Chad as Axl Rose

Appetite for Destruction Slays It at the Pour House

One of my dedicated rock aficianado friends was going to see The Cult play live in Austin in 1989, and he remembers there was “some group of hosers called Guns ‘n Roses” as the opening band. He and his friends had never heard of them and jokingly referred to them as “Guns ‘n Posers” as they stopped by a bar on the way to the concert to “wait out” the opening act over a few drinks.

So neither of us have ever seen Axl, Slash, and the Guns ‘n Roses crew live, but I’ll bet you he has sincerely regretted those beers ever since.

(There’s actually quite a bit more to the story, including the fact that after the concert, the Cult came out to the club where he and his friends had gone to catch another buddy’s final set, and there was much impromptu playing and brushes with fame. You’ll have to beg SB to tell you the whole story.)

This week, though, I finally got to see the group that has been hailed as the best GnR tribute band ever. Appetite for Destruction lit up the stage at the Pour House in Raleigh, playing a single, incandescent power rock set for a benefit show.

These people are off the chain.

Chad Atkins — aka Not Quite Axl — rocks the sexy kilt and long red hair — he looks even better than the early 90’s era Axl in my opinion. And anyone singing these songs has to have an incredible voice and a good bit of range. Atkins signs, seals, and delivers on every vocal promise Axl ever thought of, and some he didn’t.

Mike Eddington’s Not Quite Slash delivers the iconic waterfall of black curls and screaming guitar with completely understated rockstar cool. This Slash was unable to smoke while playing; you can’t smoke in bars anymore in NC and as far as I’m aware even President Obama, Cousin Itt and the Buddha would be required to comply. (Don’t you think of Cousin Itt when you see Slash?)

As it turned out, I ended up bumping into Chris Clark — whom I never would have pegged for Izzy Stradlin until I saw him on stage in full get-up — ahead of the show. That may be partly because offstage, his hair was bright blue. I was trying to find out when Appetite would go on and I asked him if he knew (!). He did. (And later he had on a black wig over the blue hair.) With a ready smile, skinny black Joey Ramone jeans, and a low-slung belt covered with metal studs, Chris delivered plenty of Izzy onstage, including outstanding backup vocals. In fact, he was so convincing I was tempted to wonder if he was a songwriter, too.

Mike Ropelewski took on the role of GnR’s chronically troubled drummer Steve Adler, and he powered through the entire set with gleaming biceps (oh, the picture, ladies), big grins, and all the showdog flourishes.

Normally I’m all about the bass player but in this particular case I was taking in the show from an odd location in the house and never did really get to see Brokeback Bucky delivering bassline as GnR’s Duff McKagan. He may have been tucked away at the far edge of the stage where I couldn’t see him, but I do know that the sound was solid and the bass and drums together were slamming up through the floorboards in a highly satisfactory manner.

AFD opened with “It’s So Easy” and barreled full force through raging favorites like “Night Train,” “Rocket Queen,” and “Civil War.” And Thank the Good Baby Jesus they did NOT play “Sweet Child O Mine.” I am so tired of hearing that done by cover bands I’m well and sick of it. (I heard Slash hated that song too.). They did “You’re Crazy,” and Paul McCartney’s “Live and Let Die,” complete with snarky Axl intro. And yes, they played “Welcome to the Jungle” since it’s a cosmic law they have to play that or a unicorn dies.

One of the best moments of the show for me was well after the band had relaxed into the flow and Chad was periodically coming out of character to give us a few brief but hilarious commentaries on Axl, mid song. During “Patience” — which is a great song and a great joke (as if Axl were known for his patience) we were treated to

Chad as Axl, crooning:

Sit here on the stairs
‘Cause I’d rather be alone
If I can’t have you right now, I’ll wait dear…

Chad as Chad:

He was just so full of shit.

And Chad goes right on with the next lyric, as if nothing had ever happened. I nearly sprayed my beer.

My only complaint was that the crowd was a bit psycho. You know the standard drunk people who crowd the stage, wanting to stroke the bass frets, or sing into the mic, or (my biggest pet peeve) shout personal requests into the ear of the lead singer, while they’re trying to sing.

We had that, but we also had one dude at the front constantly trying to hand tabs to the band while they were playing. Chad and Chris repeatedly shook him off, but the guy would not take no for an answer, he wanted to put the tab in their mouth, it was endless. I really wished a bouncer had booted him and his obnoxious buddy out.

I admit to some curiosity about how Appetite For Destruction would choose to end the set, and I would have laid money on “Paradise City,” but instead they ended with “My Michelle,” an outstanding choice that had the crowd in paroxysms of drunken, delirious joy.

Appetite for Destruction has been burning it up like this for 10 years now, and I’ve heard at least one (completely unsubstantiated) rumor that they may quit doing the show after this year. According to their website, they average 200 shows and 60,000 miles a year, and that’s bound to take a toll.

I do know that they are scheduled to play the Lincoln Theatre in August (I’ll see you there in June for Shoot to Thrill) and if you don’t get your ticket I’ll be forced to unfriend you on Facebook, loser. These guys have one of the greatest shows in the Triangle — in the state! — and you’re crazy to miss any opportunity to rock with them.

Top image by jeffzika on Flickr; the others are from AFDs Facebook: go friend ’em!

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