Guns N' Roses rock Glastonbury: a fun, energetic headline set in unfamiliar territory

Guns N' Roses might be an odd fit for Glasto, but you wouldn’t know it from how much fun they were having

Axl Rose onstage at Glastonbury
(Image: © Harry Durrant / Getty Images)

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They might feel a slightly odd fit for Glastonbury, but that isn’t stopping Guns N’ Roses giving it everything they’ve got tonight. Axl Rose sprints around the stage with the gusto of a man half his age; Slash is a spinning, soloing, stomping ball of energy; Duff McKagan hammers at his bass like he’s playing a grotty punk show in front of five hundred people rather than main eventing the world’s biggest music festival. It all makes for a riotously fun Saturday night on the Pyramid Stage, the LA hair metal titans clearly in no mood to entertain the notion that they have no business being here.

Admittedly, it takes a little while for things to get cooking; kicking off with two relatively deeper cuts in It’s So Easy and Bad Obsession misses an opportunity to get the more casual fans in attendance immediately onside, Chinese Democracy’s title track dropping soon after to little fanfare. In fact, it’s not even a Guns song that draws the first major singalongs of the evening: a rollocking take on Velvet Revolver’s Slither earns that accolade. Then, however, there’s a major gear change: Slash begins teasing Welcome To The Jungle, the atmosphere immediately kicks up a few notches and we are officially off to the races.

Guns N’ Roses might not have quite the same pop culture footprint as fellow Pyramid alumni like the Rolling Stones or Paul McCartney, but when the big moments come, they do so emphatically: the singalong to Sweet Child O’ Mine’s lead riff is louder than Slash himself, while his November Rain solo draws spades of enthusiastic air guitar all over the joint.

Axl Rose and Slash onstage at Glastonbury

(Image credit: Harry Durrant / Getty Images)

Well-worn covers of Wings’ Live And Let Die and Bob Dylan’s Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door also go down a treat, as does a jovial cameo from Dave Grohl, who comes bounding out on stage to ecstatic cheers as the Guns kick into a rapturously received Paradise City

Axl’s voice has undoubtedly seen better days, but there are more than enough glimpses of greatness to carry him through, and when you’re throwing yourself as enthusiastically into everything as he is, some occasional squeaks and squawks are easily forgiven. Plus, even if they’re a little out of their comfort zone, there’s something undoubtedly special about seeing he and Slash shoulder to shoulder on such an iconic stage. 

“Thank you for having us,” Axl courteously beams near the end of the band’s set. Guns N’ Roses were never gonna steal the show this weekend, but sometimes, a couple of hours of earnestly played hard rock bangers on a Saturday night is all you need. Job done.

Guns N' Roses on the Pyramid Stage, shot from back in the crowd

(Image credit: Leon Neal / Getty Images)
Merlin Alderslade
Executive Editor, Louder

Merlin moved into his role as Executive Editor of Louder in early 2022, following over ten years working at Metal Hammer. While there, he served as Online Editor and Deputy Editor, before being promoted to Editor in 2016. Before joining Metal Hammer, Merlin worked as Associate Editor at Terrorizer Magazine and has previously written for the likes of Classic Rock, Rock Sound, eFestivals and others. Across his career he has interviewed legends including Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy, Metallica, Iron Maiden (including getting a trip on Ed Force One courtesy of Bruce Dickinson), Guns N' Roses, KISS, Slipknot, System Of A Down and Meat Loaf. He has also presented and produced the Metal Hammer Podcast, presented the Metal Hammer Radio Show and is probably responsible for 90% of all nu metal-related content making it onto the site.