Guns N' Roses Concert Review - "Up Close and Personal Tour," Live at House of Blues Chicago - Sunday, 2/19/12 (With Setlist)

Guns N' Roses Concert Review - "Up Close and Personal Tour," Live at House of Blues Chicago - Sunday, 2/19/12 (With Setlist)

Billed as a "once in a lifetime" concert, Guns N' Roses arrived in Chicago Sunday night for a sold out show at the intimate House of Blues, part of the band's current "Up Close and Personal" tour.  

*** I collaborated on this review with ChicagoNow Eye Tunes photographer, Barry Brecheisen.  All of the photos here were taken by Barry and you can check out more of his pics from the show HERE ***

It's not often that fans get the chance to catch Axl Rose and company in a club setting, so while maybe not a "once in a lifetime" chance, the opportunity is certainly a rare one.

Recently voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, speculation continues as to exactly what will transpire when Guns N' Roses is inducted at the annual ceremony in April.

Sunday night, the buzz as I entered House of Blues revolved around the rumor that security had been instructed to have any concertgoer wearing a t-shirt bearing the likeness of Slash to either remove it or turn it inside out.   Top hats were also supposedly banned.  And while I didn't hear that in November before GNR's performance at the Allstate Arena, it was indeed a persistent rumor on Sunday night.

So while it's hard to say what exactly that means for April, one thing that is certain is that the current Guns N' Roses lineup sounds outstanding.  Slash and company were not missed onstage Sunday at House of Blues.

I enjoyed the band's November performance in Rosemont.  It was good.  But since then, this has band has gotten tighter and the set has been tweaked to the point where it's currently running like a well oiled machine.  Axl was less chatty with the crowd last night and all business as the band churned out over thirty songs.

Axl Rose & Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal Live at House of Blues Chicago 2/19/12 - Photo Taken By Barry Brecheisen
Photo Taken By Barry Brecheisen

In November, Guns N' Roses performed for just under three hours.  Sunday's set was longer, faster and tighter with the band pausing only once for an encore over three full hours.  Gone were the pyrotechnics of arena shows past which forced the band to play in a more no frills fashion with the focus less on spectacle and more on music.

Opener Electric Sun went on at 10:30PM and Guns N' Roses finally took the stage at 11:40PM.  So while the concert didn't end until 2:40AM on Monday, all things considered, the start time for this twenty-one and over show could've been worse.

However... With doors scheduled to open Sunday at 9PM and many concertgoers off of work on Monday for Presidents' Day, the forecast was for extreme intoxication and the audience didn't disappoint.  By the time the show ended, this crowd was obliterated. People fought, people fell, people spilled, and women flashed.  In other words, it was a throwback rock show.

The good news for people who hit the show at Allstate Arena in November was that the setlist Sunday night at House of Blues was different.  Gone from the November set were multiple AC/DC covers and in their place classic Guns material like "You're Crazy" and "Used to Love Her" (the latter saw the band at their grittiest and most Stones like with some of the sleazier GNR fare this side of "Rocket Queen.").

Axl Rose - Guns N' Roses - Live at House of Blues in Chicago 2/19/12 - Photo Taken By Barry Brecheisen
Photo Taken By Barry Brecheisen

But the best and most unexpected addition to the set was "Civil War."  Maybe the finest moment from either of 1991's Use Your Illusion albums, the song sounded great and saw the crowd in a drunken, fist-pumping frenzy Sunday night.

Obviously the acoustics at House of Blues are better than those at Allstate Arena. This accounted for one of several reasons why Sunday's show was superior to November's.

The material that benefited the most from the improved sound was that from 2008's infamous Chinese Democracy album.  Opinions are pretty strong on that record both yea and nay.  I happen to like it.  "Sorry" and "Better" are my two favorite tracks from it and like November, both were performed Sunday night. "Better" came later in the set and saw Axl at his most animated.  Jumping up and down, running for his life, Rose looked like he was having a blast as he belted out the song.  The many layered guitar parts on "Shackler's Revenge" were clearer and sounded better as well.

Band member solos have definitely been modified since November with bassist Tommy Stinson now performing "Motivation" (a song from his 2004 solo effort Village Gorilla Head).  Stinson was the band's secret weapon Sunday as his punky bass propelled the set and really powered songs like "Rocket Queen" (just as fellow punk Duff McKagan did in the band's previous incarnation).

Axl Rose & Tommy Stinson Live at House of Blues Chicago 2/19/12 - Photo Taken By Barry Brecheisen
Photo Taken By Barry Brecheisen

Once again, guitarist Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal performed Henry Mancini's Pink Panther theme and once again momentum ground temporarily to a halt.  Sunday's version rocked a bit more than November's but the audience remained nevertheless confused opting for bathroom breaks and beer runs.  Reaction amongst people around me ran anywhere from "Henry Mancini is rolling in his grave" to "It's [screwed] up but I like it... I think."

But again, give Axl Rose and Guns N' Roses credit.  The musicians Axl has assembled are all solid and these songs sound really good.  The band has certainly gotten tighter over the course of its last year on the road together.  I wrote in November that the old lineup on its best day never performed "Sweet Child O' Mine" as good as this band does and having seen it again last night, I stand by that.

Many bands take rare performances like this in unusually small venues as an opportunity to relax and take it easy, performing a far more casual set.  That was absolutely not the case with GNR at House of Blues. The band left everything out on that stage in a performance that spanned just about every nook and cranny of the Guns N' Roses catalog from hits to covers to rarities.

"We hope to see you again... soon" said Rose as the band took it's final bow and exited the stage.  And regardless of what happens in April, I remain nevertheless intrigued by the 2012 Guns N' Roses lineup.

Setlist

  1. "Chinese Democracy"
  2. "Welcome to the Jungle"
  3. "It's So Easy"
  4. "Mr. Brownstone"
  5. "Sorry"
  6. "You're Crazy"
  7. "Estranged"
  8. "Rocket Queen"
  9. Richard Fortus solo (James Bond Theme)
  10. "Live and Let Die" (Paul McCartney & Wings cover)
  11. "This I Love"
  12. "Motivation" (Tommy Stinson)
  13. Dizzy Reed solo ("Baba O'Riley" - The Who cover)
  14. "Street of Dreams"
  15. "You Could Be Mine"
  16. DJ Ashba solo
  17. "Sweet Child O' Mine"
  18. "Used to Love Her"
  19. "Another Brick in the Wall Part 2" (Pink Floyd cover)
  20. Axl Rose piano solo (Elton John medley)
  21. "November Rain"
  22. Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal solo (Pink Panther Theme - Henry Mancini cover)
  23. "Don't Cry"
  24. "Shackler's Revenge"
  25. "Civil War"
  26. "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" (Bob Dylan cover)
  27. "Nightrain"
  28. Encore Break
  29. "Madagascar"
  30. "Better"
  31. "Patience"
  32. "Paradise City"

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MORE ON GUNS N' ROSES  _______________________________________________________________

Check out more GNR pics by Barry Brecheisen at House of Blues 2/19/12 HERE

Read my review of Guns N' Roses at the Allstate Arena on 11/15/11 HERE

Check out Barry Brecheisen's GNR Eye Tunes photos from 11/15/11 HERE

Axl Rose & Frank Ferrer Live at House of Blues Chicago 2/19/12 - Photo Taken By Barry Brecheisen
Photo Taken By Barry Brecheisen

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Comments

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  • HOW CHILDISH 2 MAKE ANY 1 WITH A SLASH T-SHIRT REVERSE IT , NOR ALLOW TOP HATS 2 B WORN BY ANY 1 . AXL SIMPLY LIVE'S 2 HATE EVERYTHING AND ANYTHING HAVING 2 DO WITH SLASH , THE ORIGINAL GUITARIST WHO MADE THESE LEADS 2 SWEET CHILD AND A BEVY OF OTHER SONGS . GET A LIFE AXL , AND GROW UP ! LIFE'S 2 SHORT 2 LIVE IT AS U R , WITH ALL UR HATE !

  • They're probably performing it better because they're sober (or at least slightly less near-dead). But i can't buy incarnations of bands like this. Just change the name! People will still come for G+R covers. The Doors are not The Doors anymore either... Queen, The Beach Boys, Pink Floyd -- same.

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