Concert Review – Guns N’ Roses (Rogers Centre, Toronto, ON, 07/16/2016)

Do you know where you are? You’re in Toronto, baby! Wake up! Time to die!

OPENING ACT: Billy Talent

GNR_Toronto_2016I must confess I’ve never felt so happy in my life for missing an opening act like what happened this Saturday, when I “couldn’t” arrive on time at the Rogers Centre to watch Canadian Rock N’ Roll band BILLY TALENT opening for Guns N’ Roses on their sole Canadian concert from the colossal Guns N’ Roses: Not In This Lifetime… Tour. I had the unpleasantness of watching their lame and tiresome concert once back in 2011, when for a reason beyond my knowledge they played AFTER classic bands such as Exodus, Death Angel, Testament, Mastodon and, believe it or not, the almighty Slayer, and were obviously booed throughout their entire “performance”. Whoever had that brilliant idea of inserting such a hideous group among so many real metal bands might have been involved in the stupid decision of placing them as the opening act for Guns N’ Roses instead of the excellent Alice In Chains, the iconic The Cult or even the not-so-bad Lenny Kravitz, as it’s happening in every city Guns N’ Roses are playing except for Toronto. The only thing I know about their performance is that drummer Aaron Solowoniuk was replaced by Jordan Hastings (Alexisonfire), which doesn’t really mean anything at all for any regular fan of Guns N’ Roses. Their setlist is below, but why bother?

Setlist
Devil in a Midnight Mass
This Suffering
Louder Than the DJ
Rusted from the Rain
River Below
Surprise Surprise
Afraid of Heights
Devil on My Shoulder
Red Flag
Fallen Leaves
Try Honesty
Viking Death March

Band members
Benjamin Kowalewicz – lead vocals
Ian D’Sa – guitar, vocals
Jonathan Gallant – bass guitar, backing vocals
Jordan Hastings – drums, percussion

GUNS N’ ROSES

IMG_1542Who would imagine that after 20 years Axl Rose, Slash and Duff McKagan would not only be reunited on stage, but still kicking fuckin’ ass as if they had never split up in the beginning of the 90’s? I’m pretty sure the entire crowd of over 50,000 gunners who were at the Rogers Centre this Saturday will agree with me that GUNS N’ ROSES were almost flawless during the whole concert, blasting their biggest classics from the 80’s and 90’s blended with some “newer” material from the controversial (but good) Chinese Democracy, their latest studio album. To be fair, after they played It’s So Easy, Mr. Brownstone, Chinese Democracy and Welcome to the Jungle, I was already satisfied enough to go home so good those songs were. Let’s say the only thing that didn’t make anyone happy were all those despicable scalpers trying to extort good people who just wanted to see one the best Hard Rock/Hair Metal band of all time playing. I truly hope very few people ended up getting their tickets from those scammers, and this is only going to end when absolutely NO ONE buys tickets from unauthorized people anymore, but you know how diehard fans are, right?

Anyway, getting back to what really matters, the (official) price paid for the tickets was definitely worth every penny. The whole band was in such perfect sync it’s hard to point any issues with their concert, and except for minor changes I would personally make to their setlist (which might have been already perfect for many) everything else went beyond my expectations. The “least famous” members of the band (Frank Ferrer on drums and Melissa Reese on keyboards, or whatever she was doing on stage) did their job, provinding the necessary support for the other guys to shine. Keyboardist Dizzy Reed (don’t ask me why they have three keyboardists, including Axl) and guitarist Richard Fortus proved why they’ve been with Axl for such a long time, probably even more time than Slash and Duff themselves, especially Richard who was spot-on with his riffs and solos to the point he wasn’t overshadowed at all by the one and only Slash. Quite the contrary, they make an amazing guitar duo together. However, no matter how much I praise those musicians, we know everyone was at the Rogers Centre to see the “heart”, the “soul” and the “blood” of Guns N’ Roses.

Starting with the “blood”, known as bassist Duff McKagan, he couldn’t be more physical and dedicated to the music he plays. Wearing a Lemmy T-shirt and having a Prince sticker on his bass guitar (a nice tribute to two unique musicians, with only the black star by David Bowie “missing”), Duff was on fire with his rumbling bass lines and awesome backing vocals. And when he was the lead singer, like in their cover version for Attitude, by the Misfits, he showed all his love for Punk Rock and how charismatic he is.

IMG_1541Axl Rose, who will always be the “heart” of Guns N’ Roses, surprised even the most skeptical fan with an absolutely incredible performance on vocals, singing each and every song as if he was the same Axl from Appetite for Destruction and Use Your Illusion. What he did on my favorite Guns N’ Roses songs of all time, the superb Estranged, You Could Be Mine and Civil War (how can the lyrics for this song still be so meaningful after more than 20 years?), was a thing of beauty. He kept running around the stage, danced a lot, wore some almost-classic outfits from the 80’s and smiled to the fans all the time, and by seeing that I finally realized his troubled years might be dead and gone for good. When they played the beautiful ballad This I Love, the touching Sorry and the fun Better, songs where Axl is truly needed as they had zero contribution from Slash or Duff when composed, we could witness a focused and passionate artist that has found peace and is now on the right path to reconquer the world of music. Even when Axl talked about their small incident at the border, when the police found a gun with them, he didn’t get angry or anything like that, simply mentioning it was a funny moment and that “it wasn’t his gun”.

Lastly, what can I say about the “soul” of the band, the unparalleled Slash? That guy is getting better and better as time goes by, delivering his unique riffs and even more unique solos for the total delight of every fan of the band. His guitar duet with Richard Fortus, his beyond stunnig solo in November Rain and his classic riffs and solos in Sweet Child O’ Mine led many fans to an amazing state of ecstasy, a sensation many had to hold for decades to feel again. Let’s just hope Slash remains with Guns N’ Roses for many years to come, because that’s the place where he truly belongs in music. Well, as everything must come to an end, after the masterpieces Nightrain, Patience and Paradise City, together with a cover version for The Seeker, by The Who (which could have been easily replaced by another classic like “Think About You”, “Used To Love Her”, “Don’t Cry” or “Yesterdays”, or even by “Madagascar”), it was time for Axl, Slash, Duff & Co. to say goodbye to the awesome Toronto crowd after almost three hours of concert and get ready for the next city. No one knows if they’re coming back to Canada soon, but based on the reaction of the fans and the smile on the faces of each band member when the show was over, I doubt it will take another 20 years for us to see those guys in action again.

Setlist
Looney Tunes Theme (Intro)
The Equalizer (Harry Gregson-Williams song)
It’s So Easy
Mr. Brownstone
Chinese Democracy
Welcome to the Jungle
Double Talkin’ Jive
Estranged
Live and Let Die (Wings cover)
Rocket Queen
You Could Be Mine
Attitude (Misfits cover)
This I Love
Civil War
Coma
Speak Softly Love (The Godfather Love Theme)
Sweet Child O’ Mine
Sorry
Better
Out Ta Get Me
Slash & Richard Fortus Guitar Duet
November Rain
Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door (Bob Dylan cover)
Nightrain

Encore:
Patience
The Seeker (The Who cover)
Paradise City

Band members
Axl Rose – lead vocals, piano, keyboards
Slash – lead guitar, backing vocals
Duff McKagan – bass guitar, backing vocals
Dizzy Reed – keyboards, piano, percussion, backing vocals
Richard Fortus – rhythm and lead guitar, backing vocals
Melissa Reese – synthesizers, keyboards, programming
Frank Ferrer – drums

Album Review – Sepultura / Roots (1996)

“Sepultura do Brasil” changed the world of music with the most creative Thrash Metal album of all time.

Rating2

Sepultura_-_RootsThe year of 1996 was a very special year in my life: it was my last year in high school, I finally turned 18, I was dating the most beautiful girl of the entire school, and in terms of music I saw Maiden live for the first time as well as some other awesome bands such as Helloween, Manowar, The Ramones, and my countrymen from Sepultura. I used to love listening to Beneath the Remains, Arise and Chaos A.D., but they simply blew my mind with the most innovative Thrash Metal album of all time: Roots.

Every relevant Thrash Metal band in the world has at least one unique album that redefined that music genre somehow, like Bonded by Blood from Exodus or Reign in Blood from Slayer. In the case of Sepultura, it was Roots that made them reach the top of the charts and become a reference for all future Thrash Metal bands. There were so many new elements in this album that I could spend hours writing about each one of them, but I’ll focus on the most important one in my opinion, which was Max Cavalera’s voice. He brilliantly turned his voice into a musical instrument, reaching some insane notes and sounding more violent than ever, changing the way many other guttural singers used their voices from that year on. Check out at the end of this post the video for Roots Bloody Roots, Sepultura’s all-time classic, and you’ll be able to see how his voice fully integrates with the other instruments giving a special punch to the whole album.

Sepultura-RootsThe most famous songs from Roots are Roots Bloody Roots, of course, Attittude with its amazing riffs and lyrics, and my least favorite one Ratamahatta (the lyrics don’t make any sense at all, it’s just a bunch of stupid disconnected Brazilian words, with a guest musician that makes me want to vomit just by hearing his name). However, you must pay attention carefully to the rest of the album because there are so many good guitar riffs, lyrics and percussion that will make you listen to Roots non-stop for weeks. You’ll find heavy and violent tracks, such as Straighthate, Spit, Cut-Thorat and Dictatorshit; some songs that were unimaginable for a Thrash Metal band before that like Lookaway (with the crazy Mike Patton as a special guest) and Ambush; and some material that doesn’t even sound Metal, but are extremely important for the album concept: Jasco and Itsári, this one being recorded with an aboriginal tribe in Brazil called the Xavantes. All songs connected, all representing a sad and violent side of Brazil. And the front cover is just amazing, perfectly summarizing the whole album in one single image.

My version of the album (which was probably the one released only in Brazil) had two great covers for Celtic Frost’s Procreation of the Wicked and Sabbath’s Symptom of the Universe, this one also featuring in that good Sabbath tribute called Nativity in Black. If you don’t have these two songs in your version of Roots, you should go after them.

There are very few things that make me proud of being Brazilian, and Sepultura and Roots are part of this “selected” group. This album is so great that it has not only changed Thrash Metal, it has changes music in general. Sepultura do Brasil! Um, dois, três… VAI!

Best moments of the album: Roots Bloody Roots, Attitude, Straighthate and Born Stubborn.

Worst moments of the album: Ratamahatta and Endangered Species.

Released in 1996 Roadrunner Records

Track listing
1. Roots Bloody Root 3:32
2. Attitude 4:15
3. Cut-Throat 2:44
4. Ratamahatta 4:30
5. Breed Apart 4:01
6. Straighthate 5:21
7. Spit 2:45
8. Lookaway 5:26
9. Dusted 4:03
10. Born Stubborn 4:07
11. Jasco (instrumental) 1:57
12. Itsári (instrumental) 4:48
13. Ambush 4:39
14. Endangered Species 5:19
15. Dictatorshit 1:26

Band members
Max Cavalera – vocals, rhythm guitar, 4-string guitar, berimbau
Igor Cavalera – drums, percussion, timbau, djembe
Paulo Jr. – bass guitar, timbau grandé
Andreas Kisser – lead guitar, sitar, backing vocals