“You’re in the jungle, Glastonbury!” So shrieks Axl Rose during Welcome To The Jungle, a hard-rocking song of low life and dog-eat-dog ruthlessness with a massive riff. Can Guns N’ Roses remake this festival of progressive values and communality into their own down‘n’dirty image?
This is a precision stadium rock show, in a field in the West Country. The screen visuals include trusty hard rock references such as skulls, poisonous snakes, molten rock, and dice. Axl runs about a lot on gantries, and when guitarist Slash plays extended solos on a variety of tasty axes with much ‘guitar face’ to boot, the singer ducks off for shirt changes (Civil War’s top features the Ukrainian flag).
We’re never far from sound and fury, yet the vibe seems off, and the audience response muted. There’s a lot of it too, with 25 songs in two and a half hours. This sometimes errs into areas of width rather than quality, particularly with a song such as 2021’s foul Absurd, which should have a ‘now wash your hands’ warning. There’s also something odd going on with Axl’s microphone initially, with his voice sounding both deeper and higher than normal.
When they’re good, though... Riffage and rock screams meet in perfect harmony on Sweet Child O’ Mine, while November Rain gets Queen’d up with Axl at the piano. Bassist Duff McKagan, who’s wearing a stylish blouson with a Heartbreakers’ L.A.M.F. logo on it, sings a cover of the Stooges’ T.V. Eye, which is followed by the band’s a propos cover of UK Subs’ Down On The Farm. Closing blows Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door and Nightrain culminate in Paradise City, where we’re treated to another surprise appearance from Dave Grohl, this time on six-string. “You can never have too many fuckin’ guitars,” says Axl, who may howl like a banshee at other times, but when speaking to the audience is all smiles. “We’d like to thank you for inviting us,” he says. “What a lovely evening.”
In parts, it was. While we were watching, MOJO remembers photographer, friend and Glastonbury trouper Mick Hutson, who passed away on June 1, and who would have loved this show.
Our Friday Glastonbury 2023 reviews: the Arctic Monkeys is here. Foo Fighters is here. And our review of Friday at Glastonbury: Sparks, The Hives, Alabaster DePlume and Mozart Estate is here.
And catch up with our expedition to the wilder corners of Glastonbury on Thursday here.
Guns N' Roses picture: Andrew Allcock