Sunday, December 9, 2012

Guns N Roses - Live in Bangalore

When I first heard that GNR was performing in Bangalore I mentally signed up for the concert. This would be my concert for the year - a gift I promised myself from last year on - starting with Metallica's show. (It's surprising but the few things I gift myself are to do with music, travel or reading!) The idea is to watch at least one concert a year, preferably by myself, enjoy the music and the experience, and perhaps rekindle some old magic.So tickets were quietly and efficiently bought online and all preparations made and all last minute hurdles avoided.
"I was there"
I first heard Guns N Roses in the late eighties. I remember buying the 'Appetite for Destruction' album in Pune, where I also bought my first music deck, and I am sure I have the cassette still with me somewhere. The trigger for investing in GNR cassettes then was watching the wonderful video of 'November Rain' on MTV which was Ram's favorite then (and he bought 'Use Your Illusion I' if I remember right). Thanks is owed to MTV India for that. By then the unique sound of 'Sweet Child of Mine' had permeated into us and so did the soulful 'Don't Cry' and the beautiful ballad 'Patience' a song I remember being among one of the many in cassettes Koni gifted to me from Australia. 'Sweet Child of Mine', 'Don't Cry', ''Patience' and 'November Rain' will always be songs that I will always love listening to in every rock music setting - each song has its own mood. I do not care too much for 'Paradise City' and 'Welcome to the Jungle' but I'll manage those in the right space. So I went to the GNR show in Bangalore on December 7, 2012, carrying many illusions of the past, many memories related to the prime of our youth, of rum and coke of careless and thoughtless nights spent away listening to hard music and driving off to dhabas in fully drunken states as if the world was coming to an end. Good stuff but.

The good thing about the new venue at Bharatiya City was that it was close to where I stayed on Hennur Road. The bad thing was that I was not sure how it would all be organised. My fears were not without reason. When I went to pick up my ticket in the morning from the kyazoonga stall, I found that the roads were a bit cramped and narrow. There were almost no sign boards until you actually enter the venue. It's almost like a Treasure Hunt. Once I got there there was a chap quickly collecting 50 bucks for parking. 50 bucks for just picking up tickets!! Okay, done. Then I was rather disappointed with the ticket itself - one lil flimsy piece of paper which was a huge letdown after the hip and polished card of the Roger Waters show or even a good and lasting solid ticket like the one Metallica had. This ticket, thin and papery with rather cheap printing, was only slightly better than the parking ticket - in fact I have seen better parking tickets. So half the illusion going already. Anyway, as with any experienced and old concert goer I decided not to fall for the 'Gates open at 4' line and hit the road only at 7 p.m. As expected I found difficulty in negotiating the Bangalore traffic on which I must express myself. Certainly lots of difficulty in Parking with no assistance. I used some initiative and got myself a neat lil space and walked right into the show which had just begun. Luckily, the Gold ticket guys (I was one) were upfront near the stage, while the Platinum chaps seemed to be behind us, seated on chairs. I found that rather odd but I was not complaining.

I knew that one of the biggest fans of 'Sweet Child of Mine', my friend Uday, was in the crowd somewhere but I also knew I might not be able to find him. I parked myself in the middle and listened carefully. The songs were all unfamiliar. Was this some other group opening for the GNR? I looked carefully at the stage. All the guys were unfamiliar. Even the lead singer looked only remotely like Axl Rse, though he sounded a lot like him. The energy in the crowd was dull - no wonder as they were not playing their biggest hits. At least not yet. For us GNR was Axl Rose in his bandanna, long blond locks, superbly fit body and high energy on stage, and the large looming and mysteriously attractive presence of Slash, and that was it. Now to see Rose in his cowboy hats, change of costumes and jackets, barely concealing an ageing and paunchy body, brought several illusions crashing. Soon, I realised that he was probably the only one who could save the show, the others were still finding their feet and had no presence yet. So wait, wait, wait for the magic to begin. It must surely, sometime.

And so it did when the guitarist played the first chords of 'Sweet Child of Mine'. I could feel the goosebumps, the short hairs rise, and in that one moment, all was forgiven. All the memories, all the music, all the love we felt for the band, for ourselves, for all that we represented, admired and loved, came flooding through. That moment was pure magic and made it worth all the trouble. I think all concerts have this one moment, are defined by this one moment. Like when Roger Waters played 'Comfortably Numb' or when Metallica played 'Nothing Else Matters'. And then the group launched themselves headlong into a wonderful rendition of the 'Sweet Child of Mine' supported by the crowd, followed by all their big hits one after another. Probably the most energetic performance came during 'Night Train' but just listening to old hits 'November Rain', 'Don't Cry', 'Patience' was reliving the illusion of a seemingly better life, twenty years ago. I waited till the end of the show despite knowing that I will get stuck badly in the traffic as the parking arrangements were really bad. But I could not go without hearing 'Paradise City' and I waited until then, even if it was at the gates. Rose did his best, the others tried to fit in, but overall for me, the soul, the magic was missing. But then, like I said earlier, it was still worth it. There was the occasional whiff of marijuana, the smell of alcohol on breath, the odd drunk, but a sanitised and an oddly civilised audience for a rock show of these proportions. GNR certainly needs to sex up the show one way or another.

The papers mentioned a crowd of 25000 or so I think. Getting out of the venue took me an hour as there was only one exit and it was blocked by a few cars whose owners were missing. Not much help from the organisers here. We somehow made it out after a really long and tiresome wait of an hour. Come to think of it even Kyazoonga the online ticket vendor was not without blame. I had picked the courier option for tickets to be delivered at home and was informed rather late in the day that the courier would be delivered only two days before the show. Now that should have been mentioned clearly while picking that option as we out-of-towners need to plan in advance. When I called they said I could pick up the tickets from the venue but the courier charges would not be refunded. I instantly agreed - another one of the costs of learning on the job for the customer. Why was I so glad to just get the ticket finally? Overall I found that the Metallica show was better organised in every way.

I hear Slash is also making a tour. But it's sad to see these bands all break up and lose their magic. I remember a quote - "One of the greatest tragedies in life is to see the death of an illusion". I know they are all twenty years or more older but even then we want to see some glimpses of that magic. I mean we are desperate to make any wild connection so its a rather easy crowd to please. One of the things these bands can do is just recreate that old illusion - just the energy of seeing them all on the stage together in itself is something we could easily take home and be satisfied with it. It is easier to sustain the illusion that way. Else it is a clear case of Losing Your Illusion.

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