Music Tonight: Guns N’ Roses finally makes its way back to Cincinnati, performing tonight at U.S. Bank Arena, the band's first appearance here in over 20 years. I believe Guns' last show in Cincy was when the Appetite for Destruction-era edition opened for Aerosmith at Riverbend in 1988. I remember because some friends and I meant to see them, but got stuck in traffic (I distinctly recall the cowbell of "Night Train" echoing across the Ohio River as we sat in standstill on the bridge leading to the venue).
Four years later, I made my way to Dayton, Ohio's Nutter Center on a freezing cold January night to see Guns, by then the biggest band in the world and touring the Use Your Illusion albums. It turned out to be a great experience, largely because the band lived up to its growing reputation for disastrous concert appearances. The show is part of GNR lore. Soundgarden opened the show and singer Chris Cornell openly taunted the audience, at one point bragging about his fancy new guitar and telling fans they'd never be able to afford it because nobody there had "two nickels to rub together." Axl Rose had cut his hand open on a mic stand three songs into the set, but all the audience (and apparently other band members) knew was that the singer had disappeared from the stage. The band played a few songs on their own (I'll never forget Slash, stumped as to what they should be doing, looking at his bandmates and asking, "Blues jam in E?") before Axl returned and he and Slash exchanged angry barbs. While Axl was gone, Slash had said something about a "costume change," jokingly; Axl responded by calling him a "punk motherfucker" and Slash said something about kicking his singer's ass. The show continued and, besides the overblown lineup, was pretty solid and fiery. The next two shows in Michigan were rescheduled due to Axl's injuries.
The reputation fostered by shows like that one (and the one the night before at Hara, which reportedly didn't begin until well after midnight) still follows Axl, and the lengthy time span between the release of the Illusion albums and eventual follow-up, Chinese Democracy, didn't help matters. But the mocking and vitriol aimed at the frontman long ago reached overkill levels — "Axl as punchline" has a life of its own, separate from "Axl as artist." A brilliant performer/songwriter is a little eccentric?! No way! At this point, Axl should be judged on his music and concert performances — and reviews from recent concerts mostly suggest the current Guns N’ Roses is still in fine form.
Axl gave his first televised interview in years recently, appearing on VH1 Classic's excellent That Metal Show. Check it out if you haven't seen it (here's some); if you're one of the masterful frontman's "haters," it might change your view, because Rose comes off as honest, smart, funny and amiable.
And if that doesn't work, put on Appetite for Destruction — an album so stunningly perfect, GNR are shoe-ins for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction based on it alone — as a reminder that Guns N’ Roses remains one of the great Rock bands of all time. (View our interviews with current GNRers Tommy Stinson and Richard Fortus here and here.)
Tonight's US Bank Arena show starts at 9 p.m. with special guests D Generation, the great NYC Punk band (featuring noted singer/songwriter Jesse Malin) which broke up in 1999, but got back together this fall for a string of concerts. Tickets range from $43-$78. To get in the mood, check out videos from both bands below.
• This summer, former Dayton rockers Robthebank played its first show in Cincinnati in ages after deciding to reunite. The band includes some familiar faces — it was fantastic vocalist Heather Newkirk's band before the amazing Shesus (Newkirk is in Cincy now where, on Saturdays at Northside club Junker's Tavern, she hosts a dance/karaoke hybrid night called "Danceroke") and also featured/features veteran Dayton guitarist Nate Farley, best known for his lengthy stint in Guided By Voices. Take a listen to a few of robthebank's early-Punk-influenced tunes here (a pair are available for download) or click below to listen to "The End of Time (Is Starting Now)," which recalls seminal early albums by L.A. pioneers X. The band plays tonight at The Comet in Northside. Also playing the free show — great Detroit Rock squad The High Strung.
• The countdown clock to the Southgate House's final show (in its current, longstanding state) is on — I don't know about you, but I've been combing over the Newport venue's calendar to decide which "last shows" I'm going to attend (the open dates have been filling up, presumably due to local acts furiously trying to book gigs there before Dec. 31's finale). Tonight is a good option. Several local bands are teaming up for the “Amped for Autism” benefit concert. The show will raise funds for the locally based nonprofit organization Families with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorders), which was founded in 2005 by the parents of a child with autism as a grassroots support group. The organization has since grown to become one of the largest groups of its kind. (Read more about Families with ASD at www.familieswithasd.org.) Tonight's 9 p.m. benefit show features a mix of local Rock and Punk bands, with Zebras In Public, Chiva Knievel, Total Dudes, Of No Value, Pumpkin Slut and Barely Legal slated to perform. Admission is just $5 ($8 for those aged 18-20).
Take a listen to talented Newport-based Rock band Zebras in Public's track "91 Hold the 1" below.
Just Announced: Akron Blues/Soul/Rock duo The Black Keys kick off their upcoming arena tour in Cincinnati, performing at US Bank Arena on March 2. Tickets go on sale Dec. 9 through Ticketmaster at 10 a.m. The tour is in support of the group's new album, El Camino, which comes out this Tuesday (check out the first single/video, "Lonely Boy," below). The band — who will be on Saturday Night Live tomorrow night, also promoting the new release — often has great opening acts on the road with them (locals Buffalo Killers and Brian Olive have done dates with the twosome, for example). This time around, the U.K.'s Arctic Monkeys open up.
Momentous Happenings in Music History for December 2
On this day in 1972, Carly Simon released her greatest single, "You're So Vain," which kicked off decades of mystery over who, exactly, the song was written about. Mick Jagger? Nope (though he sang backing vocals on the track). James Taylor. "Definitely not," according to Simon. Warren Beatty. A little bit, but not mostly. Simon has gamefully played along over the years, revealing (gradually) that the subject's name has the letters A, E and R in it; but she also has said it's a "composite" of three people. Simon's current husband revealed it wasn't someone famous; recent guesses have centered in on an affair she had with a guitarist prior to writing the song.
But, really, does anyone even care anymore? It is cool, though, that in this "behind the scenes"-crazy age, there can still be "mysteries" in popular music. Today, we'd not only know who it was about, but also what that person ate for breakfast every day and how well endowed they were.
Listen to the song (with lyrics) below and make your own best guess. I think it's about Lyndon Johnson or Wavy Gravy.
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a Dec. 2 birthday include: Def Leppard bassist Rick Savage (1960); Foo Fighters bassist (and former Sunny Day Real Estate member) Nate Mendel (1968); "Treach" from Hip Hop hitmakers Naughty By Nature, Anthony Criss (1970); chameleon-like songstress Nelly Furtado (1978); and — oh my! — Britney Spears (1981) is 30!
Here are a few interesting covers inspired by the Pop princess over the years.