I’ve never been to the ‘jungle’ before, in the traditional sense, however I would argue that 55,000 people and I just left a monstrous one right next to Auckland’s idyllic Western Springs park. How can there be a jungle in the middle of a stadium, you ask? Easy, just get Guns N’ Roses to play. From the Looney Tunes intro music and the punky pulse of Duff’s bass line opening the show with It’s So Easy, it was already clear this night was going to eclipse many others. The band and crowd seemed to be equally enjoying themselves, catching most of the band zoning out at one point or another taking in the mass of bodies before them. Some of Axl’s first words to the crowd: “There’s a lot of you motherfuckers ain’t there?” They seemed to play, and play, hit after hit without really stopping to catch themselves. Only four songs in we received our official powhiri to the jungle, one of the night’s obvious highlights. If anyone was worried it would fizzle out, or run out of steam after such a strong opening they were met with such crowd pleasers as Live and Let Die, Sweet Child O’ Mine, Civil War, and November Rain to name but a smattering.
Throughout the night I had to take the time, more than once, to turn and fully take in the what was happening behind me. Leaning on the rail for the entirety of the gig meant I was quite literally standing in front of more than 50,000 people – a sight which, no matter how many times I go to Western Springs, floors me every time. Not to mention the overflowing decks and balconies of the homes just over the back fence, mere centimeters away from those who had paid for tickets. Yes, the same people who complain about the Speedway that happens once in a blue moon, yet don’t seem to mind too much when it’s Guns N’ Roses, or Foo Fighters, or Eminem.
The award for Player of the Day has got to go to Axl Rose. For all the crap he’s taken over the years about how he’s this and he’s that, he sounded incredible. Being as close as I was you could see in his face and eyes that he was giving it his absolute all. His face during Live and Let Die, redder than the Devil’s dick, veins sprouting like a cracked windshield, eyes watering, screaming his lungs out for us, is something that will be permanently etched in my memory. I mean, it actually sounded like he was paining himself for us – like he was gargling shards of glass. There were legitimately times when I could close my eyes and imagine I’m watching some show on Youtube from the 90s. It’s not often that my expectations are plainly exceeded, least not when it involves a polarising figure such as Axl Rose, but I was blown away. As a cynic who downplays everything short of magic, words can not do justice to how truly awesome it was. ‘Epic’ is a word that has been so over used in internet-land that it has kind of lost its meaning, but in a Homerian sense it truly was an EPIC gig. Easily one of the best I’ve ever seen. My only regret would have to be not finding a way to see them in Wellington also.
So, the “reunion” tour (billed only as such by the media, not the band) lived up to the hype and then some. I can only hope the boys continue feeding the machine, as it’s clearly working – fat cheques and thousands of happy fans seems like a win-win. I hope to see them again in the coming years with different (perhaps new!?) songs, but would gladly fork out to see the exact same show I just saw over and over again.
My ears are still ringing, my feet still ache, I can barely move my neck, my voice has dropped a tone or two (when it works) and until next time, GnFnR are gone – on to Australia. At least we didn’t wake the neighbours!