Guns n’ Roses at The 02, Dublin, May 17th 2012
Words: Vanessa Monaghan
Photos: Aidan McCarthy

It’s almost twenty years to the day, since the original Guns n’ Roses first took to an Irish stage, that gig being Slane Castle in 1992. Memories of the last G’n’R show in Dublin, in 2010, are still fresh in the mind. So this time round, it’s hard to know how Axl and his band of merry men will be received by the audience.

The night of rock is started off by Vengeance and The Panther Queen, a Dublin punk rock quintet, who feature some ex members of Republic of Loose in their folds. The Loose influence can be heard best in their stand out track ‘Party Fight‘, a shouty rhythmically upbeat track with the guys taking over backing vocals. Musically the band is top notch, the Panther Queen herself just needs to turn out the rock front person attitude and charm a little more. Well worth keeping an eye out for.

The O2 audience are all in their places for the return of Thin Lizzy and when frontman Ricky Warwick asks ‘Are you ready to rock?’, the reaction shows that the audience are out for a good time, whatever the night holds. As with earlier guests on Guns n’ Roses tours, Thin Lizzy are given a nice long set, this could easily have been their own headline show. By the second song ‘Jailbreak’, every pair of hands in the arena are in the air clapping along. The lights on the iconic Thin Lizzy sign behind the band change throughout the set and is especially noticeable when all the lights on the band turn to green for ‘Emerald’.

Ricky Warwick is a great front man and seems like he was always in this role in Thin Lizzy, truly making it his own. The band are giving their all and the audience feed from it, throwing energy back towards the stage. Every word of every song is sung back to the band and when it’s ‘Dancing in the Moonlight’ time, they don’t need much encouragement to lead the vocal line. Despite a great performance, there are times throughout the show when it seems that the band revert to the standard rock moves on stage. It’s only when you think about it that it becomes clear that it was the original Thin Lizzy line up that wrote the rock n’ roll book. Drummer Brian Downey is introduced to the audience as ‘Rosalie’ begins, then Warwick gets the seated part of the audience to get on their feet. The standing room only section of the audience cheer with approval as Warwick explains ‘Rock n roll isn’t supposed to be comfortable’.

The Thin Lizzy back catalogue is exceptional, especially when you hear all the classics back to back like this. Going by the crowd reaction, ‘Whiskey in The Jar’ is an unofficial national anthem or some sort of National treasure. The band don’t forget their roots, as they remember Gary Moore and Phil Lynott who is “right here in this rodeo”. A simple touching celebration of their talent. Final track of the night for Thin Lizzy is ‘The Boys are Back in Town’, which predictably sends the audience moshing in unison. Warwick runs from one side to the other of the stage, egging on the crowd. The band leave the stage as heroes and the audience get the reward of the announcement of a December 13th gig in The Olympia.

It’s about 21.20 as Thin Lizzy leave the stage. Guns n’ Roses are scheduled to be on stage as 21.45. Realistically though, those who bought tickets for this gig know what they are getting themselves into. As the roadies ready the stage, the twitterverse is alive with predicted stage times. Everything from 9.53 to 4.AM on Sunday. The mood in the venue is upbeat with perhaps, slight apprehension. If Axl messes up this time, he’s done in Ireland.

The vibe in the arena changes slightly at about 22.10, Axl is nearly thirty minutes late, which on the grand scale of things, isn’t that bad for him but they are starting to get impatient. Within minutes, this changes to joyfulness as the house lights dim and stage lights come on. The sound of Massive Attack’s Splitting The Atom is replaced by the opening guitars of Chinese Democracy and Axl appears on stage amid pyrotechnics and fireworks across the front of the stage. So was to begin one of the best rock n’ roll shows on the planet. Axl seems to be in good form, moving around the stage and actually coming to the edge of the stage this time, unlike his last visit here. The next songs played remind us of just why ‘Appetite for Destruction’ changed rock music. Everyone in the venue is on their feet for ‘Welcome To The Jungle’. Axls mic seems a little low in the live mix but this is later rectified. ‘It’s so Easy’ has the entire audience shouting the lyrics back at him. ‘Mr. Brownstone’ finished off the ‘Appetite’ trio and Axl has the audience in the palm of his hand. This may not be the original Guns but Axl has surrounded himself with some amazing musicians and their musical class shines.

While Axl may be known as a perfectionist and perhaps control freak, he does give the other musicians their chance to shine. Richard Fortus stepping front and centre with a guitar solo before the band launch into a pyrotechnic festival for ‘Live and Let Die’, fireworks going off with the beat of the song. Sweet Child O’ Mine shows itself to still be a great song, the audience making as much noise as the band on stage. Axl, who goes through six t-shirt/costume changes and a range of hats, sits at a piano for another jam which turns into him leading a sing along of Pink Floyd‘s ‘Another Brick in The Wall’.

In rock ballad fashion, ‘November Rain’ sees the audience light up the arena, not with lighters in the air but with smartphones, recording the extravaganza. The instrumental jam that the band have is kept interesting by what they actually play. Bumblefoot incorporating ‘The Pink Panther Theme’ and ‘Danny Boy’ and ending up with some ladies undergarments on his guitar neck. It’s well after midnight and when most gigs would be over at this stage, GnR are still going with their main set. ‘Don’t Cry’, AC/DC’s ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’ and ‘Estranged’ lead into a rousing version of ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door‘. Once they get going, GnR are an unstoppable force as they step the pace up once more with ‘Nightrain’. There’s a thank you and the musicians leave the now darkened stage. Not for long though.

Bumblefoot comes back on centre stage and speaks to someone in the audience, another instrumental jam leads to him playing just one very loose line of ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’. In the audience some of those with jobs in the morning leave the auditorium, it’s almost an hour and a half since the last bus went. Those who remained knew what to expect, we didn’t get Axl the Diva, we got Axl the rock God. ‘There was a Time’ gets a live airing for the first time since 2010. The faithful crowd are still standing at 12.56 and there’s still more.

Friday is over an hour old as the first notes of ‘Paradise City’ rejuvenate the audience. They’re dancing and giving their all, like it’s the first track of the night. Pyrotechnics and fireworks turn this into a complete rock party, it’s better than New Year’s Eve. Glitter and streamer bombs explode over the standing crowd, making the stage just about visible. Pure party, pure rock, every tired soul in The 02 is on their feet and loving every single guitar lick, every drum beat, every note Axl hits. No one wants this to end. Guns n’ Roses leave the stage to standing ovations and quite rightly too, Axl has more then redeemed himself and has tonight renewed his fans’ faith in him. As the last of the glitter hits the floor, Guns n’ Roses, led by Axl make their way back to the stage for a bow.

It seems Axl has learned his lesson in Ireland as he thanks the crowd for ‘putting up with my lame ass and not throwing shit’. They leave, conquering heroes. It really doesn’t matter whether Guns n’Roses are in the rock n’ roll hall of fame or not, Axl has proven that he still has it, an amazing performer surrounded by fantastic musicians. Tonight, he put the ghosts of 2010 to bed and put on a hell of a show. It’s nights like this that remind us why we fell in love with rock music in the first place.

Guns ‘N’ Roses Photo Gallery

Photos: Aidan McCarthy

Fan Video of Sweet Child Of Mine at The O2, Dublin