When Axl Rose and the boys burst onto the stage on Thursday night in Abu Dhabi, you could have already worked out that they were going to rock Abu Dhabi. What you couldn’t have known, was just minutes before they set the stage alight, legendary rocker Rose was sipping tea while chatting to tabloid!.
“We better get out there before they tear the house down,” said Rose tipping his head acknowledging the gathered crowd cranking up the volume.
“I’ll be blaming you. You know that,” he added as the entire group broke into laughter and headed off for the show.
According to his manager, Doc Mcghee, Rose has not given an interview for 14 years.
“I don’t know what you’ve done, but you did something right,” he said expressing his utter surprise that the red-haired singer was willing to talk.
The American rock star has been notoriously media-shy (read anti-media) since the implosion of the original band — the hitmakers behind seminal rock songs such as Sweet Child O’Mine and Paradise City. Rose even wrote the song Get in the Ring about his disgust for the media and all the lies he claims journalists and publications printed over the years.
But this week was different and as he politely asked for “any kind of tea” from a member of his crew, he settled into his chair and prepared to open up.
As with every good story there’s always a bit of drama. You see this story almost wasn’t told because while tabloid! knew Rose was in town, it was also made clear, initially, there would be no interview (as has been the case for the past 14 years).
You can therefore understand why a desperate chase across Yas Island (in flip flops) swiftly followed when “that’”call came in to say he said “yes”.
“There is a lotta rockin people out there,” said Rose looking almost nervous [replace the word rockin with any swear word to get the full effects of the interview]. “Oops, is it bad to say that?” he added before quickly changing the subject.
“I played in the Middle East once before,” continued Rose needing no prompt. “It was for about 50,000. It was insane. We’ve been trying to come play again since so tonight is gonna be wow. A lot of rockets and bombs. We’re excited we try to go all out,” he said ahead of the sell-out gig, the last of the Flash Entertainment-organised Yas Arena Show Weekends.
“For me one of the really cool things is I don’t have to get on at everybody in the band. Hey do this, do that, you know. Because they’re excited. Everybody takes a certain amount of pride in what they do. Plus they all get on at each other about it anyway. Everybody goes out there and tries to give everything they can. And we stay out there a couple hours more, you know, until we feel the
crowd is happy. Or until we feel like we’ve done a good job. It’s kinda like going to the gym or something, you know, you don’t leave until you feel like you’re supposed to.”
There’s a slight pause before all four members burst out laughing. “It’s just hard to get in the gym,” Rose eventually concedes. “Yeah they won’t let me smoke on the treadmill,” added guitarist DJ Ashba still laughing.
South America, Asia and just off the back of more than 40 gigs across Europe, Guns N’ Roses is off to Russia next saying the diversity of an audience never fails to amaze them.
“I think it’s a lot to do with the material from the past and a hell of a lot to do with the heart that was put into it then,” said Rose his fingers covered with giant rings, each with a new plaster covering the finger underneath.
“But if we weren’t putting the heart into it now, if I wasn’t putting my heart into it, the fans, they’re not gonna let me get away with it. We have to live up to something, have to work a bit harder because you’re living up to the legend or a myth or whatever,” he said, deep in thought. “It’s more pressure when you’re playing to live up to myth.”
Guns N’ Roses formed in 1985, a time when Rose insists things were very different when it came to restrictions regarding performances.
“In the club days, like ’88 and ’89, you could fall off stage and that was OK. Then it turned into I can’t dive off but other bands can. I’d be doing everything I can not to fall off. I always see the tape on stage. The glow in the dark tape on the edge. I remember when they didn’t have it at the LA Coliseum when we opened for The Stones. When the lights went down, I went down.”
Stopping to listen to the fans getting progressively louder, Rose said he was looking forward to playing to a multi-cultural crowd.
“The diverse crowd aspect is actually the most interesting part for me because I think that pretty much sums up why the Guns catalogue has stood the test of time,” he said, still with an ear on the fans.
“It crosses genres, it crosses religious lines, you know. It’s music that people can relate to. That there is such a diverse crowd out there it makes it a lot of fun.”
Looking up from under the dark lenses of his aviators, Rose broke a smile. “We’ve crossed a few lines for certain,” he said. “And we’ll continue that.”