Festival d'été de Québec - Axl Rose, the face of Guns N' Roses

Photo: Jay Ouellet

Axl Rose may sing "nothing lasts forever," but the face of Guns N' Roses certainly seems to be an everlasting favourite with the fans.  

Fifteen minutes before the hard rock band Guns N' Roses was expected to play on the Bell stage on Friday, July 12, throngs of people were still streaming into the venue.

Known as a group that arrives late on stage, Axl Rose, the lead singer and the only remaining original member of the group, paraded on stage a mere fifteen minutes behind schedule. By that time, the Plains of Abraham were a sea of black with people of a noticeably more "mature" generation.

Wearing a black leather jacket, T-shirt, dark sunglasses, blue jeans, suede boots and a broad-brimmed hat when he first appeared on stage, Axl changed his outfits frequently during the 2.5-hour show. When the stage was finally ready and Axl began to sing, the video shown on the large stage screen was of a journey down a tunnel.

The show was an opportunity for fans to hear a repertoire of Guns N' Roses songs since their inception in 1985. What was described as a hard rock band when it was formed almost thirty years ago has been credited with reviving the mainstream popularity of rock music. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012.

The first set of songs was from their album Appetite for Destruction, and was followed by a mix of songs from their twin albums Use Your Illusion I and II, Lies and Chinese Democracy.

Axl was quick to introduce his band and to speak to the crowd, "Have you had a good time at the festival so far?" adding, "There are an awful lot of you out there!"

After many of the well-known songs were played, there were solos by different band members. Despite the talents of the band, the pauses between these solo performances caused the band to lose momentum, energy and vibe. Axl's voice appeared to strain a lot to create the sounds for which he is known. Despite his age, 51, Axl danced about the stage in his special style, with a particularly noticeable surge of energy when he sang "Live and Let Die."

The crowd really came to life when he sang "Sweet Child of Mine." This was followed by Axl's solo piano performance of Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall" and "The Seeker," by The Who.

His piano solo provided a great interlude before the band performed "November Rain." Again, Axl's voice lacked the usual richness we have come to know with this song. However, the crowd seemed to be satisfied with his performance. Changing technology saw people shining their cellphones in time to the ballad, whereas, in the past, they would have been using cigarette lighters.

Although Axl claims in "November Rain" that "nothing lasts forever," he and the band can certainly be acknowledged for their longevity, still performing live concerts for their fans after 28 years in the business.