Axl Rose defied all of his cliches on Monday night as he played to an audience of about 1,000 at Toronto's Sound Academy. Not only did he hit the stage at a reasonable hour (10:30pm), but he appeared to be in a great mood, even going as far as to shake hands with fans, during a set that ran well over two and a half hours.
Opening with a blistering 1-2 punch of "Chinese Democracy" and "Welcome To The Jungle", Rose and his Guns N' Roses bandmates blew through a set that was heavy on the classics, sprinkling in only a handful of cuts from the last record.
All of the hits you'd expect to hear were played. Appetite favorites "Sweet Child O' Mine", "It's So Easy", "Mr Brownstone", "Nighttrain", and my personal favorite, "Rocket Queen", were all enthusiastically received. Use Your Illusion numbers included "Don't Cry", "Knockin' On Heaven's Door", "Live and Let Die". "Estranged", and a thunderous "You Could Be Mine". The crew even carried out a small piano for "November Rain" (which was preceded by a chunk of "Another Brick In The Wall"). "Used To Love Her" was a singalong highlight.
The Sound Academy is a terrible venue at the best of times, but it couldn't really handle the assault coming from the stage. However, the tight confines kept Rose from having to run too far, which probably helped keep his vocals more consistent.
There were some lulls in the action. Nearly every member of the band got the spotlight to perform a solo. Many in the audience used the opportunity to fill up on fluids, or relieve themselves of fluids already built up. The highlight of these was Tommy Stinson performing his own song "Motivation" from his Village Gorilla Head album. We'll see you on August 25th Tommy!
The band capped off a night of doing almost everything right by doing right by the crowd for the encore. After an incredibly brief pause, they returned for "Patience" (with a bit of "Angie"), a cover of "The Seeker", and an exhilarating "Paradise City".
Tickets were definitely pricey for the event ($125+ charges for general admission), but to see Axl in an intimate venue blowing out some classic hard rock, it was worth it for the unique experience.