The teaser G’n’F’n’R posters that sprouted up around London recently meant that it came as no surprise when Guns N’ Roses announced the UK leg of the ‘Not In This Lifetime’ tour quickly afterwards. The band will play the London Stadium on Friday June 16 and 17 next year, and the 160,000 available tickets will doubtless be snapped up by fans eager to either re-live their wasted youth or see what all the fuss over “the most dangerous band in the world” was really all about. Each and every one of these folk will be made to pay for the privilege, though. Ticket prices range from £84 to £138.50, and that’s without mentioned the inevitable booking fee on top.
You might reckon these kind of prices would make people think twice – maybe even three times – about going to see men in their 50s reliving the glory days of their 20s. As much as the reviews of Slash, Duff and Axl’s traveling roadshow have been positive, a quick look at the original Paradise City video from 1988 puts it all into perspective. The glory days were then, not now. To many people, though, this doesn’t seem to matter. Demand to witness what is perceived to be the last great rock’n’ roll band still standing is ginormous, and the 51 dates so far pencilled in for 2017 will surely sell out.
Having already grossed £90 million from the US leg of the tour, Guns will surely now go on to smash box office records all across the globe. This is big, big business. But in amongst all this naked and unashamed corporatisation of rebellion (did you know you could access London pre-sale tickets if you were an American Express card member?) nobody seems remotely worried about the many genuine Guns fans who have been systematically priced out of the market.
Those eye-watering ticket prices are a perfect example of a greater modern malaise, a two-tier society where everything with market value is priced based entirely on maxing out on profit, on demanding what the market will sustain and nothing else. I don’t doubt that there are 160,000 Guns fans who will cough up the asking price to see the London shows. The question is whether every decision made in the corporate world – and let’s face it, nothing is more corporate in 2016 than the upper echelons of the music industry – should be predicated on maximising revenue.
The irony for me is that there is now no place for the kind of people who are like the members of Guns N’ Roses at a Guns N’ Roses show any more. This is a band that lived hand to mouth, relying on the kindness of strangers to keep body and soul together, believing in the rock and roll dream against all odds.
When Guns recorded Appetite For Destruction they didn’t have a pot to piss in. Its originality, its anger and its rage came from the very real sense that the band members were teetering on the brink of life’s abyss, they were inches away from falling through the cracks as human beings. These guys were outsiders, on a mission to make rebel music, fuelled by drink and by drugs. Its authenticity resonated across the world and caused a musical/sales phenomenon. But the people who feel that same sense of mission, in the subliminal power of guitars, today exist a million miles away from Guns N’ Roses at the London Stadium. Will they ever be able to afford a ticket to see their forbears? Not in this lifetime, they won’t!
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Should Guns N’ Roses care? They’re surely not the same fucked-up people they were when the band first started. Maybe they don’t even recognise the guys staring back at them on the Live ?!*@ Like A Suicide sleeve. You can hardly blame them for having evolved and changed. It’s hard to keep it real when you’ve been such an ‘out of the box’ financial success and have grown so fat off the land.
I guess it’s fatuous to ask Slash, Axl and Duff to retain some sort of loyalty to rock’s original spirit. It’s business, man, and Americans tend to feel that financial success is the only measure by which you’re judged in any arena. Why should music be any different? The more you can charge for a gig ticket, the greater your band’s validity. Just ask Gene Simmons. You can’t expect Guns N’ Roses to care whether you can pay to see them or not when there are so many enough other people who evidently can.
So the question really is this. In a connected media age when we have instant access to endless footage of bands in their pomp, why do we need to spend so much to see older, chubbier, more lined versions of the original? Why not just accept the passage of time, watch the old clips and not worry about participating in such a highly costly event? Wouldn’t that be way more rock‘n’roll than standing at the back of the Enormodome, looking at a giant screen and convincing yourself that you’re having an authentic experience? Nowadays your choices aren’t as binary. You can’t expect Guns N’ Roses to care about you or your bank balance. What you can do, though, is refuse to play their game.