With Glastonbury behind them, Guns N’ Roses, the world’s most dangerous rock ‘n’ roll band, bring their ever-long heated fire to The Great Oak stage at this year’s BST Hyde Park festival. The amount of Axl and Slash merchandise donning punters wandering the grounds of Hyde Park is uncountable. Parents revelling in the chance to bring the complete cute factor to the day hold the hands of tiny, outfitted GNRs with signature Homburg hats drowning them in rock iconises.
Guns N’ Roses
BST Hyde Park – 30 June 2023
Words: Monty Sewell
The question of whether the headlining act will arrive at their set on time is non-existent amongst the hustle and bustle of brewing vim. It is the second Friday in a generous three-weekend instalment of Hyde Park festival events, with a spicy roster of huge-name artists taking to the stage each day. P!nk, Lana Del Rey, Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel all have their time in the light, but today it is all about the horns and the leather as this year’s hard rock BST rendezvous comes to a head.
Beers are a-flowin’, and shades – despite the slight spit from the clouds above – are a wearin’. Following a superb day of Larkin Poe, The Dust Coda, Dirty Honey, The Pretenders, James And The Cold Gun, Grade 2, Bad Nerves, The Foxies and The Darkness, the atmosphere is insatiably electric.
Sweeping our way through the tight nit crowd in the Diamond Circle, we fit snugly into a pocket a few good metres from the front of the stage. As large as the festival is, the only thing bigger than the main stage are the two humungous live stream screens, ensuring no one has a bad seat.
Thinking we’d get a few minutes before the infamously late band joined us, we jumped right out of our skins when the music suddenly came blaring out from the speakers, right on the starting time marker. I guess 30 years of getting a bad rep has eased the icons into a lesser state of rockstar mode to ensure their fandom continues on its unimaginable high.
Axl Rose, Slash, Duff McKagen, Richard Fortus and the new addition to the band, keyboardist Melissa Reese bound onto the stage and engulfed us with their wild, high peaks eminence. As a first-time Guns N’ Roses show attendee, I was absolutely blown away by the realness of them. Dumb as it sounds, the adrenaline rush from seeing an act so iconic not only to the world but on a personal, musical influential level is nothing short of stupefying.
Sixty thousand voices launch into howls of delight as monumental applause erupts, paired with a sea of jumping bodies just bursting with exhilaration. As an almost statement to their status, GNR gets down to business with It’s So Easy. Onstage energy high, Axl, Slash and the gang gorge themselves on the audience response, smiles splattered on each of their faces and a noticeable pump behind their every move.
Bad Obsession, Chinese Democracy, Slither (Velvet Revolver cover) and Mr Brownstone all garnish themselves with a dousing of Slash pick sweeps, Axl husky highs and unfathomable energy from Duff and his merry band of rhythm ride rockers. Welcome To The Jungle puts all ‘those’ bad mouthers to shame as Axl throws out his soaring vocals to the adoring audience. It’s been over thirty years since Appetite came out, but Axl still stands strong on his own, keeping the show going with an understated effort as he covers every corner of the wide-set stage.
Reckless Love, Double Talkin’ Jive, Pretty Tied Up, Hard Skool, Absurd, Estranged, Rocket Queen, You Could Be Mine, and Anything Goes. Most of the set is taken from Appetite For Destruction, the Use Your Illusion records and a cracking lineup of covers, including the damningly good Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door and James Bond favourite Live And Let Die.
Duff jumps on lead vocals for The Stooges’ cover T.V. Eye while Slash chucks in a Voodo Chile (Jimi Hendrix, of course) riff at the end of Civil War. The backdrop of the latter features strong support imagery for Ukraine, with Axl wearing a top with the country’s flag proudly pronounced on it.
You always wonder how any band can fill three hours. But this isn’t just any band. As the rest of the band momentarily leaves the stage, Slash slides into a bluesy, shred solo. Never long enough, he melts our faces, sinking us into the Slash snake pit of quick wit, finger action and attitude. I mean, it is Slash. He does what he does, and he does it damn well—giving the people precisely what they want.
Sweet Child O’ Mine, November Rain and Patience is the triple love endorsement that drives us into a grateful, grind-down heat. Richard Fortus plays the cool-head rhythm guitarist with a hard strum and a smirk, his twenty years as a GNR axe man leaving no hammerhead stone unturned. For November, Rain Axl jumps on a sleek piano for an emotional rendition of the song, which sees arms swaying and lighters held high.
Coma, Nightrain, Don’t Cry, and the wrap-up to end all wrap-ups, Paradise City. It’s larger than life and played to perfection as GNR takes out their needle and sticks it into the grounds of Hyde Park, electrifying the feet bouncing upon it with a surge of crazed-out euphoria. The insanely good graphics, which cloak the screens in between the live stream moment, also deserve a drink clink shout-out to the festival’s visuals department. Nothing is better than watching a life-size Slash engulfed by a sky-high Slash behind him.
It’s a wild, unreal ride that sees Guns N’ Roses take BST Hyde Park by a rock ‘n’ roll storm. Legendary in status, legendary in proof. Here’s to another year of Guns N’ Roses bringing us to our sha-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-knees.
Photos by Guilherme Nunes Cunha Neto, supplied by organisers.