Axl Rose: Still Crazy

newlogo.jpgI can't possibly express how much I hate this new logo

It's absolutely not big news that Axl Rose kicked Eagles of Death Metal out of their opening-band slot on the current Guns N Roses tour after one Cleveland show. I'm pretty sure I've never heard an Eagles of Death Metal song in my life, mostly because everything I know about them (ironic mustache, Queens of the Stone Age guy drumming, not actually death metal) convinced me long ago that I wouldn't be missing anything if I pretended that this band didn't exist. They're big enough to headline Irving Plaza or whatever, but they don't exactly exist in the same pop universe as Guns N Roses, even in their Axl-only fake-reunion no-new-album guise. And opening acts at recent Guns N Roses shows have pretty much been cannon fodder and nothing more; if memory serves, the openers on the aborted 2002 tour were CKY and Mix Master Mike. Nobody's going to these shows for the openers, and it's tough to tell what purpose those openers serve, other than maybe to fill some of the inevitable two-hour gap between the show's announced start time and Axl's eventual entrance. The other opener on this tour is Sebastian Bach, which makes a lot more sense; people are coming to these shows for pop-metal nostalgia, not for MTV2 Subterranean bands. But it is pretty interesting how Axl decided to let Eagles of Death Metal know that their services would no longer be required.

Basically, Axl started ranting about the band early, calling them the Pigeons of Shit Metal and telling the audience that this would be their last show with the band. Axl has proved himself to be borderline insane time and again, so it's not a huge shock that he'd fire the band in such a humiliatingly public fashion rather than talking to his booking agent or whatever. It does, however, serve as a nice reminder of just how funny a performer Axl can be when he feels like it.

Story time: Guns N Roses was the first concert I ever saw. It was summer 1992, and my dad took me because I got straight A's on my seventh-grade report card and because I begged. They were playing at RFK Stadium in DC, and it was the first date on the ill-fated co-headlining tour they did with Metallica, the one where they caused a riot in Montreal when Axl walked offstage mid-song after Metallica's set had already been cut short after James Hetfield caught on fire. The tour was supposed to be GNR's big return to the stage after Axl had caused another riot in St. Louis, once again because he'd stormed offstage a couple of songs in. This show was pretty much the event of the summer, the one I prayed I'd get to see. Nirvana was offered the opening spot, and they turned it down because Kurt Cobain hated Axl Rose, so Faith No More opened. Now that I think about it, this was probably the last time anyone gave a shit about the bands playing before Guns N Roses. My dad and I were sitting way at the top of the upper deck, barely able to figure out who was who onstage. I only barely saw Guns N Roses, really; they came onstage two hours after Metallica got done, and the last DC Metro trains were leaving at midnight, so I only ended up getting to hear like four songs. They started playing "Welcome to the Jungle" as we headed out, which was pretty much an unfathomable torture to the twelve-year-old me. I did, however, get to see this: two songs in, Axl stopped the show and said, "They told me not to say anything derogatory about St. Louis. Well, St. Louis can suck my dick." That started a ten-minute rant about the city and how they had no idea how to hold a rock show. My dad is from St. Louis, and he had steam pouring out of his ears the whole time. The moment was just unbearably awkward: the crowd cheering every cussword, me sitting quietly and uncomfortably trying to figure out how my dad would react, my dad wishing he could be anywhere else on the face of the earth. And even with all that baggage, I knew the shit Axl was saying was funny. He had the crowd on his side, he had a target that wouldn't upset anyone in the stadium except my dad, and he had a titanic presence and an irresistible shit-talking confidence. He was on fire.

At that Cleveland show on Friday night, the crowd had booed Eagles of Death Metal the same way any huge crowd would boo any shitty band taking the stage before the anticipated return of Guns N Roses would. Axl listened, and he did something about it. The Eagles of Death Metal put up some smarmy message on their website afterwards where they used a bunch of GNR song titles to make fun of the whole thing, but they got publicly smashed down by a performer who, gratifyingly enough, is still capable of publicly smashing down bullshit. Axl's best days are long behind him. He has cornrows. He wears hockey jerseys. His neck is all fat and weird. He can't hit the high notes like he once could. His band is a group of rock-lifer refugees just a notch or two above a random group of session musicians, Guns N Roses in name only. His new album might never come out. Tommy Hilfiger slapped him. But he can still talk shit about an opening act who everyone at his show hated, and that makes me happy.

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