Guns N’ Roses partially reunite for Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame induction

After months of speculation, the Apr. 14 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction in Cleveland, Ohio proved to be bittersweet fodder for fans of Guns N’ Roses. On the plus side, three-fifths of the original lineup was present, including guitarist Slash, bassist Duff McKagan, and drummer Steven Adler. Also present was drummer Matt Sorum, who replaced Adler after he was ousted from the band for drug addiction in 1990. Missing from the induction ceremony was singer Axl Rose and rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin. Long-time keyboardist Dizzy Reed (the only semi-original member apart from Axl still in Guns N’ Roses) was also invited, but declined to participate.

Following a glowing introduction from Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong, the individual GN’R members each said their piece about the band’s history and formation, mostly thanking the fans and crucial record industry contacts. The improvised lineup then played three songs, all from the Appetite For Destruction era: “Mr. Brownstone”, “Sweet Child of Mine”, and “Paradise City”. Sorum handled the drum duties on “Mr. Brownstone”, then Adler took over for the latter two songs. Vocals were handled by Myles Kennedy, the singer for Alter Bridge. Kennedy also sings for Slash’s current solo project. Rounding out the lineup was Gilby Clarke on rhythm guitar, again replacing Izzy Stradlin (Clarke previously replaced Izzy during the Use Your Illusion tours of 1991-1993).

Fan reaction of the night was mixed, with comments on heavy metal forum Blabbermouth running the gamut.

“Steven Tyler, or Joe Perry, or Alice Cooper, or Ronnie Wood, or Iggy Pop, or sooo many other people that either were a major influence on Guns N’ Roses or had some sort of connection to the band should’ve done the induction speech. Hell, even Riki Rachtman could’ve done the induction. He had a very close connection to them back in the early days.” -Rich376

“I for one, agree with Axl. GN’R had some great times, some great tunes. But they divorced and went their separate ways. It’s like a divorced couple getting together after 20 years to honor the great pizzas they used to make in their backyard… What’s the point?” -Redeemer26

“They sound real good [the improvised lineup]. It’s kinda cool to see as much of the band back together as possible nowadays. I’d almost say they should just go out and tour with that lineup. Let Steven and Matt split duties on the drums, or have two drumkits up there.” -Aces_High99

“As someone who has listened to GN’R since their EP before Appetite, I can say that this Hall of Fame GN’R incarnation sounded way better than Axl and his current band of scabs. However you feel about the [Rock & Roll] Hall of Fame, I still think Axl should have shown up as a gesture toward the fans. He has and will always be a supreme douchebag.” -rollins

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Axl Rose of Guns N’ Roses at London Stadium on June 16, 2017.

For his part Rose indicated his intention not to participate with a lengthy statement released on Apr. 11 explaining his thinking. One point made by Axl was that he thought other original members were trying to create “self promotion and business opportunities” for themselves by endlessly bringing up talk of a reunion. This particular criticism seems largely aimed at Steven Adler, who did not seem able to finish an interview without bringing the reunion topic up.

Otherwise, Axl’s statement seems to imply that if he were to attend the induction ceremony he would be giving false hopes to fans hoping for a full reunion and he would also be disrespecting the band’s current lineup. After all, if the original lineup of GN’R is considered definitive and were to be inducted with all band members present and a performance together, that situation leaves very little respect or honor to current band members. It would basically imply that current members are wasting their time and that only the original GN’R lineup matters.

Axl’s letter seems to conclude by saying that a reunion will never happen under any circumstances. Although elsewhere in the letter he did leave open the possibility of having live “guest appearances” by either Duff or Izzy, if they were interested. Previously, local GN’R fans were treated to a surprise appearance by Duff during the Dec. 16, 2011 Seattle show, when Duff joined the band onstage for “You Could Be Mine.” Izzy had played with GN’R extensively on a European leg of a tour in 2006.

In case Axl’s lengthy letter left any loose ends, he posted another letter on Apr. 17, reiterating some of his earlier statements and also apologizing to the city of Cleveland, Ohio for not appearing. Unlike the earlier statement, this one was apparently not intended as a press release but rather as a personal statement. At the end of the letter Axl specifically asks any media outlets who report on the letter to refer to his entire statement. With that in mind, please see the TwitLonger post in full for further reading.

Commentary: The Rock & Roll of Fame Induction of course could have gone better. Obviously, the best scenario would have been for all five original members to be inducted and for them to take their rightful place on stage, for maybe the last time. Nonetheless, the event seems to have been largely positive for everyone concerned.

Fans got to hear three songs from the Appetite era, featuring both Steven Adler and Matt Sorum on drums. Additionally, many fans were excited to see Gilby Clarke on stage, as Clarke played an important role in the band due to his live role from 1991 to 1993 and his performance on the 1993 GN’R punk and glam rock cover album, The Spaghetti Incident. Clarke’s guitar playing can also be found on the live compilation, Live Era ’87-’93. Many agree that Myles Kennedy did an excellent job on vocals and was a fine substitution for Axl.

Axl received some negative press, but from his standpoint I think the event can also be considered a success. The outcome allows GN’R to continue in its current form, without looking back at past mistakes and regrets with the original lineup. Axl’s analogy of the band having gone through a “divorce” makes sense in this instance. At this point it may just be time for all members to grow up and move on.

Of course, even if Axl had shown up there’s no guarantee that the event would have been a success. For one, it is unclear whether Izzy would have shown up even with Axl’s participation. But even if all five members had shown up the ceremony could have been disastrous regardless, since the underlying causes of hostility between band members have not been resolved (particularly between Slash and Axl).

When all is said and done, all five original members have had commercial and personal success in their lives, including the “Black Sheep” of the bunch, Steven Adler, who is finally sober after a long struggle with drugs and alcohol. Adler looked incredibly happy and proud of his accomplishments at the induction ceremony, and he should be. With a new album to be released shortly, Steven Adler, by far the least successful original member, finally seems to be coming into his own.

It’s been a wild ride for Guns N’ Roses, and the journey may not have yet come to its natural conclusion, but the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction has managed to tie up a lot of loose ends for long-time fans and supporters.

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