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The Brilliance That Is Axl Rose

My previous post was a review of Steven Adler's book, My Appetite for Destruction, which was not my favorite book. However, one idea that Steven floats in his book is about Axl, and the thought resonated with me.

As we all know, Axl is notorious for starting the show late...really late. It has become his calling card or his identity; that he is completely unpredictable. Steven attempted to shed some light on this issue, and quite honestly, the explanation made sense to me. Essentially, what Steven writes is that Axl performs best in an emotionally charged environment. So basically, Axl will wait - and he will make his fans wait - causing impatience, anxiousness, frustration, and an adverse reaction to the unknown. The crowd begins to get worked up and the tension and emotion in the building rises, and then, just when it is about to peak, you hear the opening bars to "Welcome to the Jungle." Wherever you are, odds are the crowd is going to erupt. His making the crowd wait and wait only served to get people worked up, and ultimately it all adds up to a better, emotionally charged performance.

So, is this brilliance or is this simply being an egotistical, irresponsible performer? Personally, I think it is brilliant and it works for him. Not every band could pull the same stunts and get away with it. If I go see KISS, I know the show will start and end on time, and it will all go according to plan. There are no surprises, but you get what you expect. But, with Axl, you don't know what to expect and it results in an environment that is better suited for a Guns 'n' Roses show.

So your thoughts: is Axl a genius, or am I just buying into the hype?

Reader Comments (31)

Axl = God.
November 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKenny Ozz
i disagree about brilliant i say arrogant egotistical ass
November 25, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterglamrockerarchie
im in agreement with the post above - Axl let the ego get to him a long time ago.
November 25, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterskwint
He's got you conned. There's nothing brilliant, or edgy, about doing the same thing every show. It just shows he has no respect for the fans, who have to go to work the next day.
November 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChristian
He is an ass! Im a NYC police officer and was working penn st in the early 90's. This jerkoff refused to take the stage for what seemed like eternity, causing a ton of overtime and all his fans to miss their trains home. I personally had my daughters christening the next day but everyone who had to work the next day were screwed. so I say not brilliant!! yes ASS!!!!
November 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKEVON
I totally disagree that he has me conned. If you read Steven's book, Axl has always been this way. It's not an act.

True genuises often times have personality quirks, as they operate on a different level than the average member of soceity. Axl is far away superior to his peers. Listen to Chinese Democracy, to the levels of sounds on that album and how they all work together perfectly; and then tell me, could they guys in Trixter write something like that, or Crue, or the Scorpions. The simple fact is Axl thinks in a way that others just are not able to.

And he understands what makes a good show. If he didn't care, then why would he, after making everyone wait for his arrival, then put on a 3 hour show and leave everyone amazed. Why would want to incur the fines for paying late? Those are the costs of putting on the shows that is able to deliver.

The one time I have been able to see GnR, they came on very late, but every was so anxious for the show, that by the time it started, the place went nuts. It was amazing!
November 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Carvell
Having been at one of the GNR shows where the band was late (San Diego , the same night they either got an MTV award or Grammy I can't remember) they showed up and play 1/2 hour then left. Nothing brillanr about them taking our money and showing up late just to give a mediocore preformance. The only positive aspect of that night was Alice in chains opening up and getting to see Lane before he passed. AssClown Rose can kiss my ass!
November 25, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteribt222
Narcissistic Douche Bag....(with an ass load of talent)
November 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGary
Whoa Brian, a lot of push back on your article here, lol. Happy Thanksgiving, guys,

November 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAllyson
Jim Morrison played the "theater of the mind" bullshit many, many years before Axl. Not to mention that Axl uses the Rolling Stones of yore as an example of fashionably late comparisons. They ALL made the fans wait thinking it would build a "buzz." In Axl's case, he's made it a joke instead of an offensive tactic.
One thing will remain...Axl and GnR in their prime could NOT be touched by ANYONE! Welcome to the jungle bitches LOL
November 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSweet Lou
I personally think Axl is a terrific songwriter & performer. We can debate all day about whether he's a genius or not (I say no), but he's certainly great at what he does.

Regardless of his reasons for doing so, starting concerts 2 hours late is disrespectful to fans. I've been to a few GNR shows that started on time, and a few others that started late. The opening riff to Welcome in the Jungle gets the same roar. The only difference is that when he starts on time, people stay until the end of the show. When he starts at 11:00 (which has happened to me TWICE), 1/4 of the people are gone by the end of the show.
November 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBryon
Here's my take (and I'm sure people will disagree):

From about 1989, after reading/seeing a few interviews with the guy, I was pretty much convinced that Axl was an asshole. He says and does stuff to get attention and create shock value. Always has. In that way, he wasn't too far away from 80s-era Madonna or Michael Jackson. It doesn't mean he's not talented, it just means that he's trying to manipulate the media (and you) in order to get as much attention as possible. He seems to like it that way.

Because I took the Axl=asshole position, it meant that I REALLY didn't like him. I wasn't in thrall of him when all GnR's best albums came out. I wasn't going to say that the Use Your Illusions were a work of genius when I found most of the albums' material to be a rambling act of self-importance. For me, they marked a point where Axl was seriously and insidiously starting to control the band as a whole. They weren't as well-balanced as Appetite had been. It began to become The Axl Show.

But after conjugating on it for a couple of years (and after all the riots and the sexual assault stories and the carry-on associated with that), I began to wonder whether we weren't actually seeing the gradual exposure of a man who was seriously mentally ill. Not just eccentric, and not so much INTENTIONALLY doing all of the awful stuff that he did. I dunno: maybe that was my act of forgiving him for being a jerk, and endeavoring to understand the guy. Since then, the more I've watched, the more convinced I've become. I didn't see anything in Steven's book that would refute that for me. I don't think the guy's JUST an egomaniac, I think he's mentally ill.

The saddest thing about it is that I think Axl found a work environment were people will just enable him in his illness. Who tries to help the guy or tell him that he's wrong? So he can go through life threatening and/or acting out serious violence on people, and everyone just goes "Hehehe... Oh Axl, you're such a character!" It's entertaining to watch him freak out. It's really, really funny to read (just yesterday) about him suing over a 3-year-old video game that has a picture of Slash in it. But I'm now less convinced that it's attention-seeking and more convinced that he really doesn't know it's wrong. He lives on Planet Axl.

And I guess a lot of people would say that it's exactly his mental instability that makes him a good artist... which I disagree with whole-heartedly. Like most ill artists who start down this road, he will have a brief moment in the sun where everyone hails him as a genius, before disintegrating spectacularly. As Lou alluded, Jim Morrison is probably a good example of that. Artists can have demons (and egos) without tipping into mental illness. As a friend of mine put it the other day: the difference is often just one less rational thought when it really counts.

So yeah... Honestly, I feel sorry for the guy. And I would never, ever want to work with him.
November 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKiki Chrome
He's just a spoiled brat!

There's so many stories about people starting to riot during shows because of his asshole behaviour that I think he's far from a genius.

Talented? yes. Genius? No way, sir!

But I guess that's what drew us into GnR back in the day, so ...
November 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPablo
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November 25, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteruggs
He's got you conned, Axl is a first class jackass. I'd never go and see any band that makes their fans wait like he does, and yes, he is unpredictable. If your lucky you'll see an entire show, he is also known for walking off the stage. You notice they don't tour America, we won't put up with his shit. My biggest fear now is that now DJ Ashba is with them they will play at CrueFest.
November 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNancy
Having known Axl since almost the moment he arrived in Hollywood, My opinion is that he's no genius. He's an incredibly lucky arrogant pompous asshole, with an undeserved idea of self importance. He's also capable of actually writing a good song (November Rain). Unfortunately, he has no concept of being a team player, or giving a shit about anyone else. Had the original G n' R, (the REAL G n' R) not been so popular, he would have been drummed out of the music biz long ago. His crappy attitude and behavior is the reason what at one time could have been one of the biggest bands of all time, has virtually been erased from rock history.
November 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAce
Aside from the negative stuff about him which I can't dispute, the good thing about Axl is he does exactly what he wants to do. He doesn't sell out. His work is undiluted by record companies and such.He does not compromise and that is the only way a TRUE artist can represent themselves.
November 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMike
I think Axl is a riot. Hilarious. Wouldn't want to know him though. And yes, he is very talented. Awesomely talented. That's my 2 cents.
November 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRita
I think we are trying to justify Axl's talent and creativity with his narcissistic behavior and borderline mental illness. This is difficult, as it is two completely different subjects.

Is Axl incredibly talented? Yes.

Is he immature, temperamental, and occasionally self-destructive? Does he surround himself with sycophants who can/will never tell him when he is being an egotistical jerk? Absolutely.

Put succinctly, I believe that I am a fan who recognizes both personality traits: I admire the talent, and of course 'Appetite' is an absolute classic, but I refuse to put up with the conceited, self-important behavior, so I will never pay $$ to see "Axl & friends" live in concert.
November 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGator
I agree with all the comments regarding Axl being a egotistical maniac. I don't care how big a rockstar you are, you are there because of the fans. When I saw "Axl Rose and Friends", I waited 3.5 hours on a Tuesday night for him to come on after SB was done. That is just unacceptable when people have to work the next day.

@ Rita, nice usage of the word sycophants. Really applies to the people surrounding Axl.
November 26, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterspence

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