Guns N' Roses: a super deluxe reminder of a band who were never the same again

If the original 30 Use Your Illusion tracks weren’t enough for you, here’s a box set that adds 47 contemporaneous live performances

Use Your Illusion box set packshot
(Image: © UMC/Geffen)

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On 17 September 1991 Guns N’ Roses simultaneously released a pair of double albums, covering a huge range of styles, with writing credits by the four principal members. It was some response to the charge that, in taking four years to properly follow-up their Appetite For Destruction debut, the band were a busted flush. 

Appetite had changed the world in 54 minutes. Use Your Illusion I (7/10) and II (8/10) spent more than two and a half hours making it busier – and GN’R grandiose. The Illusion albums are guilty (in places) of misogyny and overindulgence. The 30 songs remain hard to love played end to end. 

There’s also an elephant in the room: Axl Rose’s voice. It’s an angle grinder that disfigures many fine songs and does horrible things to WingsLive And Let Die. But hey, he wrote the epic ballads Don’t Cry and November Rain (here augmented with a real orchestra) and Estranged and Coma – an amazing piece of work – and invited Alice Cooper aboard to make The Garden near-perfect.

‘Super Deluxe’ means a box set that contains the originals remastered, a 100-page book and assorted reproduction ephemera. But it’s the two never-before-released complete live sets you’ll treasure – if you can afford around £250 for the CDs, or more than £400 for the 12-disc vinyl version. 

Both the vinyl and CD boxes include Live In New York from the Ritz Theatre on May 16, 1991 and Live In Las Vegas from the Thomas & Mack Center on January 25, 1992, plus a Blu-ray video of the full Ritz show. 

The feverish club atmosphere of New York (9/10) gives it the edge over Las Vegas (8/10). The former was effectively a public rehearsal, Vegas a full-blown 18,000-seat arena show. At the first, newly installed drummer Matt Sorum and keyboard player Dizzy Reed backed Axl, Slash, Izzy Stradlin and Duff McKagan. By the time they got to Vegas several months later, Stradlin had left and had been replaced by Gilby Clarke.

At The Ritz they played 12 Illusion tunes (including Pretty Tied Up, Right Next Door To Hell and Dust N’ Bones). The much longer Las Vegas show had only 11 and a lot more of Appetite

Oddly, despite all the new material, they opted to play 10 covers/snippets: adopting the Wings tune and Bob Dylan’s Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door as Duff sang the Misfits’ Attitude and Clarke showcased the Rolling StonesWild Horses, while Slash bookended Civil War with some Voodoo Child licks. 

For GN’R, the times they were a-changin’. Best to freeze them here.

Neil Jeffries

Freelance contributor to Classic Rock and several of its offshoots since 2006. In the 1980s he began a 15-year spell working for Kerrang! intially as a cub reviewer and later as Geoff Barton’s deputy and then pouring precious metal into test tubes as editor of its Special Projects division. Has spent quality time with Robert Plant, Keith Richards, Ritchie Blackmore, Rory Gallagher and Gary Moore – and also spent time in a maximum security prison alongside Love/Hate. Loves Rush. Aerosmith and beer. Will work for food.