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Guns 'n Roses at the Air Canada Centre, January 28, 2010.


Guns N' Roses

  • At the Air Canada Centre
  • in Toronto on Thursday

'Sorry about the delay," said Axl Rose, a late riser. Guns N' Roses, on the Toronto date of its Canadian tour, took the stage at 11:24 p.m. Salvos of flames, starburst fountains and ear-bombing firecrackers accompanied Chinese Democracy, a chugging, iron-riffed rocker with the line "all we've got is precious time." Later in the 180-minute, got-better-as-it-went-along concert, Rose noted a local DJ had predicted that GNR would hit the stage sometime around 2 a.m. "So," Rose rationalized, "I'm early."

Welcome to Guns N' Roses, they've still got fun and games.

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In 1988, Rose, singing affectingly about wanting to get it right, asked for "just a little patience." His fans gave it, and the volatile enigma has been testing it ever since. The album Chinese Democracy, released late in 2008, was nearly a decade and a half in the making - whole empires rose and fell, and mystifying cornrows appeared and disappeared on Rose's head in the meantime.

At Air Canada Centre, the 47-year-old front man was fiddle-fit and seemingly fine of mind. I have no idea why he ran off stage during every 12-bar guitar solo, but he always did come back. Rose had the Kid Rock/Mickey Rourke thing working for him, especially with the handlebar mustache, shades and dark leather trilby.

Inconsistent would be the word to describe Rose's shrill scowling vocals. He was weak of throat on Welcome to the Jungle and Live and Let Die, and his band of B-actors - Rose is the sole remaining member of the original Los Angeles crew - seemed to play to the level of their leader.

There were no riots, nor were there spaghetti incidents. Rose, who feuds with iconic former guitarist Slash, was chatty: we learned that Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page is a fan of Trailer Park Boys, and that Mike Smith, the actor who plays Bubbles, regularly sends Rose texts.

Rose's voice improved as the show moved along. On the wistful November Rain, the reclusive rock star sang "everybody needs some time all alone." The band picked up steam on the cowbell KISS knockoff Nightrain, and a four-song encore ended with the satisfied crowd taken back to Paradise City.

The common complaint after the show was the surprising omission of one graceful, sweeping beauty. At two o'clock in the morning, Axl Rose, a man never in a hurry, had no time for Patience.

Guns N' Roses continues its tour in Ottawa tomorrow, Feb. 1 in Quebec City, Feb. 3 in Moncton and Feb. 4 in Halifax.

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About the Author

Brad Wheeler is an arts reporter with The Globe and Mail. More

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