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A paunchy Axl Rose put on his red bandana to relive GNR memories, minus Slash.

t2 was there

Axl Rose

It rained in December 2012, in Bangalore. But not all over, the rain was localised. And it wasn’t any ordinary kind of rain. I, like many others, call it November Rain. It’s the greatest Guns N’ Roses (GNR) song ever written. I’ve heard it blaring from speakers and the many versions belted out by other bands. But this was it. Axl Rose, the vocalist of GNR, stood 50 metres away and sang his heart out. It was a 25,000-strong crowd but as far as I’m concerned, he sang it just for me, to me.

he calls out to me

An hour to showtime, I waited with seven friends in the parking lot outside the venue, Bhartiya City. The band Thermal and a Quarter, that was opening for GNR, was already playing. But like hundreds of others, we were having a pre-event party of our own. And then I heard a howl. It was Axl Rose calling out to me and nothing was gonna get in the way. He kicked off with Welcome To The Jungle.

DJ Ashba

Axl rocks his paunch

The first few minutes were a rush of emotions. My next thought was Axl. I looked at him and saw a very different person from the one immortalised in his 1980s videos. Axl had a paunch. The lanky teenager in hot pants was gone; in his place stood a blonde-moustached man, camouflaging his beer belly under a jacket. But he still wore his trademark red bandana and managed his famous “snake dance”, slithering side to side effortlessly.

Rose is 50 years old but his voice is steady as a rock. Not one note did he sing off-key. They played for three hours — which is much longer than most international acts — and sang every GNR song that I know.

The crowd went berserk hearing the iconic riff of Sweet Child of Mine, sang loudest with Knocking On Heaven’s Door and called up friends back home and held the phone to the stage to let them hear Patience. And November Rain, of course, gave me goosebumps.

As the band played Civil War, I saw a father telling his 12-year-old daughter emphatically: “Feel the music, Ruhi, feel the music.” Ruhi smiled at him but made a constipated face when he looked away. She looked the Hannah Montana type.

Slash slashed off

Some of the songs’ videos were played on the big screen, including the awesome “dolphin video” of Estranged, but predictably they had edited out portions featuring a frizzy-haired man in a hat, with a cigarette dangling from his lips — Slash.

Slash — every rock fan will agree — is one of the greatest guitarists of all time. He was instrumental in the rise of GNR but he left the band after a spat with Axl. His absence made many GNR fans skip this concert.

The band now has three guitarists — all of them brilliant. While Axl took breaks at intervals, these guitarists played solo. One of them — DJ Ashba — will from now on have a special place in my heart as I got to shake (more like brush) hands with him when he walked down the stage and into the audience once during the show.

GNR is an eight-member band and their stage set-up was sprawling. The band also surprised us by playing some Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd.

November Rain forever

Two words sum up my GNR experience: November Rain. Before the concert, whenever I heard this song, I would think of its lavish video. Now I shut my eyes and see Axl Rose on the Bangalore stage. Then again, there are also two more words that could sum up the experience. As a friend said after the gig: “Jeebon sharthok!”

Brinda Sarkar

Which is your favourite classic rock band? Tell t2@abp.in