Live Era '87 - '93

Guns N' Roses

Geffen Records, 1999

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Guns N' Roses are to the world of heavy metal what Boston is to classic rock. They each take seven-year hiatuses between albums, then seem to return without missing a beat.

So one wonders why this is the right time for Axl Rose to choose to release Live Era '87 - '93, the first full-length live disc from the legendary bad boys of heavy metal. (If you count their independent release Live... Like A Suicide, this becomes their second live release. I don't count the live tracks from G N' R Lies.) The last time we had heard anything from this group was when we went to the movies; they had "Sympathy For The Devil" on the soundtrack for Interview With A Vampire, and the "new" Guns N' Roses included the song "Oh My God" on the recent Schwarzenegger film End Of Days. Well, fine, Axl, but how's about something of more substance?

Behold, enter Live Era '87 - '93, a two-disc set that is perfect in some areas and flawed (in some cases, literally) in other. If anything, this set is an accurate picture of this band's rise from obscurity to superstardom, and how fame can cloud the music along the way. (This doesn't mean that we still don't want to see a new studio album soon; I'd like to see something come down the pipe before I'm eligible for Social Security.)

This disc has become notorious due to a pressing error in the first run - which I think I happened to pick up when I bought the disc. On the last song "Paradise City," as the song is in trasnition from a medium-tempo rocker to an all-out speed fest, about 10 seconds is lost, and the break in the music is painfully obvious. It's my understanding that Geffen has offered to replace any faulty disc, but one wonders how this ever got past quality control in the first place. I mean, if I wanted to listen to jumpy technology, I'd download MP3 files from the Internet.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

In many of the performances here, it almost seems like Rose saunters through the lyrics, as he effortlessly delivers the goods on tracks like "Mr. Brownstone" and "It's So Easy". But it is interesting to note that Rose and the band are able to keep these performances lively, demonstrating why this band built up such a word-of-mouth reputation for being a tight live act.

But Live Era '87 - '93 also digs up some rather scary skeletons as well. First, "Patience" gets off to a poor start when Rose's whistling seems to be out of tune with the guitar work - making me wonder how something that simple could get loused up. Second, a good portion of the material pulled from the Use Your Illusion albums has not aged well - not a great thing to say, seeing these discs are only nine years old. "November Rain" is here in its bloated glory, while "Pretty Tied Up" fails to impress. Of the tracks from Use Your Illusion, only "Yesterdays" and, to an extent, "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" show why these two discs were so magical when they first came out. (One question, though - why didn't Rose use the "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" that was so popular as the b-side of an import 12-inch single?)

In addition, the dangers of getting to superstar level are heard on "Move To The City," which is, aah, "bolstered" by the addition of a horn section and extended solo. Three words: It fails... miserably.

All of this taken into consideration, Live Era '87 - '93 is still a good album. How can I say that at this point? Simple: many of the tracks, especially those pulled from Appetite For Destruction, show why this band was so exciting in their glory days. Their stage presence was kind of like playing with nitroglycerine - and when things were going well, it exploded into a glorious sounding mess. (I know that almost the entire Appetite For Destruction album is played live on this set, but I can't think of which two tunes didn't make the cut. Watch; I'll probably remember them the moment after I post this review.)

The face of the music scene has changed significantly since Guns N' Roses last graced the public with a full-length release, but Live Era '87- '93, warts and all, suggests that Rose and crew (or at least whoever is in the band this week; things seem to change at the drop of a press release) still could have what it takes to take back their throne.

Rating: B-

User Rating: A



© 2000 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Geffen Records, and is used for informational purposes only.