kickoff date in Los Angeles. He spent the first part of the tour singing on a throne borrowed from fellow foot-breaking rock star Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters.
For many fans, three out of the five original GNR members is enough to make this a valid reunion worth paying big bucks to attend. For others, it isn’t. For John Reis, the founder of San Diego’s pioneering Rocket From the Crypt, it doesn’t matter either way.
“Guns N’ Roses is the Kryptonite of rock ‘n’ roll music. I can’t stand that band,” Reis told the Union-Tribune. “The racket they make is offensive, not because of the content, but because of its bad taste.”
But bad taste has seldom been a detriment to achieving fame and great wealth. Or to gritted-teeth reunions by former band members who dislike one another so intensely that they spend decades apart, before the lure of a huge stadium reunion tour payday finally brings them back.
Has GNR been unveiling any newly written songs on this tour? No. Does GNR have a new album in the works? Not that we know of. Does the absence of new songs - or even a hint of a vision for the future - concern fans eager for a hard-rocking jaunt down memory lane with a band that once carried its sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll ethos to near fatal extremes? Clearly not.
Then again, there was nowhere for GNR to go but down after the remarkable success of the Los Angeles band’s landmark 1987 debut album, “Appetite for Destruction,” which featured such indelible fan favorites as “Welcome to the Jungle,” “Paradise City” and “Sweet Child O’ Mine.”
Still the biggest-selling debut album in history, “Appetite” sold 18 million copies in the United States alone, and 12 million more abroad. It also marked the start of the band’s creative and commercial decline.
Each subsequent GNR album seemed more rushed and uninspired than the one before it. Drummer Adler was ousted, apparently because of his heroin addiction, in 1990. Rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin quit, after kicking his own habit, in 1991. By 1994, Rose was the sole original member on board. The only GNR album of this century, 2008’s massively hyped “Chinese Democracy,” took years to complete and was made at a cost of $13 million. It flopped.
So, welcome back, Guns N’ Roses, at least for one last night in San Diego. Here’s hoping your show here gives fans something to look forward to, not just a final glimpse through the rear-view mirror of your armored bank car.