Has the Guns N' Roses reunion come too late?

For the last couple of years, many of us have seen The Long-Awaited Reunion Of Guns N’ Roses as an inevitability even more tiresome than Yet Another Die Hard Film. Last August came the official pronouncement that Axl and Slash were back on “speaking terms” after 20 years of virulent public acrimony. Time is a great healer, no doubt, but nothing can beat the even greater unifying motivation of flipping great wodges of cash. In September, a German newspaper reported that lawyers had spent the last two years working out terms and conditions for a Guns N’ Roses reunion contract agreement, but the announcement was stalled until Slash’s divorce was finalised, to avoid his ex-wife (and manager) getting 50% of his income from the event. Rock n’ roll, right guys?

GnR reunion confirmed

It might carry more excitement if Guns N’ Roses had split at the peak of their powers and allowed their legacy to rest untainted. After the 1999 release of the band’s first full official live album Live Era: ‘87-‘93, many wondered if the band were preparing the ground for a comeback, and indeed the optimum time for a GNR reunion would have been at the beginning of the millennium, before the Chinese Democracy vanity project had spiralled out of control, before the Vegas residency, before Axl Rose turned this bankable brand name into an embarrassing cross between a spoof soap opera and a travelling freak show.

Yet, thanks solely to nostalgic memories of their halcyon 1987-91 period, the band’s name is still big enough to headline the world’s largest venues, even with just the notoriously unpunctual singer as the only link to the band we all fell in love with on that one good album they did nearly 30 years ago. Crucially this much-vaunted ‘reunion’ so far includes only Axl, Slash and bassist Duff McKagan; there’s no word about guitarist Izzy Stradlin (who rejoined Axl onstage several times in 2012) or drummer Steven Adler, the member of the Appetite For Destruction line-up who’s publicly agitated for the band’s reconciliation more than any other, telling The Jasta Show last year “It’s so important for us to play together… We owe it to the fans to do it.” Current rumour is that the pair might turn up – presumably if Axl lets them.

On hearing that Axl, Slash and Duff will perform as Guns N’ Roses at the otherwise risibly rock-free Coachella Festival in California this April, the predominant internet reaction was one big collective shrug. Words like “car crash” and “cash cow” were bandied about over social media. On the TeamRock Facebook page, Rage4Order posted: “GnR will never get another penny out of me after the way that out of shape tantrum queen treats his fans,” while David Ferguson quoted Paul Calf’s brilliant one-liner: “Would rather see Dave Lee Travis play Macbeth”.

Regardless of the obvious pitfalls surrounding this transparent, shambolic money-making exercise, there are still thousands of punters who would gladly debase themselves in gallons of human shit just to see Axl and Slash back-to-back onstage doing a passionless and grudging run-through of Paradise City together at last. Even though not too long ago Axl was pathetically attempting to ban Slash t-shirts from Guns N’ Roses concerts, around the same time he was telling Rolling Stone “There’s zero possibility of me having anything to do with Slash other than by ambush, and that wouldn’t be pretty… I consider him a cancer and better removed, avoided and the less anyone heard of him or his supporters, the better.” He also told Billboard in 2009 that “One of the two of us will die before a reunion.” Well, they’ve still got three months – and it might be the more dignified option…

Chris Chantler

Chris has been writing about heavy metal since 2000, specialising in true/cult/epic/power/trad/NWOBHM and doom metal at now-defunct extreme music magazine Terrorizer. Since joining the Metal Hammer famileh in 2010 he developed a parallel career in kids' TV, winning a Writer's Guild of Great Britain Award for BBC1 series Little Howard's Big Question as well as writing episodes of Danger Mouse, Horrible Histories, Dennis & Gnasher Unleashed and The Furchester Hotel. His hobbies include drumming (slowly), exploring ancient woodland and watching ancient sitcoms.