Thursday, May 30, 2013
Concert review: Dallas band Secret of Boris played surprise set at Guns N’ Roses show
When Guns N’ Roses took the stage, we immediately missed Slash.
DALLAS Axl Rose is the sole original member of Guns N’ Roses and the sole reason 1,500 fans sardined themselves into the House of Blues on Wednesday night. But the strange thing is how well the show worked in spite of him.
The mercurial Rose actually showed up on time – or as close to it as he gets – taking the stage at 10:20 p.m. for a 10 p.m. show, after a surprise set by the Dallas band Secret of Boris. It was hard to tell what mood he was in. Barely recognizable behind sunglasses and a series of wide-brimmed hats, Rose said little to the crowd and inexplicably kept vanishing backstage for long stretches while his 7-man band carried the 2-and-1/2 hour show.
At 51, Rose is no longer the sprinting dervish he was in GNR’s stadium days. The spandex shorts are gone, replaced by a shapeless T-shirt and a leather jacket that hid his torso. Yet he showed flashes of the old charisma whenever he sashayed across stage, leaped on to a stage riser, or did his patented mic-stand spin dance.
His singing was even more hit-and-miss. Rose has always had one of rock’s most distinctly odd voices – a shaky whine that’s part Willie Nelson, part Katherine Hepburn. But on Wednesday, his voice often sounded tepid as he strained to hit banshee notes that were clearly out of his reach. Like Robert Plant before him, Rose might be better off adapting his style to fit the limits of his larynx.
As the show wore on, his voice warmed up and occasionally took flight, especially in a marathon version of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.” But the concert mostly revolved around the energetic, air-tight band anchored by ex-Replacements bassist Tommy Stinson and keyboardist Dizzy Reed, who’ve both managed to stay in GNR since the ‘90s. Three guitarists – Richard Fortus, Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, and DJ Ashba, wearing a vaguely Slash-like top hat – took turns nailing the solos in hits like “Welcome to the Jungle” and “Sweet Child O’ Mind” and a grab bag of covers (“Another Brick in the Wall Part 2,” “Live and Let Die,” The Who’s “The Seeker.”)
But as good as they were, they were no Slash, who left the band acrimoniously in 1996. Maybe Billy Corgan can pull off a Smashing Pumpkins show with no other original members, as he did a few weeks ago at the Palladium. But Axl without Slash is more like Plant without Jimmy Page: He can sing the classics as long as he wants, but they’ll never have the same magic without the original guitar hero by his side.
Thor Christensen is a Dallas writer and critic.
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