If you believe what you read in the rock press, Guns N' Roses are genuine rock brats, given to every form of excess and indulgence. Portrayed as petulant pop stars, the Gunners are made to seem like spoiled crybabies, caring little for any but themselves.
Don't you believe it. The truth is, Guns N' Roses actually care about two things above all -- their music, and their fans. And if you find that somewhat hard to swallow, it's only because you weren't on hand to see for yourself at the Capital Centre last night.
It wasn't just that the band played with passionate intensity, igniting older songs like "Welcome to the Jungle" or "Mister Brownstone" and illuminating newer material like the stormy "Perfect Crime" or the sensitive "November Rain." What really made this show exceptional was the way the band went beyond the hits, showing a solidarity with its fans few groups would dare attempt.
Granted, some of that may have just seemed like lip service, as when singer Axl Rose told the crowd that the reason "Use Your Illusion" -- the band's much-delayed new album -- won't be out for yet another month was because the band did not want to short-change its following. But Mr. Rose showed that there was more to his sentiments than mere talk when, midway through "Civil War," he dove from the stage into the crowd to help fend off a couple security guards he thought were unjustly attacking an audience member.
That this was an unexpected move goes without saying; even the band was brought up short, stumbling to a halt shortly after Mr. Rose made his leap.
It was the music that ultimately showed how great this band can be. With most of the set drawn from unfamiliar material, you'd think the Gunners would have a hard time holding their audience. But from the nasty, bluesy groove of "Bad Obsession" to the gritty, Stones-style rock of "Bustin' Bones," the group was never anything less than magnificent.