Guns N’ Roses returns with Hard Rock Hotel residency
By Matt Kelemen
Tommy Stinson is pretty relaxed on a Saturday afternoon, despite the clock counting down to a Guns N’ Roses show later that evening. “The Most Dangerous Band in the World” is hours away from the first of two acoustic sets at Neil Young’s annual Bridge School Benefit Concert in Mountain View, Calif., and will have a few surprises for the audience that weekend. Guns guitarist DJ Ashba will give lessons to Bridge School students. Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder will take the stage unannounced to warm up the crowd before GNR’s Saturday-night show. Young will join the band to cover his own “Don’t Let It Bring You Down” on Sunday night before Axl Rose and company join everyone onstage for Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World.”
But perhaps the biggest surprise was how much rocking energy Guns N’ Roses was able to put into its unplugged set, especially calling-card anthem “Welcome to the Jungle.” That energy would be fully unleashed when the band plugged in again for its 12-date residency inside the Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel on Halloween night.
“From here we go to L.A. for some rehearsal time for about a week, put our live show together and work on some different stuff for the different shows,” says Stinson. “We’re looking to change each set up, and do some different things.”
That means the band has no intention of serving up the same set night after night, preferring to mix things up with musical surprises and production effects designed specifically for the Joint residency. The shows feature Guns N’ Roses first full-length concerts since Appetite for Destruction turned 25 years old in July. A somber observance of the album’s anniversary is hardly appropriate during the residency, which in a rare occurrence brings all the musicians together in one place for an extended period.
That means working on material for a new album is entirely possible for Rose, Ashba, Stinson, guitarists Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal and Richard Fortus, keyboardists Dizzy Reed and Chris Pitman, and drummer Frank Ferrer during their stay. Ashba is a Vegas resident, so the musicians have a recording-ready refuge from the Strip. Stinson is coming with his wife and 4-year-old son, further minimizing the temptation to party like he did when he toured as a teenager with seminal alternative rock band The Replacements.
Stinson recently reunited with Replacements singer/songwriter Paul Westerberg to record material to benefit their stricken former bandmate Slim Dunlap. His own fans may still be surprised to find that he replaced bassist Duff McKagan in 1997, but Stinson developed a tight friendship with Rose and found being in Guns N’ Roses to be a positive experience. “In the beginning it was more that it seemed like a real ballsy idea. I thought, ‘You know, I’m going to do it. If I’m going to do something other than my own thing right now, it’ll be taking a chance like that with Axl,’” says Stinson, who has seen the world while touring internationally and has a productive solo career when away from GNR. “It’s been a really good gig for me.”