An email arrived in the Gawker inbox from a reader named John H. who was deeply concerned — disturbed, even — by what's become of Axl Rose, the puzzling and frustrating lead singer of Guns N' Roses, the band most Americans between 30 and 45 still consider rock's greatest tragedy due to their unwillingness to reunite properly. John, thankfully, appears to have been less than engaged with G N 'R's many trials and transmutations after the Use Your Illusion albums (circa 1991), so he's in the darkest corner of a darkened room when it comes to W. Axl Rose:
What ever happened to Axl Rose ... I was such a huge fan of him for some reason in the 90's I guess because he put so much into his music and singing.
I guess karma is a bitch.. because on Saturday October 20 he gave this performance live at the Bridge School.... (The benefactor of Neil Young's annual benefit concerts. The school helps physically challenged children overcome their impairments via the use of technology. )
This performance left me speechless and realizing why he no longer performs.. ( or does and people just don't go LOL... )
Sad... sad sad.... I guess the next stop for AXL is the 2 am infomercial circuit .. music of the 90s collections... ugggg that is if he can stay standing long enough
So, yeah, John's obviously not been a subscriber to any major rock magazines for quite some time and appears to have missed the whole Chinese Democracy saga (which is going to be five years old very soon, for Christ's sake) but instead of using this post to engage in another lamentation about prodigal Axl Rose and all he's done to purge our vivid memories of the dirty LA rock godliness we've ascribed to his role in America's greatest living-dead rock band let me say that, John, man, you know, this Guns N' Roses performance was not that bad. Because, John, you see, the Axl performing in that clip above with [insert nasty insult about plastic surgery joke] and [insert nasty insult about weight bloat] appears to be trying to entertain people, still, as he earnestly yigggyyigggyiggy-yows and cat mewls his way through those songs that people remember the most even though you know damn well that Axl's got some new material that he believes is 100 times more extraordinary than anything found on Appetite for Destruction. Maybe next time Axl will shock the world and rock the devils loose from those who still care, but on this night Paradise City Will Be Welcomed to the Jungle, Oh, Sweet Child of Patience. Acoustically, of course, and with a weird hillbilly washboard stomp sometimes, but I'd like to imagine most of those in attendance were happy he showed up to play the hits for 30 minutes if only to remind everyone that those songs are still great but they will never, ever be performed with the same coked-up desperate anger as those beautiful Sunset Strip kid junkies used to do it almost 30 years ago. So, John, if you're looking for the best rendition of Sweet Child O' Mine closer to this decade I recommend this one, done for comedic effect in the movie Stepbrothers. That's where we are.
Anyway: it sucks, John, it does but, dude, Axl is 50 and that skinny boy from Indiana can no longer be summoned to slinky-snake across the stage because hip dysplasia is real and so is the hurt you feel when those fans in the front row sometimes stifle laughter if you move too much on stage. Honestly, just read John Jeremiah Sullivan's magnanimous slinky-snake tribute and some, maybe all, of your questions about Axl's whereabouts will be answered. But whatever you do don't buy Chinese Democracy to rid yourself of your sadness and confusion about Axl Rose. Unless, of course, you interpret it as "Axl! The Musical: A Rock Opera That Begins Just After He Jumped Off the Aircraft Carrier in the Estranged Video Up Until the Time he Met Moby" because that's my addled conclusion after several close listens to it during long car rides. Yours may be different than mine, sure, but it's better to just ignore it altogether and trick yourself into thinking the real Chinese Democracy is being held hostage by a jilted record executive until Axl has a cordial 20-second phone conversation with Slash to begin plans for an extravagant tour so they can all make gazillions of dollars and finally put that bitch to bed without regret. If anything, they should do it for Steven Adler who would probably go a gazillion dollars into debt and endure several more strokes to reanimate his Guns N' Roses life for one more night but dreams like that don't come true for guys like Steven Adler.
John, let's end this soon but I want you to revisit those Bridge School performances again and close your eyes and your ears or else you'll continue to be concerned for Axl's station in life because you feel karma has cursed him with irrelevance. But life isn't that magical, John, and rock stars — especially the ones who appear the most impervious to tarnish — tend to grow old faster than we do. Sometimes it's best we just let that happen and accept the fact that it won't matter if Axl is singing alongside guitar players wearing top hats or chicken buckets on their heads, he's still just a ghost like the rest of us.