One of the most remarkable musical events of the current decade has been the full-fledged revival of Guns N’ Roses. While the band never set in stone that it was calling it quits, and never seemed completely gone, it felt a few years ago like GNR was heading for a gradual unwinding featuring the occasional festival appearance or mini-tour and leading, ultimately, to the end. Now, however, it feels fair to wonder if the band might have five or even ten more years left in it as a headline-quality, internationally touring, and best-selling rock group.
How exactly did this change come about? Dedicated fans will recall the timeline and rock enthusiasts are well aware that GNR hit the stage at Coachella in 2016 and has hardly stopped playing since. But now, as the positive headlines continue to roll out about Guns N’ Roses (for instance, they’ve announced their first ever Hawaii show in December), it feels like a good time to look back and put it all in perspective.
A Teaser With Star Wars
Late in 2015 the Star Wars film franchise roared back into action for the first time in years. The renewal of the core franchise, The Force Awakens, debuted with the highest grossing opening weekend in the history of cinema (though that record now belongs to Avengers: Infinity War). And on some screens around the U.S., fans in their seats early enough were treated to a wholly mysterious teaser for Guns N’ Roses material. The trailer, if that’s the right word for it, featured unclear footage and bits of music and didn’t really speak to anything in particular. It did get people talking about the band though, and it wound up being just a few months ahead of the aforementioned Coachella show.
An Internet Game
In another apparent effort to simply get people talking about Guns N’ Roses again, the group also allowed for its music and general look to be spun into a themed internet game. More specifically, in fact, it was a slot game. That may seem unusual if you don’t partake in the genre, but international casino gaming platforms spend a lot of time on establishing broad selections these days. There’s a huge number of ever-inventive and colorful options including some with specific themes, and in this case a Guns N’ Roses reel that very literally plays the hits while you game. This slot arcade was made popular early in 2016 – again, just before the actual reunion show.
The Coachella Reunion
The truly remarkable thing about the group’s performance at Coachella wasn’t that it happened at all, but that it featured the reunion of frontman Axl Rose and guitarist Slash. Following a falling out, the two had previously seemed exceedingly unlikely to ever play a show together again. Indeed when asked about the possibility of this happening, Rose famously responded with words that are now all the more legendary: not in this lifetime.
Not In This Lifetime
When Guns N’ Roses took the stage at Coachella it may as well have been a one-off get together as far as the crowd was concerned. Slash performing alongside Axl Rose was headline-worthy, but a cynical observer could well have assumed the band was offered a nice sum of money to appear together just to give the festival a jolt. Instead, however, the reunion performance essentially launched what would become the “Not In This Lifetime… Tour,” a reference to Rose’s quote mentioned above. That tour would go on to last about two years and span the globe.
The concept of Guns N’ Roses touring the world in the mid-2010s probably sounds like a nostalgia play, particularly to anyone who’s not a dedicated fan, or a classic rock lover. But this was more like a U2 tour than some kind of relive-the-glory-days effort, which is to say Guns N’ Roses proved it’s still able to pack stadiums and massive concert venues anywhere on Earth. It was the top grossing tour of 2017 and one of the most successful rock tours of the current decade, if not the 21st century.
Hints of More To Come
More recently things have been cooling off again. The tour finally came to an end, and Axl Rose has divided his time between GNR and AC/DC (with whom he’s become a sort of recurring guest frontman). There’s talk he may in fact help AC/DC put out a new album. However, there have also been whispers of new material from Guns N’ Roses. Nothing is confirmed, but members have been coy about the possibility, and at this point it would almost be foolish of the band not to capitalize on its renewed popularity.
Looking back at all of this – the sheer scope of it all from the end of 2015 to today – this is one of the most impressive and comprehensive revivals in modern musical history. And for rock fans it’s been an incredible treat.
This is a guest post