August 17, 2017 Guns N’ Roses Aim For Heart Of Hershey, PA 8-13-17 w/ Live
Guns N’ Roses are a band that require no introduction whatsoever, heck, even your grandma knows these guys! Dubbed The World’s Most Dangerous Band, Guns N’ Roses have earned their stripes as a Rock-n-Roll juggernaut over the past thirty plus years. Shocking the world, for the first time since 1993’s Use Your Illusion Tour, the classic lineup featuring Axl Rose, Slash, and Duff McKagan have come together again on stage on the cleverly named Not in This Lifetime… Tour.
A moment fans never thought would happen, but dreamt about, the tour began back in April of 2016 and since traveled the US, Latin America, Asia, Europe, Israel, and yes, the US. Currently on leg number 6 of the run, one which extends through September 8th, on Sunday, August 13th, they traveled down the highway to Hersheypark Stadium – along with Pennsylvania’s own Live – to bring their brand of mayhem to chocolate world.
A massive venue, Hersheypark Stadium is a 30,000-seat stadium located in the heart of amusement park Hersheypark, the biggest attraction in the beautifully rural South Central Pennsylvania region. Hersheypark Stadium and Arena – along with the Giant Center – see the area’s largest concerts, with recent performers ranging across the board from Country heartthrob Luke Bryan to rockers Avenged Sevenfold. With all being seemingly right with the world here in Pennsy, Guns N’ Roses were, of course, the first sold-out show of the summer!
To get the party started, York, Pennsylvania natives Live were the first band onto the stage. A band with a lengthy history and some seriously amazing music to their credit, Live recently reunited with their original line-up of Vocalist Ed Kowalczyk, Guitarist Chad Taylor, Bassist Patrick Dahlheimer, and Drummer Chad Gracey. Their phenomenal debut album, Mental Jewelry, hit shelves nearly twenty-five years ago and the rest has been an amazing ride for this little quartet out of Southern Pennsy. With over 22 million albums sold worldwide and two No. 1 offerings – 1994’s Throwing Copper and 1997’s Secret Samadhi – Live are a sonic force to be reckoned with.
Live took the stage at 6:15 PM to a large crowd that was growing bigger with each passing moment. Vocalist Kowalczyk led his troops – Taylor, Dahlheimer, and Gracey, along with two touring musicians for backup – into the introductory number “All Over You,” off the band’s 1994 mega-hit album Throwing Copper. They quickly moved into their break-out 1991 hits “Operation Spirit (The Tyranny of Tradition)” and – with Kowalczyk picking up his acoustic guitar – “Pain Lies on the Riverside,” off their marvelous debut album, Mental Jewelry. Quite a few fans throughout the crowd were seen singing-along, as well as one concert-goer who embraced minimalist enthusiasm to simply chant, “Ed! Ed! Ed!”
The sole representation of 1999’s The Distance to Here, “The Dolphin’s Cry” met with massive crowd approval and saw some hip-shaking action from Kowalczyk, who also announced that Live are from “right down the street” in York. It would be a trio of tracks off the mega-sensation Secret Samadhi, however, that ultimately brought the crowd to their toes: melodic “Selling The Drama,” the massive crowd sing-along of “I Alone,” and the infectious rocker “Lakini’s Juice.”
Taking a moment to turn toward the poignant, Kowalczyk made note of the recent passing of Chris Cornell before the band tackled the Audioslave number “I Am the Highway,” in remembrance of their fallen comrade. They ended their electrifying set with their massive hit “Lightning Crashes,” proof positive that Live are just as powerful a band as they were back when this track owned radio in the 1990s. While the pairing of Live with Guns N’ Roses is definitely an odd one – some might say a once in a lifetime occurrence – the energy set forth by these Pennsy boys was proof that they were up to the challenge!
With the beer-line a mile-long and the flow of human traffic into the stadium still seemingly endless, Guns N’ Roses took to the Hersheypark Stadium stage at 7:20PM. Despite the hour being much too early for any true Hollywood vampire, Drummer Frank Ferrer, Keyboardist/Percussionist Dizzy Reed, and Synth-technician Melissa Reese – clad in a Reese’s t-shirt and matching orange headband – took the stage as a Looney Tunes-themed video began the countdown to the arrival of Vocalist W. Axl Rose, Guitarists Slash and Richard Fortus, and Bassist Duff McKagan. Blasting into the opening notes of the sleazy groover “It’s So Easy,” the Gunners appeared on-stage with Rose doing a pare-downed version of his trademark slither almost immediately. God bless dirty Rock-n-Roll!
Fireworks blasted into the sky as the Guns quickly danced into “Mr. Brownstone,” Rose nearly losing his microphone at one point but no one noticed and the show went on. While the crowd’s acceptance of “Chinese Democracy” was decidedly mixed, the band themselves rocked onward without pause. All was quickly forgiven as Rose bellowed, “You’re in the jungle, Hershey. You’re gonna die!,” marking the celebratory stomp into “Welcome to the Jungle.” With Slash stepping up to center-stage for his solo and McKagan holding down the delicious bass-lines, Guns N’ Roses were clearly back (in mostly black!) in Pennsylvania.
With a lengthy guitar introduction by Slash, G N’R next tackled “Double Talkin’ Jive.” As Fortus worked the entire stage, Slash rocked his signature Les Paul and proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is still a master at his craft. Meanwhile, “Better,” off 2008’s Chinese Democracy, met with another mixed reaction from the crowd though it served to highlight the talents of Reese on backing vocals. Rose was clearly in a jovial mood as he greeted the crowd and told them that they were looking good on this summer evening, and the nearly nine-minute epic “Estranged” followed with some beautiful piano work from Reed. The groups’ well-known and noteworthy cover of the Wings’ classic “Live and Let Die” was next and a huge crowd favorite.
As the sun finally began to set, Guns N’ Roses larger than life stage production could truly come out to shine. With the projection screens displaying skeletons mid-coitus and lights-a-plenty for “Rocket Queen,” the band wove an over eleven-minute-long performance that highlighted Fortus’ frenetic-fingered guitar-work, Reed on the bongo drums, and Slash rocking the talk box.
“We should do this more often,” Rose taunted as the band launched into their 1991 Terminator 2 anthem, “You Could Be Mine.” Pyro made its debut for the evening as the Gunners literally set the Hershey stage on fire! Taking a break to catch his breath, Rose then relinquished vocal duties to McKagan, who led the band into a fun cover of the Misfits’ classic “Attitude.” As any G N’R fan rightfully knows, McKagan can always be counted on to inject some Punk into the Gunners’ set and he did just that in Hershey!
The third and final Chinese Democracy offering of the evening, “This I Love,” saw Rose and Reed combine forces for a pared down offering that was, dare it be said, poignant and delicate, highlighting Rose’s dangerously devious falsetto. With Slash stepping forward to slay at a lengthy, stunning guitar solo, it served as the perfect introduction to the band’s phenomenal offering, the intense “Civil War.” “Yesterdays” lightened the mood for a moment before G N’R would delve back down into the darkness to tackle the lengthy and stunning epic, “Coma.” Kicking off to a delicious bass crunch from McKagan, the track is a purely experimental embrace of the emotionally macabre.
Before turning over the stage to Slash, Rose introduced his band-mates. Then, with his talents as ring-master having being executed to perfection, Rose graciously handed the spotlight over to Slash who worked the crowd into a frenzy with a beautifully meandering guitar solo that wrapped itself into The Godfather’s “Speak Softly Love” before embracing the opening chords of Guns N’ Roses’ own mega-hit, “Sweet Child O’Mine.” Rose changed hats for “Used To Love Her,” which saw a dueling Fortus and Slash rocking the guitar duties and leading the band in this fabulously fun jam session. Crowd-goers could not help but sing-along!
The dark and sultry “My Michelle” picked the pace back up and had Rose dancing full-force across that stage. A three-hour set is a test of endurance, even for the youngest band, though Guns N’ Roses showed no signs of flagging as they danced viciously into the evening. Promising to never flag, Slash and Fortus stood side-by-side at center-stage and launched into a soaring guitar duet, a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.” This ultimately focused the band back toward their own hits, namely the huge sensation that is “November Rain.” With Rose – clad in a leather jacket and backwards trucker hat – behind the piano, Guns N’ Roses embraced the beautifully delicate melodies of their mega-hit.
A tribute to Chris Cornell – who opened for Guns N’ Roses back in the 1990s – followed with a stellar and surprising cover of Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun.” The band’s classic coverage of Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” followed – complete with another wardrobe change from Rose as well as a crowd sing-along – and bolstered the touching mood perfectly. As the screen behind them began to flash scenes of racing down the tracks, “Nightrain” raced forward to increase the pace and bring back the classic G N’R grit, launching the boys toward their massive encore.
An epic encore that was absolutely worth staying until the bloody end for, Guns N’ Roses left many of their best, most beloved tracks for their finale. “Patience” kicked off with an impromptu, acoustic jam session between McKagan, Slash and Fortus, before quickly kicking up with Rose’s characteristic, whistling introduction. In fact, the audience nearly drowned him out as Rose launched into the first verse! As he worked the stage like a whirling dervish, Rose proved that he is still one of the very best frontmen in Rock today, though was there ever a doubt?
Next up, the Gunners kept the party rolling with their fun cover of AC/DC’s “Whole Lotta Rosie,” complete with the stage screen flashing the classic guns and roses logo. With their energy on high and the crowd on the tips of their toes, “Don’t Cry” was next to be tackled by these amazing rockers. A joyous hush fell over the elated, sold-out crowd as Rose and his cohorts performed their 1991 hit. With the sonics and vocals pitch-perfect, Guns segued flawlessly into a cover of The Who’s “The Seeker,” before ultimately moving on to the grandest of grand finales – sans white leather but with confetti and fireworks – “Paradise City.”
With a performance that lasted over three hours, bridging day into night, Guns N’ Roses proved to the 30,000+ Hershey crowd why they continue to be a top-draw some thirty-years after their inception. Amazing musicianship and Rose’s trademark vocals sit alongside an energetic, superbly vigorous live show that spans some thirty tracks, making the Not In This Lifetime Tour a massively memorable bang for your buck!