Misfiring Guns N' Wilted Roses: Rock Icons Save Tel Aviv Show at 11th Hour

Midway into a terrible, hollow performance in Tel Aviv, rock icons Guns N' Roses finally woke up to provide some pleasant nostalgia for the glory days.

After the Guns N' Roses concert on Tuesday, one woman told her boyfriend: "I'll tell you exactly when it picked up - when you went to get beer." I'm guessing the guy went to fetch drinks between 10:15 P.M. and 10:20 P.M. because until then the show was really terrible, absolutely awful. Around that time it started getting better and was spared at the last minute from becoming a fiasco.

For the first hour of the concert, front man Axl Rose looked like a zombie from a third-rate horror movie. He hid behind sunglasses, moved with a combination of heaviness and hysteria, sang terribly and seemed tired and disconnected. His backup musicians, mainly the three guitarists, invested so much effort in trying to look like rockers that they had no strength left to play like rockers. Where was Slash when you needed him?

The songs that Guns N' Roses played sounded dull, even for a band well past its prime, and Rose went off stage every 15 minutes to rest his overstrained voice, leaving a musician onstage to muddle through some unimaginative solo performance. The concert was hollow, dull and unnecessary. The only bright spot was the audience, which applauded Rose and his accompanists as if they gave a good performance. Perhaps hardcore Guns N' Rose fans deluded themselves into believing they were at a less disappointing concert.

But then, 90 minutes into the show (presumably when the guy went to get beer ), something good happened. First of all, the zombie woke up. He started moving and looking human. It would be hard to argue that his singing became clearer and steadier but, beyond the strained voice, it was apparent that he was at least trying. The band also improved: The accompanists turned out to be capable of playing when they wanted to. There was nothing original or interesting, naturally, but you had to admit the guitars didn't sound bad.

When the guitars don't sound too bad for the five regal opening chords of "Paradise City," the overdone but nice solo in "Don't Cry," the bombastic but great epilogue of "November Rain," and the incredible intro to "Sweet Child o' Mine," conditions are ripe for some pleasant summer nostalgia for the lost MTV glory days of the early 1990s. A pretty good ending to a concert that started off so very, very badly (incidentally, it went on for no less than two hours and 45 minutes ). The band deserves some compliments for its effort and investment.

One last comment on the setup of the concert area, in Tel Aviv's Yarkon Park. The audience was divided between two areas - the proletarian section, which ended a few dozen meters from the stage, and the VIP section, called the Golden Ring, close to the stage.

This is an infuriating arrangement, and when the VIP section is half empty, as was the case at this show, it is also ridiculous. Of course the producer wanted to make some money, but a rock concert belongs to the audience no less than it belongs to the producer, and when the most devoted fans have to stand far away from the stage because they can't pay hundreds of shekels for a place in the front row, it just isn't rock 'n' roll anymore.

The singer of the warm-up band, Ugly Kid Joe, realized this, came off the stage, ran toward the proletarians and gave them the respect they deserved. Axl Rose, on the other hand, didn't show any signs of similar social awareness. The time has come to put an end to this despicable practice, particularly at standing concerts in Yarkon Park. Death to the Golden Ring!

Guns N' Roses performing in Tel Aviv on Tuesday night.
Daniel Tchetchik