Thursday, December 28, 2006

Just a liitle More Patience...

Just a Little More Patience…
By: Brandon Daviet
For fans of Guns N' Roses 2006 was supposed to be the year they had been waiting for. Early in the year, at a release party for Korn’s album See You on the Other Side to be exact, the elusive Axl Rose commented that the long awaited new Guns N' Roses album Chinese Democracy would be released by the end of the year. Of course for fans there were plenty of reasons to be skeptical even in the light of such good tidings.

For starters, Chinese Democracy had been in the works for well over a decade and the last time Rose and the band emerged from seclusion they canceled a 2002 world tour just as it was picking up steam. The reason for the tours demise is still somewhat unclear although Rose hinted, sometime later, in an interview with radio DJ Eddie Trunk that he simply wasn’t the ready.

Rose’s comments that Chinese Democracy would be released in 2006 gained a lot of steam in May when the band announced several sold out shows in New York, and more surprisingly completed a lengthy European tour that was well received by fans and critics alike. Not long after their triumphant return from across the pond the band, along with new guitarist Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, launched their first lengthy string of U.S. shows since the aborted 2002 tour.

While the U.S. portion of the “2006 Chinese Democracy North American Tour” rolled along smoothly, by GNR standards at least, news on the albums progress was largely scarce to non-existent. For all but the bands inner circle the only real proof that Chinese Democracy was even being recorded came in the early months of 2006 when a high quality demo of a new Guns N' Roses song called I.R.S, was leaked and played on the radio.

To add to the brewing excitement, the song was leaked to the radio by New York’s Mets catcher, and self admitted music fanatic, Mike Piazza, who only said that he received the song in the mail on a CD that also included rough versions of the songs T.W.A.T and Better. Rose’s lawyers quickly issued a cease and desist but the songs quickly made their way into the hands of many fans through underground trading networks. Many magazines and newspapers around the country did stories on the new songs and the impending release of the long awaited album. Guns N' Roses fever was higher than it had been in years. There was also a fair amount of speculation that Rose himself may have allowed the tracks to be leaked in an attempt to gauge fans interest in the new album.

In October the bands manager Mark Mercuriadis (Who was recently fired as a result of the albums not being released as promised according to a statement from Rose himself) told Rolling Stone that Chinese Democracy would be released on one of then 13 remaining Tuesdays of the year. Many fans were hopeful that the album would be released in time for Christmas and Guns N' Roses would prove all the haters wrong. The frenzy over the album became so great that offshore betting sites, like, were making odds on whether or not the album would actually see the light of day in 2006.

Being a diehard Guns N' Roses fan, I too got caught up in the overwhelming excitement and being that the tour wasn’t coming anywhere near my home base of Denver I decided it was time to do a little gambling myself. I decided to travel to see the band play on December 10th in a 9000 seat convention center in a small suburb north of Seattle, Washington. When I booked the trip I was still hopeful that the album would actually be out and the show might feature some previously un-played new songs; that was of course considering that the show actually happened

Don’t get me wrong, Appetite for Destruction, as well as the Use Your Illusion albums are some of the greatest rock records ever made but I’m one of those types that would rather see a band when they have fresh material. On top of that I always felt that the Illusion albums, and the tour that followed them, were a great and enthusiastic step forward for Guns N' Roses and I couldn’t wait to see how the new songs translated live, but we’ll get to that part of the story in a minute.

The Use Your Illusion albums gave the withering carcass of rock and roll the same booster shot that the Rolling Stones had administered in 1972 when they released their double-length masterpiece Exile on Main St. Just like Exile the Illusion albums had their share of radio friendly hits, but just under the surface is a much darker musical undercurrent that really made the albums standout. In addition to hit singles like November Rain and Live and Let Die the two CDs were packed with stunning and soul bearing documentations of rock and roll excess.

Of course much of this was a result of the band spinning out of control under the pressure of massive success and personal addictions. Guns N' Roses, just like the Stones before them, were finding it hard to separate art from reality. Unlike the Stones, Guns N' Roses didn’t survive the storm they had created, and after a lengthy, chaotic tour the band self-destructed. But like any good drama it is this chain of mind-boggling events that have made Chinese Democracy the mythical album it has become no matter what happens when, god willing, it’s released.

By the time I actually left to see the band in Washington it was clear to everybody but the staunchest optimists that the album wasn’t coming out in 2006. Still, I was excited to hear the few new songs that the band was playing. The show in Washington was for the most part an amazing experience. Axl proved hands down that the new Guns N' Roses are far from the all-star cover band that some have accused them of being.

Instead the new Guns N' Roses are a highly talented group of musicians trying to live in the shadow of a legacy and, for the most part, doing an excellent job. More importantly the new songs, most notably I.R.S. and Madagascar, were just as potent as any of the other, better known, songs performed that night.

Axl and company were in fine form and even though I was disappointed that the album wasn’t out yet, I was reassured that Chinese Democracy would be released sooner that later because no band works this hard to achieve nothing. While the original band was legendary, in a warped, cartoon character sort of way, the new band is much closer to Axl’s vision of a great rock and roll band.

When it comes down to it Guns N' Roses still has the one thing that made them so great in the first place: Axl Rose’s terminal insanity. If you think about it that’s what makes Appetite for Destruction, or to be even more specific, the ending verse of a heartfelt but mostly paint by numbers ballad like Patience, so amazing. The listener gets to here Axl Rose lose his mind within the context of a song. This isn’t the failed film-school student buffoonery of Jim Morrison or the calculated theatrics of Alice Cooper but rather the genuine result of Rose’s working through his various demons.

And it’s those very demons that are still holding the band together while threatening to rip it apart at the same time. Shortly after I returned from the show Axl Rose issued a statement confirming what most rationale people had figured out, Chinese Democracy wouldn’t be out in 2006 and he was canceling the last few shows on the tour to finalize the albums release. This time Rose went so far as to announce, without promising, that the album would now come out in on March 6th, 2007.

In the end it seems clear that both Rose and his management believed they could get the Chinese Democracy out by the end of the year. In the end it probably came down to the logistics involved in releasing with proper promotion. While the gesture of a 2006 release was noble it simply wasn’t realistic in this era of a corporate owned music business. It’s likely that Rose’s failure to get the album released this year has only strengthened his resolve to make sure that album is out as soon as possible. While 2006 was a good year for fans of Guns N' Roses I have faith that 2007 will prove to be an even better one. Like many other fans I will be spending yet another year patiently hoping for Chinese Democracy.

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