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

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Metal Chick of the Month – Noora Louhimo

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Let It Roar, Noora!

It is a well-known fact that all Finnish women are pretty and charming, absolutely no doubt about that. But it’s when a girl from the land of ice and snow releases her inner beast that things get even more exciting, which is exactly the case with our Metal Chick of the Month, the ravishing Noora Louhimo, lead singer of Finnish Heavy Metal band Battle Beast. And if you don’t like the voice and the looks of this blonde “warrior princess”, honestly, I don’t know what to say.

Noora was born on November 6, 1988 in Tampere, Finland, around 180km north of the capital Helsinki, and she has been singing since she was only 4 years old. She had many hobbies before she started focusing on singing, such as dancing, acting, drawing, painting and anything else she could do to express herself. When she was around 13 years old, she had her first band at school, singing Finnish pop songs as well as love ballads from artists like Whitney Houston and Celine Dion.

Despite being a huge fan of Heavy Metal from the 80’s when she was a teenager, when she was 16 years old she had some classical singing lessons, before starting to study music in a more Pop/Jazz-line and doing some jam sessions at bars at the age of 19. That was also when she found her first band, called Admiral Octopus, at a place called BluesBar. The band used to play Rock N’ Roll and Blues from the 60’s, 70’s, and also songs from Janis Joplin, which according to Noora herself is the reason why she got the rasp in her voice. After Admiral Octopus, Noora took part in a singing competition called “Wanna Be A Rock N’ Roll Star” at a place called Henry’s Pub, also in Tampere, and guess what? She won the competition singing Janis Joplin’s classic Piece of My Heart. That’s how her single Relax was born, and that’s pretty much her history before joining Battle Beast.

It was during autumn in 2012, right after Battle Beast finished touring some summer rock festivals in Finland, that singer Nitte Valo, who was with the band since its inception in 2008, announced to be leaving the band due to family issues. In September 2012, guitarist Anton Kabanen found Noora by accident on YouTube when he was searching for a new vocalist for Battle Beast, and after a couple of calls Noora accepted the challenge to be the new frontwoman of the band. In 2013 our blonde diva recorded her first full-length release with the band, the powerful self-titled album Battle Beast, and more recently the also amazing Unholy Saviour, in January 2015.

The Finnish lioness mentioned in one of her interviews that she does many different exercises with her voice, rest it when needed and then a lot more, and also that working out is a very important part of keeping her vocals in a good shape. Whatever she’s actually doing with her voice, it’s working more than perfectly, as we can notice in her excellent performance on a Finnish television program in 2014 singing the song Into the Heart of Danger, her contributions to the good song Satans of Swing by Finnish band Somehow Jo! and to the inspiring Eye to Eye by Swiss Melodic Power Metal band Crystal Ball, and also singing one of her favorite songs from Battle Beast, the electrifying tune Let It Roar. One interesting fact about her singing style is that, as much as she wants to sound like a female singer with “balls”, she wants to sound feminine and sexy at the same time.

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In regards to her main influences in life, our warrior princess doesn’t only sing Heavy Metal, but a huge variety of music genres such as Soul, Rock, Blues, among others, and those different styles are what keep her in balance and inspired as a singer. As aforementioned, she started listening to metal music when she was 16 years old, and that “fire” started actually with Guns N’ Roses. When she heard Welcome to the Jungle for the first time, she knew there was no coming back. Then there came Dio, Judas Priest, W.A.S.P. and of course Iron Maiden. Although her list of influences is endless, including names such as Robert Plant, Freddie Mercury, Ronnie James Dio, Whitney Houston, Blackie Lawless, Rob Halford, Bruce Dickinson, Michael Jackson, Axl Rose and many more, her biggest idols in music are first Janis Joplin and second Ann Wilson.

And last but not least, when asked if she’s addicted to any bad habit or guilty pleasure, her answer couldn’t be more feminine than that: chocolate. Well, our “blonde ninja” is an extremely talented and beautiful woman, and Finnish chocolate is by far one of the best in the world. I guess there couldn’t be a better combination than that to celebrate two years of The Headbanging Moose, right?

Noora Louhimo’s Official Facebook page
Battle Beast’s Official Facebook page

“My passion has always been music and different ways of expressing myself as an artist.” – Noora Louhimo