For the second year in a row, my wife and I and a couple of friends
made the trip out to
Vegas to see GNR New Years Eve. This year they were playing at the Joint in the Hard Rock
Hotel and Casino, and we were able to get rooms in the same hotel. Needless to say the show
was awesome, and this year the band was a lot sharper than last year.
I spent January 1st gambling and watching football, then stayed up at the blackjack tables
at the Hard Rock trying to press my luck. At about 1 am I see a guy in a checkered red
blazer with dyed red hair walking around with his girlfriend. Immediately I notice that it
is Tommy Stinson.
I don't believe in hounding celebrities. I think it is selfish, obnoxious,
That being said, I walked by Tommy and said "Great job last night. You guys were awesome."
He said thanks, gave me a quick hand shake, and walked around.
We continued to play blackjack, and luckily we were on a winning streak,
because if not we
would not have been awake at 3:45 am. Suddenly my wife nudges me, and I see this 6'5
bodygaurd walking around the bar/casino area escorting Axl. There are a lot of young people
who hang at the hard rock, and amazingly I think a lot of them had no idea that it was Axl.
He was wearing a # 80 Jerry Rice Raiders jersey and carrying a cell phone that looked like
it had a global navigation system on it.
I didn't want to hound or scare Axl, but I did want to see him. I approached,
bodygaurd gave me the "no" head shake. I just said "hey Axl, I don't want to be intrusive,
but that was an awesome show last night. I have been a huge fan and I thought you were
awesome." He said "thanks man" and shook my hand. That was enough for me.
I went back to the table, and my wife decided she wanted to see if we
could talk to him. We
saw him go out a side door at the hard rock, and we followed at a comfortable distance. My
wife saw him talking to some girls. My wife went out, and Axl asked if she would take his
picture with the girls. She then asked if we could have a picture. Axl's bodygaurd shook his
head at me, and Axl said "no, it's okay" and took the picture.
Then I decided "screw it" and decided to ask some questions as politely
as I could. I asked
him if he had an estimated date on the new album. He told me he would not answer that
question in interviews and that he wouldn't answer it for me, but that they are working hard
on it and making a lot of progress. He talked about how they had to re record a lot of drum
He also said that only now does the new GNR feel like "a band," and
I think that it is
important for him that they are a band and not a bunch of studio musicians. He said that
Robin Finck and Buckethead did not get along until two weeks ago, and that finally they are
learning to coexist as dual leading guitarists. He mentioned that they would release
singles, and that they would tour and add more new songs to their performances as the songs
became popular. This suggests to me that the songs he planned on releasing weren't played.
He made reference to the fact that there was a lot of material that had not been heard yet
that would make us "blown away."
I also asked him about the version of Paradise City that was out there.
He said somebody
leaked that version from a studio rehearsal, and that it was not intended to be released. He
said that they did re-record Welcome to the Jungle, and that they were supposed to release
it in the new movie "Blachawk Down." He said that when that happens, the old band members,
namely Slash, have to sign off on it. Axl implied that Slash wasn't willing to sign off on
the song, and so it was not included in the movie or on the soundtrack.
He also said that they recorded 4 new versions of Knockin' on Heavens
door. He said one was
reggae, one was "eclectic," and the version they played in concert, which is a much more
slowed down version, which I actually like better than the version on Use Your Illusion II.
Our whole conversation lasted about 10-15 minutes, and I have to say that he couldn't have
been more gracious and polite. He did not insult any of his old band mates or make any
negative comments, but it definitely sounds like there is a lot of bitterness between them
and a lot of the delays are caused by legal issues that continue to pop up.
I will say that Axl was extremely passionate and totally focused on releasing an album and
supporting it with a tour, and I believe that he will have one out by summer and that it
will be awesome. Anyway, it was pretty cool to drink a Jack and Coke outside the hard rock
talking to one of the greatest front men in rock and roll history.