A Fans Review of Guns N Roses at Glastonbury

A Fans Review of Guns N Roses at Glastonbury

by jessicajolly / Jun 28, 2023 / 0 comments
Wednesday, 20 September 2023

On Glastonbury Sunday, UK music journalists roasted one of rock music’s best loved bands rather than potatoes. Were these harsh criticisms deserved? Let’s deep dive into the performances, something neither the Independent nor Telegraph writers bothered to do, too busy bouncing off half-funny metaphors.

I’ll clarify that Guns N Roses was my favourite band as a child. A black velvet tapestry of Axl hung on my bedroom wall when I was 12, in the days before the dawn of grunge. Glastonbury 2023 was the first time I was able to see my beloved childhood band live, and my expectations were low. I’d believed the music press after Coachella and assumed they’d lost it.

The band is not what they were 35 years ago. They are gentlemen hovering age 60, not wild young men throwing epic theme parties backstage. But they are magnificent. They’ve lost nothing, they’ve simply morphed into something new: well-behaved yet accomplished middle-aged performers with decades of musical mastery to showcase.

The biggest problem with the painful review by The Independent is that the writer only once mentions the name “Slash”, and simply as a member of the lineup. This name was screamed by 10s of thousands of attendees in fits of passion. This is worthy of discussion.

I’ve been consistently attending rock shows for 44 years, since I was in the womb. The Guns n Roses set at Glastonbury 2023 featured the greatest guitar performance I’ve ever witnessed. Slash was heart-stopping. Rather than run through the licks he established during the band's heyday, he has continued to improve his craft and deliver ecstatic instrumentation that is innovative, unique and powerful. Many use the hyperbole “orgasmic” when describing a great concert. Not hyperbole here. Slash had me edging on the edge of that field, man.

But let’s not just focus on the universally loved guitar player. The most brutal criticisms have been lobbed at the infamous frontman Axl Rose. “His voice is gone” they cry. No, it’s not. I’d heard about the young woman they use as a background vocalist and keyboard player, and assumed she’d be doing the vocal heavy lifting. That wasn’t the case. Axl sang these songs he wrote, and while his range is narrower and the growl is gone, he delivers something that only he can.

I used to say that for white trash midwesterners like myself (I’m from a small town in Missouri), Axl Rose was one of us. One of us who MADE IT and that’s why we idolised him. It was sort of a joke, the kind that makes people laugh because it’s real. Well, watching Axl on stage in 2023, long after his pretty face and vocal range have diminished, you can still see the vulnerability and pain of the abused child of a criminal father who was raised in a right wing Christian community. The darkness of Guns n Roses, it wasn’t about hard partying, it was about that agony that so few are willing to share. That’s why he became the front man of what was at one point the most popular rock band in the world. It wasn’t his good looks or his high notes. There are lots of beautiful men in Los Angeles, no one gives a shit, trust me. Listen to those “Welcome to the Jungle” lyrics and look at the pale faced, ginger haired man delivering it. Even if you don’t come from a similar background to Axl, like I do, you’ll see that vulnerability of a Charismatic Christian kid who ran to the city of fallen angels. It’s very moving, even when he’s singing about it at age 60. His heart is still ripped open for us.

I don’t think rock fans care too much about what a couple of molly-dabbing techno nerds who write for UK publications on the brink of obsolescence wrote about the set. But I think it’s important for honest reactions of actual fans be voiced, which is why I’ll say this:

Seeing Guns n Roses on tour in the third decade of the 21st century won’t be like seeing them in 1991. But in some ways, it will be better. This Glastonbury set will be one I’ll always remember.

Rating out of 11: