This weekend, Guns N' Roses will be playing two shows in East Rutherford, New Jersey. It's 2016. I saw them in East Rutherford, NJ in July 1992, twice. The Use Your Illusion tour.
That summer, I was working at the local fast food joint, a classic job for a high school student. I worked with kids my age, but they were from a different high school so it felt like a whole new gang of friends. A group of about 10 of us would venture the hour to NJ to see GNR, who was touring with Metallica. (And Faith No More was the opening band.)
Coming from a rather strict household, I could not believe my parents were letting me go. I have my friend Mike to thank for that - he knew my parents and was a good kid and my parents trusted him so his attendance was a guarantee of goodness. So thank you, Mike, for allowing me to step into the world of live music and hard rock that blew my little high school mind.
The early 90s were ripe with stadium shows. It was a given you were going with thousands and thousands of people to see a band. You will walk miles from your car, and miles to get to your seat. We were so far away from the stage, but it didn't matter. There is always electricity at a concert that carries through the entire venue. And of course, there were big screens. The technology back in 1992 was grainy and a bit slow, but I got to see it all. Axl sitting on the stairs to sing "Patience." Slash jumping up on the piano for "November Rain." Duff McKagan singing "Knocking' on Heaven's Door" an inordinate amount of time because Axl walked off the stage. (That was the second show. Their set had lasted about 20 minutes, I think?) It was rock n' roll.
So for me, GNR is a coming-of-age marker. They were pretty much the ultimate to me back then. I still listen to and love their music (the older stuff). But I am hesitant to see them today, on their new tour Not In This Lifetime (best name). It's the old adage of never being able to go back - it won't be the same. The band dynamics have changed. The guys have definitely gotten older (so it just makes me feel old). The magic of my youth and those days colored the experience back then so brightly, will today's show just be disappointing to my memories? I have not come to a conclusion yet. But if Slash still rips (undisputed) and Axl still has his range (?), how could it not be thrilling to belt out "Welcome to the Jungle" with thousands of others one more time?
:: this article on Loudwire about the fateful tour 24 years ago
:: a GNR pop-up shop at the John Varvatos store in NYC this weekend