Live Review: Guns N’ Roses at Hyde Park (30/06/23)

Last Friday night I donned a bandana and my best headbanging attitude, and headed off to Hyde Park for the British Summer Time (BST) concert, to see Guns N’ Roses, fresh out from Glasto. As well as the legendary group there were a pantheon of other bands opening: The Pretenders and The Darkness flanked Guns N’ Roses as the other two great rock bands at the concert, but they were joined by the likes of Larkin Poe, The Foxies, The Dust Coda, James and the Cold Gun, Bad Nerves, Dirty Honey and Grade 2. The bands were spaced out between three stages on the banks of the Serpentine.

To do things backwards for a change, we’ll start with the negatives. Throughout the entire gig, the crowd was boring. They were middle aged or older, aside of course from the lone young and vibrant – soon to be incredibly famous and successful but also is nearly 30 – music journalist. For the most part the crowd stood still as a statue for the 10 hour concert, with the odd nod of the head to the beat. About three lads started a mosh pit at one point but to be honest I think it was just a drunk man falling over and being badly helped up by his friends.

Rock ‘n’ Roll does not have the vast crowds of young people like it did when Axl and Slash were filling up stadiums; jungle and drum and bass will 9 times out of 10 have a wilder crowd than rock these days. Tickets aren’t cheap either which doesn’t help. As such the crowds of tired old rockers and stock brokers trying to live a little let the gig down. The venue, Hyde Park, should have been fantastic, but unfortunately the actual sound of the concert was altogether unimpressive. As I walked through the park towards the venue I was sure I had the wrong day, I couldn’t hear a thing. Welcome to the Jungle is not a quiet song, and it should not be played quietly live. My colleague, who came to the gig with me, is partially deaf, and I fully assumed I would leave Guns N’ Roses similarly impaired. No such luck. This is the same organisation that cut The Boss and Paul McCartney off because it was past the park’s bed time, so I don’t know why we were surprised. The Rockstars themselves however, showed a stoic determination to ignore the unstoppable tide of time. Justin Hawkings and The Darkness were fantastic, vibrant
and electric and full of energy. He had a great rapport with the audience, talking to people and getting them laughing and singing. He even played the Christmas song, after a bit of back and forth about it being June and it not even being called ‘the Christmas Song’. I Believe in a Thing Called Love is one of the great rock songs, and it was fantastic to hear live.

Chrissie Hynde must be in her 70s by now and still bleeds rock star from every pore, one of the coolest women in music history still going strong. She played for longer than the Darkness, and I wanted her to keep singing for the rest of the night. But these two, great as they were, paled in comparison to the main event. Axl came out onto the stage, it has been well documented he is not quite the young athletic rogue of his youth, and it was a bit of a shock to be honest. He then tripped and fell not ten seconds into the gig, making me think this concert was going to be an embarrassing 45 minutes of trying to bring back the glory days, before they threw in the towel.

Little did I know Axl is in fact a part time magician/ninja/ballerina, as his fall turned into a nonplussed rolley-polley-while-I-keep-screaming-these-lyrics. Totally unphased. The concert went on for hours without a break. I didn’t think anyone could wake up the stock brokers but he did his best. Lights, huge projector screens showing Matrixesque machines, snakes, skulls, and other acid trip-ruining flashing videos, twenty minute guitar solos and more outfit changes than a Paris fashion week, Guns N’ Roses know how to please an audience.

The last hour had almost all the bangers, meaning by the time the concert ended, and we had all been jumping up and down to Knocking on Heaven’s Door, Live and Let Die, Nightrain, Sweet Child of Mine, November Rain, Welcome to the Jungle, and Paradise City as a pulsing finale, we were in rock heaven. I don’t know why, but I was surprised by how big Slash is. He’s huge. He looks like a Rock Viking, who has conquered anyone in his path with his top hat and double necked guitar. His shredding prowess is well earned. Axl may not be quite as spriteley as he once was, but his iconic voice is still the same. If you find the opportunity to go and see them before it’s too late, you could spend an evening in worse places.