Guns N’ Roses with special guest Skid Row
Saratoga Performing Arts Center
Saratoga Springs NY
June 10, 1991
It was a comfortable late spring evening when Guns N’ Roses brought their brand-new Use Your Illusion tour to upstate New York. The double albums of the same name (1 And 2) were still three months from release, but you wouldn’t know it by the electrified crowd that filled the theater and swelled the lawn. With Skid Row charged with opening the show, the audience braced itself for a night of drunken debauchery.
New Jersey’s Skid Row was releasing their new album, Slave to the Grind the very next day. The band was firing on all cylinders that evening, opening with the frenetic title track, before following up with Piece of Me and Big Guns from their 1989 self-titled debut. It was clear that the quintet understood the magnitude of the performance, that they were solely responsible for firing the crowd up enough to compensate for what was likely to be a lengthy delay, given GnR frontman Axl Roses’ penchant for showing up late to his own concerts. A quick, but powerful run through new tracks Monkey Business and Get the Fuck Out, plus a cover of Tiny Bradshaw’s, Train Kept A-Rollin’, with GnR’s Slash making a cameo appearance, finished up the main set, before the Skids came back for an encore of classics, I Remember You and Youth Gone Wild. For what it was worth, the band did their part to make this a memorable night.
Skid Row Setlist:
Slave to the Grind
Piece of Me
Sweet Little Sister
Get the Fuck Out
Train Kept A-Rollin’
I Remember You
Youth Gone Wild
As to be expected, the wait for the headliners was quite prolonged. After about an hour, the venue started playing 1989’s Batman movie, starring Michael Keaton, on the big screen. This was fine until more than 45 minutes of the movie went by, and fans started getting restless. The booing reached a crescendo before, mercifully, the lights went down, and the jeers turned to cheers.
Guns N’ Roses opened with a pair of tracks from its debut smash, Appetite for Destruction, Nightrain and Mr. Brownstone. All seemed to be forgiven even though it was about 11 PM before the group made its appearance. The band sounded tight and appeared to be in shape, the benefits of seeing a band in the infancy of a long tour.
I have several qualms about the show, however. As the new records had yet to be released, the audience did not know much of the new material, save for the already released, Civil War, creating a lull in the momentum gained with known songs, such as It’s So Easy, Welcome to the Jungle, My Michelle, Rocket Queen, and Sweet Child o’ Mine. While the crowd was treated to hearing future classic, November Rain for the first time, and can brag about having the Get in the Ring chant recorded at its show, even the encores were littered with unrecognizable tracks.
Another issue was the never-ending solo sections of the show. Matt Sorum’s drum solo. Slash’s guitar solo and his Love Theme from the Godfather bit. The long jams that segued from song to song. It hindered the concert from sustaining any energy that the audience had mustered. Say nothing about Axl Rose and his preaching raps in between songs. They get old, unnecessary, and, again, kill the festivities. And Axl was just getting warmed up. He was a mere three weeks away from his infamous incident in St. Louis, and a little more than a year from inciting the Montreal riot.
I enjoy Guns N’ Roses’ albums, especially the timeless debut, one of those has a permanent place on my mental “flawless” list, along with the debut Van Halen record, Def Leppard’s High and Dry, and Metallica’s Master of Puppets. I may even put Slave to the Grind in this illustrious company. That said, this was the first time I saw GnR live, and the last time. I found their show to have too many fits and starts to build any sort of force and considered Axl Rose a little too obnoxious to take for two and a half hours. I hear that Axl has mellowed with the passing of decades and the band’s current show is a killer. I’m glad to hear that. However, I probably won’t see them again.
Guns N’ Roses Setlist:
Double Talkin’ Jive
Dust n’ Bones
It’s So Easy
Welcome to the Jungle
Patience (with I Was Only Joking intro)
Slash Guitar Solo
Speak Softly Love (Love Theme From The Godfather)
Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door (with Only Women Bleed intro)
Sweet Child o’ Mine (with Bad Time intro)
Live and Let Die