If an outspoken blues (or even rock) purist had walked into Perkins Palace on Saturday night, he or she would probably have screamed bloody murder at the way that pack of local bad-boy rock princes Guns N' Roses was making a grooveless hash of a simple 12-bar blues number.
But who would have heard the complaints above the full-throated screaming of approval from the band's rabid hometown fans--the same kind of fans that have also helped catapult such other flash 'n' attack bands as Motley Crue to megabuck celebrityhood.
Rock's ultra-aggressive heavy metal wing may have been rooted in the blues, but the ersatz blues progressions--handed down from one generation of metal-mongers to another--have become so far removed from their sources that what passes for metal now has to be considered as a new offshoot of traditional rock.
Welcome to the brave new world of contemporary metal and the genre's newest desperadoes, Guns N' Roses, whose "Welcome Back to L.A." noisefest helped explain why all these glam-slam outfits have popped up on the LP charts lately.
It's simple: They don't give a hoot for the icons of the past, and neither do their fans. And the quintet makes an awfully strong case for this new culture of "found" music.
The rude note was sounded right off with "It's So Easy"--\o7 not \f7 a Buddy Holly cover, but a bratty primer on how to sponge off women and still treat them badly. The aptly-named lead guitarist Slash provided the cue by cranking his instrument up as loud as possible and playing fast and mean.
Guns N' Roses' first radio song--"Move to the City," from its 1986 mini-album, "Live Like a Suicide"--followed in similarly rude, feisty fashion. Then came two other tunes from the new album: "Mr. Brownstone," a somewhat irresponsible "getting high is cool" number and "Out Ta Get Me," concerning the low-grade persecution that rebel-rockers often endure at the hands of police, girlfriends and record company executives.
Amazingly enough, "I Used to Love Her but I Just Had to Kill Her" didn't seem to faze any of the teen-age girls in the audience; they seemed to understand just fine the superb drum pounding of substitute drummer Fred Coury (from the glam-metal band Cinderella). (Guns N' Roses' regular drummer, Steven Adler, couldn't perform because of an injured hand, it was announced from the stage.)
Throughout the night, the grinding guitar interplay of Slash and rhythm ace Izzy Stradlin bespoke a tightness and understanding beyond their three years of musical acquaintance. And W. Axl Rose, though he needs to loosen up even a little more on stage, is a singular metal vocalist: by turns baritonally crooning and screeching in the best full-bore manner. He's very much in charge on stage--no swigs off the communal Jack Daniels bottle for him--but the power comes from his musical skill, which is certainly a refreshing change from metal's usual posturing.
There were a couple of dead spots in the set: a cover of Bob Dylan's soulful "Knockin' on Heaven's Door," dedicated by Rose to a departed friend, ambled woozily, and an instrumental blues number went into a yawning run-though of the new album's "Nightrain." But a blistering, disrespectful cover of Aerosmith's "Paradise City" closed the show the way it began: noisy, but oh-so-powerful. The group's Perkins engagement continues Tuesday and Wednesday.