Move To The City
This trip begins while I’m sitting in the Southwest lounge of the Kansas City airport. I’m on my way to Las Vegas to see the first two public shows of my favorite band Guns n’ Roses. What’s different about these shows is that Slash and Duff have rejoined Axl Rose. Huge deal. When I bought the tickets I didn’t know they were playing Kansas City, and besides, who knows how long the regrouping will last. Maybe before they get to Kansas City it all falls apart.
Normally I would be 100% psyched and geared to go. This time, though, there is a hint of nervousness that I feel. Jayne is sick, Lemmy is sick, and Kelly and I are still recovering from the passing of Peedee. In fact, Jayne’s treatment would have overruled this trip, and Lemmy almost got in the way as well. We did something a little different. Knowing that he needed to be watched and cared for medically and that treating him at home proved to be difficult, Lemmy was boarded for the weekend. I could barely give him his medicine, there would be no way Kelly could do it by herself, and it would be impossible to monitor him. He’s where he should be, but still, he’s sick, and adding stress.
But here I am. Writing, listening, and wondering what my flight will be like, wondering if I can get to sleep in time to get a good work day in tomorrow, and laughing a bit about how I am clearly an old man now. The sick kid who first heard Welcome to the Jungle on MTV while home sick is now a responsible adult who wants to spend six hours reliving a bit of youth.
The plane ride to Vegas is pretty normal. Years ago I used to get nervous flying, but then after watching (this is not an exaggeration) a hundred episodes of Air Crash Investigation, I don’t get nervous. I did something different though, I took a window exit seat. I’m almost always an exit aisle guy, but by the time I got onboard they were all taken. So I took the window. I put my Bose on, flipped on some Live Era Guns n’ Roses, closed my eyes, and drifted off a little bit during take off. I listen to the sound of the wheels on the runway, the feel of the plane as it gets some lift, the ca-chunk of the landing gear being retracted, and then undeniable feeling of flying through the air in a metal tube. My eyes are still closed as feel the plane punch through the windy air and turbulence. I’m not nervous at all, in fact, this is the first time in a while that I’ve really focused on the sensations of flying.
We reached 10,000 feet and were alerted that we could take out our larger electronic devices. Here is where I have a guilty pleasure. To pass the time, I watch the Big Bang Theory. The show is not a good one at all. In fact, this time around I found myself imagining the show without the laugh track and imagining how the show is without the sweetening. The environment, while not horrible, is still watching video on a plane, and I don’t want to watch something I like anymore. So BBT is a safe-for-public, something-I-don’t-care-about show to watch on a plane.
I land, and take my cab to the Monte Carlo, where a king bed in a strip-side room awaits. I haven’t said this yet, but I’m making this trip alone. My friend who was planning to go with me, was unable to due to unforeseen circumstances. At first, I thought to myself that maybe I shouldn’t go either, but I realized this is a one of a kind trip, and while it’s weird I guess that I will be doing it alone, it wouldn’t be the first time. Before I started making friends at TAM, I used to basically go by myself a lot. I used to go to movies and baseball games myself. It’s different, but it’s something I used to do quite a lot.
I slept really well, which was good because I wanted to wake up on New York City time, because Friday is not a day off for me. As I write this, I’m eating some lunch in my hotel room, having gotten a good amount of work done, while working on my portable workstation/laptop. I have a decent view of the strip, and with my podcasts on, it’s not a bad workspace. I still prefer my home office, but as traveling goes, this is a pretty good experience. The only bad thing is that my connection to Slack keeps dying. Everything else seems stable.
It still hasn’t hit me that I’m seeing Guns n’ Fucking Roses tonight. I took a moment early this morning to checkout the arena which is only a sixty second walk away. It looks like a great place to see a show, and I bet it’s going to be going nuts when I head down there to first see Alice in Chains. And then GnR.
My work day went pretty smooth. Despite the time change and working on my smallish laptop, I got lot of work done. Food is a little harder to come by for me, so I’m living off of Subway Veggie Delites and drinking a lot of water. I was able to get a nice ice coffee this morning. All my co-workers work on Eastern time so I’ve had many hours to wait until the show starts. I needed a nap, too. There is no shame in taking a nap when you’re 40, two timezones off from normal, and the band you’re about to see starts around 11 pm.
I want to be clear and awake, and I imagine when I hear the first note of It’s So Easy (my guess at what the opening song will be), I’ll be wide awake and full of adrenaline. I haven’t spoken to anyone today, other than to say “veggie delite”, and I imagine I will be similarly silent at the show too. I’ve had a lot of time by myself to think, and plan for the rest of the year. Getting out out of the house seems to have given me a little clearance to make some better decisions.
Welcome to the Jungle
I’m writing this from my hotel room the day after I saw Guns n’ Roses. The show was everything I was hoping for and more. Earlier on Saturday, it was reported that Axl had broken his foot, so he did the entire show from David Grohl’s throne, from when Grohl broke his leg. Seeing Axl perform on the throne changed the tenor of the show a little for me. Axl really, really wanted to perform and he looked totally dedicated. He has been criticized for not caring the last few years, but he cared last night.
The band is both the same and different than the classic era. Slash, Duff, and Axl remain the core of the band, like during the Illusion era tour, but they are also all clean and sober, so they actually play better. Slash is in top form, and Duff is like a whole new bass player. Axl sang with purpose not seen in years. The rest of the players, Fortus, Ferrer, Dizzy, and Melissa Reese are fine. Ferrer seems to have gotten some tips from Slash and Duff because he sounds like to me he’s gotten a better groove going. Fortus is a pretty solid player, and Slash lets him do the more noodley solos.
Song selection was amazing. I got to hear Coma live. Coma! That song hadn’t been played since 1993 and even then it was hardly played because it was so hard to sing. They nailed it, though. Just amazing to hear that song live. Estranged and November rain were awesome as well. There were three Chinese Democracy tunes too. I already knew that Chinese Democracy and Better were possible, but This I Love was also part of the show. The songs take on a different feel with Slash playing the lead. The quality of the singing and playing was superb. I’ve never seen anything like it. It was the greatest musical performance I have ever seen. The crowd was intense. During certain songs the crowd singing along drowned out Axl!
Since there hasn’t been much press, no one really knows how Slash and Axl made up. OK, when I say “much press” I mean no press. Now that we’ve seen them perform, there seems to be more than just a strict working relationship. Axl didn’t do soundchecks during the UYI tours, but he did them yesterday. They played Coma, which is Slash’s baby. Slash was totally into all the music. Maybe this is a permanent situation, maybe there will be new material in the future.
The show lasted until 2:45 AM. Incredible night. I got a few hours of sleep, then woke up to get some donuts, and then slept in until noon. The day has been spent recovering mainly, before I go to tonight’s show. Tonight I will be taking it easy. I might sit the whole time, since my seat won’t be on the floor. I just want to close my eyes and listen to the music. Might be hard to pull off tonight, but I’ll try.
I waited until what I thought would be the end of Alice in Chains set before I headed to the arena, and I was pretty dead on. I drank a diet Coke while waiting for the last song to finish, as I didn’t want to try to navigate to my seat in the dark. After the last song, a rush of people comes out, and I go to sit down. Unlike the first night my seats aren’t on the floor, but the view is pretty good. Nothing is obstructing my view. The guy who bought my seat sits down next to me and I decide to be friendly. He was grateful that I sold the ticket. He’s much younger than me, but seems to dig all the music from the 80’s and early 90’s.
The second show is better than the first. Axl’s voice is looser, the band is a little tighter, and it’s just awesome. I never get tired of hearing Estranged or Coma Live. The sound is maybe a little better than when I was on the floor, or maybe the sound guy was doing a better job at mixing. The crowd was so into it, singing along to almost all the lyrics, going crazy when the more rocking songs were played. Being elevated a little, I could look out at the crowd and see everyone on their feet. No one is sitting down. As the last of the confetti falls to the floor after Paradise City, as the last guitar note is played, the last snare hit, the last scream from Axl fades, it hits me that I’ve just seen the two greatest musical performances of my life. I’ve never seen a show that combined such fury, such passion, and such technical ability. Slash, Axl, and Duff, clean, sober and probably more mature, can put on a better show than they ever could before. Yes I would like to see Izzy and Adler show up, and I think that door remains open.
Funny thing happened as I left the show. Someone who looked really familiar crossed my view. Then it hits me, it’s an old friend from college Walt! I shout “Hey Walt!”, but no response and he keeps walking. I shout a couple times more, and nothing. I thought about catching up and seeing if it was him, but I figured I was just tired, and really, it has been twenty years since I’d last seen him. However, it was still nagging me, so when I got to my hotel room, I sent him a quick Facebook message (we weren’t Facebook friends then), and a couple hours later, he responded, that he indeed was at the show! I’m sure it was him I saw walking in front of me. Nice to reconnect with an old friend!
Bring it Back Home
Sunday is my flight home. At the end of every one my trips, I always want to get home as soon as possible. This trip home was delayed by two hours, which made me a little nervous because I had two dozen vegan donuts/pastries in my checked luggage, just sitting around somewhere at the airport. We finally left Vegas, and the flight was pretty normal. In fact, I was so zoned in on my video, that the first time I noticed we were near Kansas City, was when I felt the airplane land. For a split second, I didn’t know what was happening, but then I looked out the window and saw the runway lights. I was home.
Arriving home with donuts and tons of memories, I saw Kelly and the dogs, happy to be home. Yes things are tense around here with Jayne’s sickness and Lemmy’s continuing bladder infection, but I was happy to be back in it all.
Guns n’ Roses is a band that I love, that I can listen to any time any place. It was a huge thrill to see them live in Vegas. However, home is where I am most comfortable. As I write this in my office, Kelly is doing her yoga, Mags and Rennie are waiting outside the gym for Kelly, Jayne is stretched out on the floor sleeping, Lemmy is enjoying some sun, and Finnick is curled up on the chair in my office. That’s where I want to be most.