Axl and Slash have come in from the cold – 22 years after last playing together
As Guns N' Roses prepare to return to European stadiums in May I have to confess my glee, my delight but also my shock as we stand on the cusp of something I never thought I'd see myself.
I have to lay my cards on the table here. I grew up on a healthy staple diet of Illusion-era GNR and the frenetic shitstorm which seemed to follow the band in their pomp. At the time they seemed so dangerous, so combustible and a genuine world class rock n' roll band who were dripping in unpredictability as much as star power. Key to that of course was the twin towers of frontman Axl Rose and lead axe-man Slash.
Nowadays, I straddle both worlds as a long-time fan and a working journalist but for me, and many of the friends I grew up with, GNR and a possible reunion of the classic quintet remained at the very top of our wish lists.
Although it is a little disappointing not to see Izzy or Adler in the mix for this three-union (it is just Axl, Slash and Duff from the classic line-up), I'm itching to go and fully supportive of Guns' version 2016/17.
Two leading men
Even to this day there has been whispers that the whole truth and nothing but the truth regarding the acrimonious split of rock n' rolls dynamic duo has yet to be told. Yes, Slash spilled what he says was his recollections and point of view in his book but recent claims by Axl's personal Illusion-era manager Craig Duswalt hinted at an untold falling out between the pair.
It left almost two camps of GNR fans – those blaming Axl and his alleged dictatorial streak for tearing apart the band and sending them spiralling into the abyss from the top of the musical mountain – and another camp who reckon Slash has some sort of secret agenda and somehow plays the media better than Axl who has a tendency to talk his way into trouble on the rare occasion he grants media access.
The truth is probably somewhere in the middle and perhaps we will never know. But comments from Axl – as recently as 2009 – calling his former band mate 'a cancer' and 'better removed' suggest time hasn't healed the rift
The speculation looks to be confined to yesterdays now after the pair seemed to have made amends. All eyes were on Coachella and the stage, to see the pair who complimented each other in a way few have before or since. Throughout their run of hugely successful shows in 2016 - they reportedly raked in something like $5.5m PER SHOW - the band have been loud, tight and the rapport has been superb between all members of the band.
Of course it is now a whopping near-20-years since Axl lobbed a P45 at Slash as he walked out the infamous revolving door at GNR HQ and Axl was subsequently in a band with the likes of Bumblefoot and DJ Ashba LONGER than he was ever with Slash or Izzy Stradlin.
But despite these facts the clamour for a classic line-up reunion never seemed to subside. Countless bands have changed their line-ups over the year but there is no vociferous campaign to reunite, for example, Metallica with Jason Newsted.
This is simply because Guns N' Roses, certainly for me and it appears for many considering the dozens of dedicated fan sites and forums which remain active to this day, hark back to a golden-era of rock n' roll. A time when the band on top of the rock world were real, raw, exciting and had a comradeship and chemistry unrivalled across the musical landscape.
Bands today haven't been able to bottle that unpredictability and power which seemed to come so easily to golden-era Guns.
Since the end of the classic world conquering GNR animal Slash, on the face of it, looks to have fared between than his old pal. From Snakepit to the heady heights of Velvet Revolver which threatened at times to become huge and with his solo band which are in top form with Myles Kennedy on the mic.
Of course his set contains a healthy sprinkling of some of the classics he and Axl used to belt out together too with Myles' pipes ably hitting the notes Axl used to.
Following the parting of the ways with Slash and Axl it took the latter some 12 years, and a reported 13 million dollars, to get an album out with his 'new GNR'. After such a delay it was inevitable it would never meet the ludicrously high levels of expectations regardless of how good an album it might be.
As it happens Democracy was a really good record, better than the critics would have you believe and with a handful or tracks which wouldn't be out of place on an earlier Guns' album with the classic line-up. It even racked up sales into the millions but it had an impossible legacy in a different era to live up to.
But since the 2008 release there has yet again been a deathly silence on new music although peppered with promises of 'coming soon,' 'album nearly ready' and the likes. Axl and his new band have been on the road regularly with a famous Las Vegas residency but there has been no music forthcoming as we approach the eighth anniversary of Chinese Democracy.
Leaked reports from 'someone close to the band', which to me often reek of a music gossip merchant making shit up, have claimed at various stages since 2008 that Axl had three albums of material complete by 2008 but the fans have been kept waiting to hear fabled tracks like 'the General' which Seb Bach described as a follow-up to 'Estranged.'
Perhaps Axl was fearful after some of the low blows which came his way towards Democracy? Or maybe the shadow cast by the classic-era line-up is too great? Or it could just be he, and the band, have been too busy on the road so much to put the finishing touches to a new record?
Now with Duff and Slash reuniting with Axl the hope will be the trio will lay down some new material for a possible future record capturing the reconciliation permanently.
Current guitarist Richard Fortus did this week insist the band are constantly throwing around new ideas during soundcheck and the entire band are on great terms.
Taking a stroll down some of the forums on the big UK festival sites it is easy to see the impressions and feelings the younger rock fans have about Guns N' Roses.
A generation has missed out on the pomp of GNR and only know the new line-up. Of course they will know of the classics on CD and MP3 but they missed the carnage and excitement when the band were on the road, selling out arenas around the globe, or releasing double albums on the same day which nestled in both No.1 and No.2 slot.
As a result is has acted as a catalyst for indifference to the band. Often there are groans on these forums – which are good for a guide as to what the current gig going and paying generation of fans are looking for – when Guns are touted as possible headliners for either Download or Sonisphere.
Very few gig going fans will now have seen Axl and Slash live together and the pair, alongside Izzy, Duff and Adler, have been elevated to almost mythical status which feeds the clamour for a reunion somewhere down the line.
To older fans the concept of seeing their heroes plug in and explode onto a live stage just one more time takes them back to what for many was the golden-era of their beloved genre and perhaps to a time when they too were younger and more carefree.
This is why I think the jungle drums never stopped beating with regards to a classic-era reunion. Now they seem to be back, it remains unknown yet for how long, the clamour now will be to lure them to Europe and her plethora of rock festivals this summer and beyond.
Of course 2017 will mark the 30th anniversary of Appetite For Destruction so to be seeing the band next year - I plan to attend the Dublin show @ Slane Castle - is wonderfully fitting for a long time fan.
As recently as 12 months ago it seemed highly unlikely, to me at least, that Axl and Slash would be sharing a warm embrace and joking about the old days any time soon but the return of Duff McKagan on bass for a handful of live shows during Guns last tour reignited faint hope.
Perhaps the reason Axl took so long to release any new music was it took him that long to find guitar players which compliment his voice and ideas in the same way Slash had.
Ex-GNR manager Alan Niven told me once that he would bet on a reunion happening in the end as a whole generation was waiting for it. But he has been ostracises from the GNR inner-circle longer than even Slash has so it was debatable how much he knew nowadays.
For me, a self-confessed Guns N' Roses fan, I am thrilled beyond words they are back and I am crossing all ten fingers and all ten toes they do at least one world reunion tour.
Even if it is for the cash and they don't even talk to one another back stage. I was 15-years-old when Slash quit the band, and too young to have travelled the country to have seen them live in the UK three years earlier.
'Appetite For Destruction' remains the greatest rock album of all time and to see the (in)famous five who created that magic take to the stage to unleash their joy over an eager crowd is too good an opportunity to pass up.
Watching Axl snakedance his hips over to share a mic with Slash while Adler grins foolishly and innocently behind on drums, while Duff and Izzy send their fingers dancing up the fretboards is an image that I need to enjoy in real life.
As good musicians as Bumblefoot and co are it is nostalgia which is fuelling this reunion bandwagon and it is showing no sign of slowing down.
Guns N' Roses are more than a band, they are king of the pride, and it was long overdue time for them to return to the jungle they welcomed us all into back in 1987.
Now I can't wait to hear them roar all over again.