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Hong Kong gigs

Guns N’ Roses play a marathon three-hour gig in Hong Kong: the hits, the hair, the big guitar solos

  • Axl Rose, Slash and the rest of the hard rockers from LA put on a monster of a show at AsiaWorld Expo
  • Welcome to the Jungle, Sweet Child o’ Mine and Chinese Democracy were among the 25-song set list
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 November, 2018, 12:47pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 November, 2018, 3:16pm

Nostalgic rock fans from Hong Kong and beyond dug out their leopard prints and leathers last night and swarmed to AsiaWorld-Expo for the return of ’80s rock legends Guns N’ Roses for the first of two concerts in the city during the Asian leg of their world tour.

Ticket prices spiralled into thousands of dollars, but gig goers got what they paid for: although the hard-rocking hit makers are notorious for keeping fans waiting, the bumper three-hour Not in This Lifetime show warranted a sharp 8pm start to pack in 25 songs before the final Airport Express departed.

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Formed in Los Angeles in 1985, the group have undergone numerous line-up changes and constant turmoil during their career, which spans six studio albums, making them one of the most storied and iconic rock bands. After a particularly bad spat in 1996, frontman Axl Rose went on to perform without guitarist Slash, who embarked on a solo career, until the pair ended their decades-long feud in 2016 and set out on tour together again – purely for the love of music, of course.

The Post had originally been due to interview Slash before the show, but plans unravelled after the band’s management refused to allow any questions about Guns N’ Roses, insisting that the focus must remain on the guitarist’s solo work. If tensions remain between Rose and Slash, they kept things civil onstage, albeit with as little interaction as possible.

Watch Guns N’ Roses Play Sweet Child o’ Mine live in Hong Kong

Last night, the band swung into action with some classics from their Appetite for Destruction debut album, It’s So Easy and Mr Brownstone. There was speculation before the show that the band would leave out Chinese Democracy, the title track from the 2008 album of the same name, to avoid ruffling any feathers in Beijing while performing in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

However, after the band played the song live in Taipei at the weekend, things were looking promising. “You might know the name of this song,” Rose said wryly as he introduced the track, which deals with the lack of free speech in China.

While Rose remains a formidable frontman, his voice struggled uncomfortably in the higher range and rarely reached the banshee-like projection of his younger years, with Better and You Could Be Mine sounding especially strained and lacking in power.

A sharply choreographed set identical to the band’s other Asian shows left little room for improvisation, though moments engineered to feel spontaneous were carved from dazzling flashes of guitar wizardry and nine covers of songs by other artists, such as Soundgarden’s Black Hole Sun and Misfits’ Attitude, the latter delivered with venom and punch by bassist Duff McKagan.

Rose and Slash naturally command most of the spotlight onstage, but one of the upsides of the extended set was that it also provided moments for the other members to shine. McKagan and drummer Frank Ferrer’s rhythm section sounded fat and heavy during Shadow of Your Love and Rocket Queen, while Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door featured a particularly stunning solo from guitarist Richard Fortus.

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The enthusiasm of the crowd seemed to ebb around the two hour mark as the band ploughed through a lacklustre, tedious rendition of the aptly titled Coma. But the energy picked back up when, after segueing into some genuinely jaw-dropping fretwork during a 10-minute blues solo session, Slash began to play the instantly recognisable opening riff of Sweet Child o’ Mine. However, the moment was spoiled by the sea of mobile phones being raised across the arena, with many fans filming the entire song and blocking the view of others.

When the grand piano was wheeled out, it was clear what was coming. Instead of lighters out (anyone brandishing an actual flame was tackled within seconds by a team of security guards), the arena filled with a sea of white LED screens as Rose’s diamond skull-encrusted fingers fluttered over the keys during signature singalong ballad November Rain.

Characteristically overblown and indulgent, the performance at times felt painfully long and tested the patience of nearly all but the most devoted of fans. When the sunny tones of closer Paradise City arrived after a lengthy encore, it wasn’t a moment too soon for some.

Some advice for those with standing tickets for tonight’s show: wear comfortable shoes and bring refreshments.