He wore a bizarre, fluorescent slicker jacket and appeared stiff at Rock in Rio. He tripped on stage and was slow to get up in Mexico City. He stopped the opening song and admonished a fan for tossing a cup in Monterrey, Mexico. He was caught on camera throwing a fit at an airport in Argentina. He was caught on camera again in Paraguay telling fans how Slash used to always wet the bed. Oh, and he went on two hours late in just about every city.
In other words, it sounds like Axl Rose was in standard form last month on the South American leg of Guns N' Roses' tour, which rolls into town Sunday at Target Center, where the band last played in 2006.
Talking before the tour's first U.S. date in Tampa Bay, Fla., GNR keyboardist Dizzy Reed brushed off reports of the tour's erratic beginning.
"I'd say we got off to a rocking start, not a rocky one," quipped the band's longest-serving member besides its enigmatic frontman.
GNR's Minneapolis-reared bassist, Tommy Stinson, added a few days later, "It's tough getting around South America, from a travel standpoint, so that was rough. But from my perspective, the shows were still great."
Reed went on to justify a couple of the aforementioned incidents (but just a couple): "Every band should make a point of telling crowds not to throw beers at them, if they somehow feel that's the only way to express their enthusiasm," he said of the Monterrey matter. As for Mexico City, he said, "Even Joe Montana slips and falls sometime."
A better quarterback comparison might have been Donovan McNabb. As in: Rose's performance level and reputation just haven't been the same since he split with his original team.
The "classic era" of Guns N' Roses dissolved in the mid '90s, after the singer legally procured ownership of the band name and relegated the other members to hired-gun status. Reed (who joined in 1990) is thus the only GNR member to have played with Slash (who quit in 1996), Buckethead (ousted in 2004, thankfully) and Bumblefoot (aka Rob Thal, one of three current guitarists).
"Axl and I have always gotten along," Reed said to explain his longevity in the band. He would thus seem to have a unique view on the renewed hype/hope/pipe-dream about a reunion of GNR's "Appetite for Destruction" lineup. Next year marks the 25th anniversary of that landmark debut album, which also makes them eligible (and likely) for a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction next spring. More than a few reunion tours have been sparked that way.
Reed, however, claimed to know nothing about the Hall of Fame nomination a month after it was announced.
"That news must've came out when we were in South America. You can get pretty disconnected down there," he said, adding, "I don't feel one way or another about it."
When pressed, all he said of the reunion idea was: "At this point, I would say no, it won't happen. But that's just my opinion, based on what I know."
It was a lot easier getting Reed to discuss the current GNR lineup and its "new" album, "Chinese Democracy."
In case you missed it, the record that notoriously took 12 years and millions of dollars to make finally did come out in 2008 (to semi-positive reviews but relatively tepid sales). Right on schedule by GNR standards, the band -- with a semi-remade lineup -- is getting around to promoting it three years later with a U.S. tour.
"We actually have been on the road steadily promoting it, just not in the U.S.," Reed clarified. "This lineup of the band does these songs justice. Those songs still feel very fresh and new in certain ways.
"['Democracy'] is a really amazing record. Axl and I started writing songs for it on the 'Use Your Illusion' tour, and I've been as determined as a [expletive] to see this thing through to the end. "
Stinson (a member since 1998) said the fall tour should make up for the album's somewhat disjointed release, which followed downsizing at Geffen and Interscope Records.
"The whole way the record came out was so [messed up], at some point it deserved a proper tour to show off the way this band can play it," said the bassist, who is also squeezing in a frontman gig Monday at the Fine Line between GNR dates to benefit his ongoing relief efforts in Haiti (see sidebar article).
Both Reed and Stinson believe the current GNR lineup could and should make a new record. Said Reed, "We're always bouncing around good song ideas. I think it could come together into something great."
However, both of Axl's longtime bandmates admitted they don't know what next year holds for them. GNR's last tour date on the books is Dec. 17.
"We're still waiting for a green light," Reed said. "Nothing unusual."
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