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A Look Back at Guns N’ Roses’ Legendary Live Show at the Ritz in ’88

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NEW YORK - OCTOBER 27: Axl Rose of Guns 'n' Roses performs in concert at the Ritz on February 2, 1988 in New York City. (Photo by Larry Busacca/WireImage)
Axl Rose of Guns N’ Roses performs in concert at the Ritz on February 2, 1988, in New York City. (Larry Busacca/WireImage)

 

When Axl Rose, Duff McKagan, and Slash announced they were getting back together for a few gigs in 2016, no one really knew how long it would last. (Their last album together: “The Spaghetti Incident?” in 1993.) Now it seems the “Not in This Lifetime …” Tour may go on for the rest of their lifetimes. Whether you’re in Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Thailand, Dubai, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Germany, England, Switzerland, or the good old U.S. of A, GN’R is planning on rocking you in 2017.

Yet great as it is to have the boys together again—60 percent of them anyway—it’s hard not to think back to when they first caught the world’s attention. When they weren’t the multimillionaires in their mid-50s seen here …

INDIO, CA - APRIL 16: Duff McKagan, Axl Rose and Slash of Guns N' Roses performs onstage during day 2 of the 2016 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival Weekend 1 at the Empire Polo Club on April 16, 2016 in Indio, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Coachella)
Duff McKagan, Axl Rose, and Slash of Guns N’ Roses onstage during day 2 of the 2016 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival Weekend 1 on April 16, 2016, in Indio, California. (Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Coachella)

 

… but rather the lunatics perpetually on the verge of destroying themselves and everything around them below.

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 27: Duff McKagan, Slash and Axl Rose of Guns 'n' Roses perform in concert at the Ritz on February 2, 1988 in New York City. (Photo by Larry Busacca/WireImage)
Duff McKagan, Slash, and Axl Rose of Guns N’ Roses perform in concert at the Ritz on February 2, 1988, in New York City. (Larry Busacca/WireImage)

 

When Appetite for Destruction was released on July 21, 1987, the oldest group member was Axl at a mature 25. With singles including “Paradise City,” “Welcome to the Jungle,” and “Sweet Child o’ Mine,” the album became the biggest selling debut ever. (It’s estimated to have sold 30 million copies worldwide.) It wasn’t an immediate hit, however; by August, it had only reached No. 182 on the Billboard charts. When they took the stage at the Ritz in New York City for a gig taped by MTV on February 2, 1988, GN’R was still a band with something to prove.

Axl, Slash, Duff, Izzy Stradlin, and Steven Adler promptly proved the hell out of it, with a gig both intimate and explosive. While deeply entertaining—dig Slash banging out an epic guitar solo lying on his back and Axl snake-dancing his little heart out throughout—it feels dangerous. That’s probably because it was dangerous, as when Axl leaps into the crowd during “Paradise City” and needs to be forcibly dragged back out, now disoriented and minus his Thin Lizzy shirt.

Frankly, it would never be this good again. Appetite finally hit No. 1 on August 6, 1988. (Yes, it had been over a year since its 1987 release.) Then Steven would get the boot, then Izzy would leave, and eventually Slash and Duff would go, too, leaving Axl to obsess over Chinese Democracy—which he would finally release in 2008, 15 years after GN’R’s last album. Even the Ritz was long gone by then.

Keep checking in here to see about tickets for upcoming gigs. Or just watch below to see Guns N’ Roses up close and up to the challenge of becoming the biggest group on the planet.

—Sean Cunningham for RealClearLife