Coachella is one of music’s biggest melting pots, hosting everyone from Arcade Fire to Wu-Tang Clan. This California-based music and art festival is setting up for another big showcase this year, with EDM megastar Calvin Harris closing the three-day festival and indie-dance heroes LCD Soundsystem reuniting to cap off the first day. But the music world has been focusing on the second day, which will close out with a “reunion” from another iconic rock band: Guns N’ Roses.
I use “reunite” loosely because the group will take the stage with only three of its original members: bassist Duff McKagan, guitarist/hat enthusiast Slash, and lead singer/occasional asshole Axl Rose. Original guitarist Izzy Stradlin and original drummer Steven Adler have been left out of the reunion leaving fans to speculate about who will take their place (perhaps Adler’s original replacement, Matt Sorum?).
Regardless, the rock music community has set the Internet abuzz with excitement about this pseudo-reunion. Considering this will be the first time Slash has played with Rose since 1993 ,after the infamous Use Your Illusion tour and numerous drug-fueled fights, it’s kind of a big deal. Guns N’ Roses are one of the greatest hard rock bands of all time because of its thunderous music and scandalous antics. They soared to the top and burned out in a blaze in less than a decade thanks to booze, drugs and inflated egos (sometimes all at once in the case of Rose).
But that doesn’t take away from the band’s greatness; for a brief moment, they were the best thing about rock and roll music. There’s a reason why people wear t-shirts with the cover of Appetite for Destruction,why a kid will sit in the corner of a Guitar Center trying to get the riff of “Sweet Child O’ Mine” just right, or why hair metal died at the end of the 80s. It’s all because of Guns N’ Roses’ music, which combined the chugging riff rock of Aerosmith and The Rolling Stones with a special chaotic chemistry. Every time they played a song, it sounded like it would go off the rails any second. Guns N’ Roses were exciting, reckless rock stars. So you’d think that bringing the band’s three most well-known members back together would be a reason to celebrate, right?
Nope. Don’t get me wrong; fans have been clamoring for Slash and Duff to get back with Axl for years. Here’s the thing though — and feel free to hold your 80s nostalgia close for comfort after I tell you this -Guns N’ Roses should never reunite. Most of the band’s original members are in their 50s and certainly can’t resurrect the intensity and charisma they had nearly 30 years ago. The only one who shows any signs of life is Axl. When I saw Guns N’ Roses in 2011 (or as I referred to them, The Axl Rose Experience, since he was the sole original member in the lineup) Axl was bouncing around on stage and singing his ass off. Say what you will about his attitude (don’t worry, he deserves it); he’s a fantastic rock and roll front man. But can the same be said for Slash and Duff?
There’s also the performance itself, which is liable to be a showcase of their greatest hits (because no one wants to be reminded of Chinese Democracy). Sure, it’ll be fun to hear Slash strum those famous opening chords to “Welcome to the Jungle” with Axl and Duff by his side, butwill it have the same impact as it did years ago? And will it make a difference, with the original guitarist playing it instead of Buckethead or DJ Ashba? What will the semi-reformation do for the band other than fill their bank accounts? That is if Axl’s ego doesn’t cripple the band further and the whole thing falls apart before anyone reaches the stage.
Guns N’ Roses was a great band, a rare group that had the picture-perfect image and sound of a rock band. They had everything: the look, the sound, the attitude, the vices and the vigor. Guns N’ Roses was exactly what rock and roll should be. Keyword there is “were.” What more do they have to say? What more is there to do? Guns N’ Roses is another sad example of a treasured classic rock act tarnishing a carefully-constructed legacy. Because if there’s one thing that matters more than a reputation as one of the most iconic burnouts in the history of rock and roll, it’s nostalgia on the festival circuit. It’s so easy.