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Review: Guns N’ Roses gives wilted performance to Rock on the Range crowd

Guns N' Roses performs at Rock on the Range on May 16 at Columbus Crew Stadium. Credit: Jon McAllister / Asst. photo editor

Guns N’ Roses performs at Rock on the Range on May 16 at Columbus Crew Stadium.
Credit: Jon McAllister / Asst. photo editor

“Where do we go now?”

This final question in “Sweet Child O’ Mine” ends one of Guns N’ Roses’ most iconic songs. Legend has it the song was destined to have an instrumental breakdown at its close, but the lyrical component caused lead singer Axl Rose to draw a loss. Thus was born the permanence of the improvisational line.

Historically, Rose means the question quite literally in terms of the progression of the song.

Fast forward to Friday night when the rock band performed as the headliner of the headliners for Columbus’ annual music festival, Rock on the Range, and the audience took the question rhetorically.

Upon the final note of “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” which was performed at the halfway point of GNR’s roughly 30-song set, the sold-out crowd at Columbus Crew Stadium knew exactly where to go — back to their cars, homebound.

Of course, those folks were likely caught in traffic, stuck with the people who quickly bid adieu after being welcomed to the jungle about 14 songs ago.

What was left of the audience, a fraction of the originally sizeable crowd, was likely waiting on “Paradise City” before making their getaway. What they didn’t know, however, was the last song of the GNR trifecta was only earned after listening to the rest of the band’s underwhelming, tedious and colorless performance as well as its five-song encore.

After that, “Oh won’t you please take me home” wasn’t so much of a request in an audience member’s mind as it was a fatigued demand.

Admittedly, I deem Guns N’ Roses’ Rock on the Range performance in this way with a heavy heart.

The Los Angeles-based band, which arguably experienced its heyday in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, is one I find an important fixture in the history of classic, no-frills rock. I consider “Appetite for Destruction” a masterpiece worthy of the high praise with which all teenage boys regard Slash’s pentatonic phrases and Duff McKagan’s funk-infused bass lines. Also, I find the pack-a-day scratchiness of Rose’s voice not the least bit irritating, but a testament of his range and vocal control.

You could call me a Guns N’ Roses purist, though, as I am most fond of the band’s original lineup and everything pre- “Chinese Democracy.” I expressed this sentiment in a Lantern opinion piece in January, when ROTR announced its lineup and the imminent GNR performance. By the way of a snarky narrative, I argued that although GNR is set to take the Columbus Crew stage, it’s not really GNR who is in attendance with the absence of Slash, McKagan, Izzy Stradlin and Steven Adler.

My point was genuine, but doused with the hope of being proved wrong upon seeing the band’s performance at ROTR.

Unfortunately, I was right. And bored. Very bored.

With that being said, I would be amiss to claim GNR sounded terrible in its performance. The lineup, which included Rose on lead vocals, Dizzy Reed on keys, DJ Ashba and Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal on guitar, Tommy Stinson on bass and Frank Ferrer on drums, is full of talented musicians more than capable of decently emulating the band’s catalogue as well as covers of other class acts, including Led Zeppelin, Sex Pistols, The Who and New York Dolls. From “Mr. Brownstone” to “November Rain,” “Holidays in the Sun” to “The Seeker,” musically, everything resonated as technically correct.

However, musical technicality can be rendered by listening to the band’s album and is only valued in the beginning stages of musicianship. GNR is considered a master of more than 25 years with a history of impassioned, non-apologetic, rough-around-the-edges performances.

Between pyrotechnics on random downbeats, confused graphics and an opaque fourth wall between the band and the audience, what Friday night’s crowd experienced was a wimpy, disengaged routine.

If choosing to experience Guns N’ Roses live in 2014, it is best to “use your illusion” to imagine the band’s pinnacle.


  1. I was at this show and this article is a flat-out misrepresentation. Almost everyone stayed to see Guns play and for the entire set. Moreover many people came for the sole reason to see GNR play. The place was still packed and GNR’s crowd was at least 5x larger than any other band that played that day. You don’t like Axl keeping GNR alive after the other members quit? Okay, that’s one thing, but I can tell you that I didn’t see a single person leave this show disappointed and the mass exodus you speak of simply did not happen. This was the longest set (nearly 3 hours) any act has ever played at Rock on the Range and the field and stands were still packed as the confetti rained down upon me and thousands of others at the climatic conclusion of Paradise City. Sad to see that your publication has no regard for facts.

  2. Get in the Ring

    Terrible review. He slams the band and ends by basically saying GNR sounded great. Isnt this music? Who cares if some people left. GNR drew the largest crowd last night. Printin’ lies startin controversy. Get in the ring Mother F@!ker!

  3. I couldn’t agree more with this review! I was there and I was one of the many that left right after Sweet Child O Mine and yes there were a lot of people that left after Sweet Child O Mine. It was not worth it to me or the 8 other people I was with to stick around through all the fluff just to hear Paradise City over an hour later. I’ve had a much better time watching an 80’s cover band called Hair Bangers Ball play GNR. I enjoyed Slash back in 2010 more than GNR this year. Bottom line I don’t think GNR was the best choice to headline the show and I don’t think they needed to go on for so long.

  4. What show were you at? I was impressed with what I saw. 2 hours and a half plus show during a music festival is amazing. Great performance.

  5. Anthony From Boston

    She must have been in the parking lot or HIGH in the seats sound Sucks in the seats , get on the field. I was there was a Long day drove over night 12 hrs, watched bands starting with TFK at 1:45 in the afternoon. so took a seat in the stands come time for staind , Like I said I’m from MA seen them many times was shocked how bad the sound was up there so 2nd song into GNR made our way back to the center of the field and GNR sounded great this was by far the best GNR show ever. I bet this was written by someone that never seen slash play with AXL, maybe she was still in pull-ups when he left.

    Great show!!!!!

  6. Uhhh I was in section 129 and I watched the floor clear out about mid set. Yes there was still a fair amount of people. The show was a solid performance so whoever left the show obviously didn’t care to see GnR.

  7. Low Expectations

    This artist gave a horribly misleading review. As a 25+ year GNR fan I entered this show with the lowest of expectations. I took my entire family including my 2 kids in the twenties and on sixteen year old girl. The crowd did clear out but mainly because it was so freaking cold and wet that many people were just done with the environmental situation. I would also like to say that every band on main stage experienced a number of sound issues. They changed the speakers out from day 1 to day 2. GNR was by far the quietest band thar played the main stage. That situation solely rests on the production company and their crappy sound people. It was a joke seriously. It cut out so many times during the Black Label Society show that I almost just said screw it. My family decided to go up to the field since none of the workers were maning their posts. We got about 10 rows back and WOW huge difference. It was amazing and everyone down there was blown away. Now if you were In section 126 like I was when GNR started then I would see were you would want to complain. Blame the sound company seriously. They sucked. GNR killed it. 25 year old dream come true for me! And it didn’t suck to boot! I can now die happy!

  8. I’m not sure if a visible mass exodus took place after Sweet Child or not, but I know we did leave soon after that. Not because they didn’t sound great and put on a good show, my buddy and I were just beat. Up since 4:30a working on trucks all day just to make it in time to see Black Label and unfortunately have to deal with jag-o crowd surfers and slam dancers, not to mention the voyage from what seemed like downtown to the stadium on foot. I got what I paid for and I’m grateful for it. Any Gnr is a good thing, and I’d give a lot to be able to jam like they do… They all rock, and that still includes Axl. Dude’s 52 years old! Give it a rest, it’s only rock and roll. But I like it. Civil War completed the experience for me. I’d have loved to have seen them do “My Michelle”, but if I need to scratch that itch, I’ll check out live at the Ritz on YouTube. Peace

  9. I love how this “journalist” decides to use a crowd that chooses kid rock and his country pop crap over any form of gnr to gauge a performance. Gnr was great on Friday night, and I will even say were as good or better than a7x on Saturday, who I love, but grew bored with quickly. (Maybe because I was just generally tired) this “journalist” had trouble with the facts in this masterpiece in January: http://www.thelantern.com/2014/01/guns-n-roses-leaves-fans-hungry-slashed-members/#comment-8321 which is crap article which shows the bias she has against the current rendition of this band. Gnr purist. Give me a break. You are no different than any other wannabe journalist following whatever trend exists. Please find something other than rock n roll to cover, because it’s obvious you know nothing about it.

    I will say a band like guns n roses, new or old, doesn’t font with rock on the range anymore. The festival attracts supposed rock n roll fans only interested in commercial radio crap or screamo death metal, none of which is rock n roll. Sorry to say, but music fans are killing rock n roll slowly, and articles like this are helping.


    As you can see the people are speaking up! GNR killed it!!! I was on the field, and yes, people left because they had kids and also it was cold. Not cold enough for a Gunner like myself. GNR circa 2014 is a band to see. Terrible review…she should review shoes n’ stuff instead.

  11. Apparently we weren’t at the same show. I saw a lot of great performances over the weekend and Guns N Roses was one of them. They showed up on time and also played for a long time. I was impressed by how the whole band performed including Axl. By reading the comments above it sounds like the writer is the one wrong…

  12. This review is not what I saw at the show Friday night!! I thought the band sounded right and axl on time!!! His vocals were pretty kick ass in my opinion and he can’t sound like he did when he was in his 20s…people started leaving mid set because the band would do alot of jamming and between the jams they were play slow songs…so I understand why people left early…I drove 6 hours to see this band and I wanted to stick it out til the end…I was impressed and it’s hard not seeing slash duff izzy or Steven up there…axl looks happy and so do the other guys out doing there own thing…ill see slash solo in concert because he can still write good tunes

  13. I WAS on the field for their show and it sucked! I tried to love it, then like it, but I couldn’t do it. We left after about 50 minutes. It was an absolute joke. We were right in the middle so we could hear everytging perfectly. All the other bands played their asses off, but Axl phoned it in. Trust me, over half the crowd left the field within the first hour. One of our buddies that stayed loved them and we couldn’t believe it. Comparing them with Chevelle, 5fdp, Killswitch, Staind, and Kid Rock would be an absolute insult. Axl doesn’t have IT anymore. You know it’s bad when the lead singer comes out and the majority of the crowd laughs at him!

  14. I was at the concert. I bought tickets just for them. They did not make my top 5. We were there all three days. Axales performance lack passion and strength. His voice was crap but the band rocked. He needs to lose some weight he was running off stage to an inhaler quite often .Yes we were that close. We and many other left half way. Was not impressed.

  15. Totally agree with the review, I think I left after about 20 mins after mr. brownstone I think. The band was good, but watching axl up there was almost embarrassing, which goes to show how important a frontman is to a band. I hate to say it, and not putting down the musicianship but as good as axl used to be he’s that bad now and that ruined their show for me. As for the whole weekend best acts were easily Down, Slayer, A7X, Jason Bonham and Gojira. Thats where the real music fans were.

  16. “Duff McKagan’s funk-infused bass lines” – are you completely MAD?!

  17. I have been going to Rock on the Range from the very beginning and every single night, people start to leave during the last performer.. a lot of people go to Rockon the range for the experience and not necessarily the bands so when they are drunk, cold and tired, they head home regardless of who is on the stage..

    I had always wanted to see GNR and never had the opportunity. So this was a first for me. Granted.. Axl has gotten older.. He cannot do his snakelike dance as easily and he gets a little winded when he runs all over the stage.. but he still put on a great show! He sounded amazing and looked pretty good too.. a lot better than pictures that came out a few years showing him looking bloated and in dreadlocks. I was really impressed!

  18. I actually showed up with very low expectations of the G’n’R performance. I was actually surprised with how well I enjoyed their set. I’m certain it didn’t come anywhere near the shows of their prime, but it was still a really good show, either way.
    …. it was good enough to crowd surf to. 🙂

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  20. I would say that this review combined with the comment section after constitutes a perfect example of how the quality of a performance is subjective to the attendee and that post-performance reviews are essentially worthless filler. I would like the last 5 minutes of my life back now please.

  21. Some people are still living in the past and still imagine Slash in the band!! Well he is not and life moves on!! Axel was the last man standing and all the other members chose to leave!! Now all the members who left want to come back! Well too bad to sad you left!! Axel journied on!! I think the band sounds great and cant wait for the new album in 2015!! Most people who trash Guns are Slash fans!! Well the reality is … IS U CAN ALWAYS FIND ANOTHER GUITARIST BUT U CAN NEVER FIND ANOTHER SINGER!! Only one that did that Succesfully was ACDC!!

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