Guns N' Roses, Chinese Democracy, and the Ancient Art of Patience

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​Sometime toward the end of the second Dubya Bush term, we found ourselves on the back patio of a Downtown Miami nightclub in full-throttle Friday night mode.

Inside the club, sweaty bodies writhed and wiggled all over each other like an overturned bucket of earthworms. Rightfully so, as the tunes cranking out of the soundsystem were bonafide party jams.

We were staning in line to grab some grub from the club's official griller when a friend ran up, pointed to a nearby speaker, which was vibrating to the beat of the four-on-the-floor electro-house pumping out of the cabinet. And cupping a hand to my ear, he yelled: "Can you believe it?! This is Chinese Democracy."

Of course, he was joking. The late-night banger inspiring denizens to shake their shit was definitely not Chinese Democracy, the long-awaited, practically mythical album from Guns N' Roses, finally released in 2008.



The seeds for what would eventually become that record were planted in 1994, right after the group's phone-it-in covers album, The Spaghetti Incident?, which cashed in on the still-soaring Use Your Illusion albums popularity without having to actually provide new material.

In the process of imploding -- Axl vs. Slash, everyone vs. drugs, etc. -- GNR was doomed to scrap everything several times. But at least those initial sessions provided the album's name. It wasn't the most productive period of time. However, it was the most progress that would be made on Chinese Democracy in over a decade.

The real Guns N' Roses dissolved in 1996 with the departure of original classic-era guitarist and spiritual center of the band, Slash. And as the years winded on, the band (Axl plus a revolving cast of scab players) and its new album increasingly mutated into dangerously expensive abstractions.

Chinese Democracy became a contemporary symbol of the unattainable. Deep down, it was what we were all hoping for and working toward. It didn't matter if the record was ever released because the constant waiting taught us the ancient art of patience. Well, until 2008, when our rock 'n' roll stoicism was met with the harsh reality of Chinese Democracy by Guns N' Roses as released in 2011.

But you know what, who cares? When Axl and whoever is on the payroll these days takes the stage at the American Airlines Arena, they're certain to play a hearty clump of C.D. duds. But you can bet your Ticketmaster service charges that they'll be knocking out all of the hits -- "Sweet Child O' Mine," "Paradise City," "November Rain" -- too.

All you need to do is sit back, wait for GNR's cover of "Knockin' On Heaven's Door," lean over to the person sitting next to you, and say, "I hear this one's off Chinese Democracy."

Guns N' Roses. Saturday, October 29. American Airlines Arena, 601 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. The show starts at 9 p.m and tickets cost $39.50 to $79.50 plus fees via ticketmaster.com. Call 305-960-8500 or visit aaarena.com.

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American Airlines Arena

601 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, FL

Category: Music

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Herschel Henson
Herschel Henson

CD duds? Chinese Democracy is no Appetite for Destruction to be sure, but it is a much better album than Use Your Illusion I as a whole. As far as the "real" G&R, the band was breaking into two different musical camps and most of the members eventually quit until Axl was left. Had the "real" band survived, it would be doing what it is now because, love it or hate it, without Axl there is no G&R and he ran the show then, and does now. If Slash had a masterpiece in him, it would be out there. This is much like when Alice Cooper (which was first the name of the band) went solo in 1975. Alice the man wanted to go more theatrical, Alice the band wanted to do standard rock. I guess he is not real either. Plus, the core of the new band has been together longer than the original and, member for member, has several times the talent.

Ryan
Ryan

Sorry, but you're just flat out wrong on so many counts. First off, if you enjoy Chinese Democracy more than UYI, great, that's your opinion.I think you're crazy, and about 14 million people in the states would agree, as opposed to the 600 thousand that bought Chinese Democracy.Turn on the radio today and you will hear Don't Cry, November Rain, Yesterdays,You Could Be Mine, Live and Let Die, Knockin On Heavens Door etc.These are songs that were released in 1991. You won't hear anything off of Chinese Democracy. It's already run it's course, 3 years after it's release, even though it was the most hyped record of all time. You might prefer Chinese Democracy, but it is not better.

Any chemistry this new lineup has was sucked out during the production process. The songs were written over 10 years ago, then noodled to death in the studio for a decade and it shows.The original lineup would have no part of that if they were still around. It's one of the main reasons Izzy left. 

Go to an Alice Cooper show today. 90% of his setlist is made up of his 1969-1975 output. That's his best material, and he knows it.

Your point of the new members being in the band longer than Slash and co does nothing to help your point. It only proves they are inept. The classic lineup managed to create some of rocks finest records, and put themselves in the conversation with the Stones, Zep etc. during the span of 6 years.

This lineup is riding the coat tails of the formers success. Without the GN'R moniker, this lineup is struggling to sell out clubs.

Several times the talent? Must be wasted talent then, because it's produced next to nothing thus far.Not one memorable track on Chinese Democracy, the one album they have managed to release in 18 years of existence.

Meanwhile Slash has released 5 LPs, between Velvet Revolver and solo, with a 6th in the works.Izzy has put out 11.Duff, 9.

Hell, even Adler has managed to match Axl's latest incarnations album output.

People often seem to mistake skill as talent. Can Slash play the fastest? Probably not.Has he crafted some of rock's most memorable solos? Yup. 

Can Axl's army of Bumblefoot, Buckethead, Ashba, Finck, Fortus say the same?

Lupavonwagner
Lupavonwagner

I saw them perform in Argentina just a few days after rock in rio. First of all, axl is not fat. The photos you see online are doctored. And yea, he definitely shouldnt have worn the yellow raincoat, but it was freezing. And hes got layers of clothes underneath. I saw him in person. I can say firsthand. Also, the show blew me away. His vocals are insane. He's only gotten better. And the lineup? Ashby is incredible. As is Fortus and Bumblefoot and everyone else. THE BAND HAS EVOLVED PEOPLE!! Chinese Democracy is one of the greatest pieces of rock music of the last 25 years, but everyone wants to hate it because Slash isnt in the band. SLASH LEFT. Axl is still here. And the show is insane. Just look at the youtube videos of Buenos Aires, trust me, you will hear all the good oldies and then some. 

Ryan
Ryan

The real Guns N' Roses is obviously dead and buried, and Axl is a shell of his former self, but he still manages to put on one of the better rock shows you will see in 2011.

His hired guns can play the classics. It's not the same as seeing the creators, but take it for what it is and I think you'll be entertained. Chinese Democracy has some good ideas on it, but they lack the structure that Izzy brought, and Axl found out the hard way that guitar heros like Slash are hard to come by. 

Considering the pathetic state rock music is in these days, you can do a whole lot worse than seeing Axl's GN'R cover band.

tom
tom

spiritual centre of the band? the centre of the band was Izzy stradlin, ya know the guy who wrote, co-wrote the best songs! slash was the lead guitar player...not the lead song writer.  theres a reason izzy was asked to come back when writing sessions started around 1994/5 the others knew he was the songwriter (at least he one who could write the rockier stuff, and blues stuff) along with Axl writing the grand songs and duff making the punky stuff and slash then wrote the sleazy rock stuff too. obviously a collaborative effort but when it comes down to the nitty gritty...its Izzy all the way. now! Chinese democracy has some great songs...street of dreams, this i love, better, catcher in the rye, shacklers revenge (if you can get past the odd intro), prostitute thats half the album already! finally the band put on a great show and thats all that matters.

Coldredmute
Coldredmute

I couldn't agree more. Everyone give Slash waaay too much credit for Appetite. People don't realise how dominant Izzy's guitar is on Appetite. If you take out Slashes rhythms on Appetite the songs are all still there. Take out Izzy's and the songs disappear. I know. I've done it. Some of the leads are Izzy's as well.  eg Think about you and intro to Welcome to the jungle (Slash does the delay intro). Axl and Izzy were the heart and soul of that band. They created it. Slash auditioned. He also auditioned for Poison.

Ryan
Ryan

Let's not get carried away. I agree that Izzy was an integral part of GN'R, but you can say the same exact things about Slash. Take away his solos on Sweet Child, November Rain, Don't Cry etc, and we probably never hear of Guns N' Roses. Not to mention the epic playing on the non radio hits like Estranged, Coma..

No point in downplaying any of them. They were all integral to the bands success. Look no further than what they are all doing now. Axl is living off the name they all made together. Without the previous success, Chinese Democracy probably doesn't warrant a record deal. 

I enjoy Izzy and Slash's solo works, some VR, some new Guns, but none of it holds a candle to '87-'93 Guns N' Roses.

Wmyers4u
Wmyers4u

Do a little research on Guns 'N Roses. Slash was NOT the original guitarist, he was a hired gun that replaced Tracii Guns. Tracii Guns is where the Guns came from in Guns 'N Roses.

Please retract this article or make a correction so as to not mislead people.

Aaron
Aaron

you are wrong my friend.  Slash and Tracii were in L.A. Guns and Axl and Izzy were in Hollywood Rose, a banner for the two bands performing on the same night read, "Guns N' Roses" Axl liked Slashs style and they kicked tracii to the curb and became GNR.  Goodnight.

Ryan
Ryan

I believe you are incorrect about Slash ever being in LA Guns, but regardless, my point is that no one cared about the band Guns N' Roses until Slash, Axl, Steven, Izzy and Duff got together and started making music. Listen to Hollywood Rose. I like the songs, but those versions of Reckless Life and Anything Goes don't hold a candle to the Lies and AFD versions. They were more metal. With the AFD lineup, they became rock n roll. 

I never said Tracci didn't come first. I'm just pointing out that no one cares, and he certainly is not missed. On the other hand, many people would say Guns N' Roses officially died the day Slash quit. Axl just didn't get the memo.

Ryan
Ryan

True, but no one cares about Tracii because he was a hack, and most people consider the AFD lineup as the beginning because they put the band on the map, and created the songs people bought the records for.

Eddie Money
Eddie Money

I respectfully disagree with the way you've written this article.  Axl is bringing one of the best rock shows on the planet right now.  I've been fortunate enough to see it live several times since 2006.  Axl is the last great rock front men around today who can still put on a good performance.  Several of these band members - Richard Fortus, Dizzy Reid, Tommy Stinson, and Chris Pitman have been in the band longer than the original line up.  Go listen to the songs Sorry, There Was A Time, and Better (all from Chinese Democracy), and you will find well-written tunes are as easy to listen to as any of the classics from Appetite.   I saw the classic line-up (or "real guns n roses" as you referred to them) in the early 90's.  I'll admit that this tour was nowhere near as special of a moment for me as it was then, but seeing Axl on stage performing at a such a high level at the age of 49 is still impressive and worth your money. 

D Fraser
D Fraser

several times.. you f'in loser lol

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