Rose appeared to play it smart. Flat screen monitors (aka teleprompters) were placed strategically on stage, although I didn’t notice him cheating. He ducked into what appeared to be an onstage dressing room during practically every musical break. I suspect he was puffing oxygen to sustain his voice and, if so, it worked like a charm. Who cares if a 49-year-old man has to grab some gas to put on a good show? Thank you for thinking ahead.
That never really happened. His voice recovered during solos from most of the band members. Gn’R fans’ biggest complaint of course is that Guns isn’t really Guns without the original line-up (or at least the “Illusion” one) and I agree. I wasn’t awed by the sight of guitarists DJ Ashba or Richard Fortus the same way I would be by the mere presence of Slash or Duff. But I didn’t grow up with their posters on my walls (although I am wowed by the Replacements’ Tommy Stinson’s lanky frame bounding recklessly across the stage like Jack Skellington). The players do fine jobs of recreating Guns’ catalog. There are moments where I can tell something isn’t quite the same without Slash’s guitar tone, but that's being pretty picky.
The setlist touched on most of “Appetite” (minus “Think About You,” “Anything Goes,” “You’re Crazy” and sadly “My Michelle”), some of the “Illusion” records (“You Could Be Mine” was a treat; "Estranged" made the cut, "Civil War" did not) and “Chinese Democracy.” Rose looked reinvigorated and genuinely happy during the uncharacteristically dancey “Better.” The group did several covers. My favorites were Stinson's punky “My Generation” and Dizzy Reed’s piano version of “Baba O’Riley” back-to-back.
I was confident enough that things were winding to a close during “Sweet Child O’ Mine." Enough to vacate my stage side seat after an altercation with an extremely drunk older man in our row, but Rose and company still had plenty more juice left in their batteries.
It was actually quite cozy watching “November Rain,” Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal’s version of the “Pink Panther Theme,” and “Don’t Cry” from the balcony where you could appreciate the pyro without questioning your hearing after every pop. My husband noted that from afar Rose looked like Alan Jackson in his Stetson crooning “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door.” This was roughly 26 songs in (not including some of the jams) and his voice was still in good condition. “Night Train” closed a truly electric set, but the encore went on for another half hour. It included “Patience” (where Rose noted that he and Stinson were being particularly accommodating), "Nice Boys," and the confetti-laden grand finale of “Paradise City.”
It was now after 2 a.m. and Rose had outlasted much of the crowd. He was certainly accommodating and even warm. For anyone willing to hang, he definitely gave Greenville its money’s worth although from our balcony view it was painfully apparent that the floor of the 11,000 capacity arena was maybe half full at its peak. Rose and his former bandmates could undoubtedly perform for stadiums full of fans if it reunited, but I wonder if that grin would still be plastered across his face?