Last Thursday, former Guns n’ Roses drummer Steven Adler brought a band of ring-ins to Auckland to play (most of) Appetite for Destruction and have a chat with his mum. Bronwyn Bent was there.
It seems old-fashioned now to even consider whether someone is a sellout. Especially as to make a career as a musician these days you need to monetise the crap out of everything you can, because your recordings probably don’t make you shit. Original Guns n’ Roses drummer Steven Adler might not have this problem, given he was credited as a writer and gets a share of royalties from an album, Appetite for Destruction, that has sold 30 million copies. However, it’s clear he is still on the hustle: last week’s gig was both a run through of that album and a book tour Q&A for his mother Deanna’s recently released book, Sweet Child of Mine: How I Lost My Son to Guns N’ Roses.
There were also special meet and greet packages at $100 a pop, and at the end of the Q&A Steven told us not to forget to go to his website where you can buy some limited edition laser art inspired by various songs. This slightly graceless combo of naked commerce and rock n’ roll ran through the evening; the singer’s stage banter included a pretty awkward entreaty for someone to give him a blow job, a comment on someone’s breasts, and reminders about Deanna’s book.
There are only a few drummers that manage to reach into wider public consciousness: Ringo Starr, Jon Bonham, Dave Grohl, Meg White, Keith Moon, Charlie Watts. Not all were technically great drummers, but all possessed some other quality that makes them intriguing. In Adler’s case, being ejected from the self-styled “most dangerous band in the world” due to excessive drug use immediately labelled him the baddest of bad boys. The mundane truth is that along with the days of rock n’ roll excess (like the well-worn story he tells Q&A host Bryce Casey of not remembering being there the time some giant stage props fell on Metallica), most of Adler’s time was spent pissing off his family and friends by being a drug-addicted pain in the arse.
It’s this that Deanna Adler’s book documents, and whilst she didn’t get too much of an opportunity to talk about this in the Q&A, due to a combination of a talkative son and a crowd that just wants the band, it’s clear that any bad feeling between mother and son has largely dissipated. Guess we’ll just have to buy the book to find out more.
The band Adler performs with, Adler’s Appetite, is made up some undeniably good musicians who stomp through most of Appetite for Destruction. ‘Rocket Queen’, ‘You Could Be Mine’ (a welcome inclusion from Use Your Illusion) and ‘Night Train’ are particular bangers, and here’s a triumphant rendition of ‘Civil War’, which it’s hard not to think Adler has included as a giant up-yours to his former bandmates, having been fired after Use Your Illusion producer Mike Clink allegedly had to cut together multiple takes of the drum track because a drug-addled Adler couldn’t manage a complete run-through. There’s no hesitation from Adler tonight, and the focus on him as the star of the band means that, unlike most gigs, the rhythm section is the feature of the night. It’s also a clear reminder that his loose, slightly swingy style was a really integral part of the early Guns n’ Roses sound, which changed significantly after he and rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin left.
Thankfully no one tried too hard to “be” the other members of the group, although singer Constantine Maroulis betrays his musical theatre and American Idol background by playing the part of “sexy frontman” who spends lots of time finger gunning and leering at women. When he dropped the act to sincerely state “this record changed my life and I know it changed yours too,” it was a reminder of why people would still venture out 30 years after its release to see one-fifth of the original band perform.
Throughout, Adler looked delighted to be on stage – grinning, posing with one leg up on his stool after songs, getting his photographer to take a photo of him in front of the crowd, and drinking in the general adoration. He seemed to be so genuinely and generously enjoying the whole night it was easy to forgive the inelegant appeals to buy things. Deanna Adler promised that her son will deliver “a hell of a show” and she wasn’t far off. They finished off with ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ and ‘Paradise City’, of course, and not long after a long line at the merch stand started to build. Let’s hope someone bought some of his laser art.
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