Traffic and organisational difficulties mar stellar performance
There's rock 'n' roll, and then there's just stupid. The 5km walk to last night's Guns N' Roses gig just about qualified as the former; the four-hour taxi queue after it concretely didn't. That, somehow, our memories of the night today are of the positive variety are entirely down to what happened on the stage and entirely not to all the nonsense around it. Yes, this was an almighty shambles, but boy do Axl, Slash, Duff and the other ones whose names no-one can ever remember still have it.
At various points in the show fireworks shot up from behind the stage, but they were essentially superfluous. The real magic was right there on it. For more than two hours Guns N' Roses nailed hit after hit, interspersed with various freewheeling cover-jams that took in everything from The Rolling Stones to Eric Clapton. Being in the crowd as the band transitioned from a note-perfect riff on the iconic Layla piano refrain (so perfectly used, of course, by Martin Scorsese in the GoodFellas montage) into November Rain was, simply, magical. Beautiful, even. And when Slash segued from one of the single most astonishing guitar solos we have ever seen into the opening chords of Sweet Child o' Mine you could have probably heard the crowd reaction from space.
Was it worth all the grief on the night? On balance, absolutely yes. But it was also seriously beyond ridiculous. That 5km trek, as it happens, was daft but actually quite fun, imbued with a lovely Blitz spirit as hundreds of fans marched together determinedly for a late date with their rock kings and the stationary cars alongside them cranked up Appetite for Destruction on their CD players as some sort of lyrical amuse bouche.
It was when we arrived at the venue that collective hearts dropped. Having walked for an hour, that crowd was then greeted by a chaotic, winding, looping line and just a handful of increasingly out of their depth security folk. The scenes were confused and laughable and resulted in a mini riot when the back of the line embarked on a joint queue-barge that saw everyone surge for the entrance at once. It was a moment of delicious anarchy - a bunch of schoolmums and dads in GNR T-shirts that didn't fit them half as well as they used to sticking it to the Man with gusto.
There were, sadly, decidedly no redeeming features to that farcical four-hour taxi queue at the end. It marked a dreadful finale for a night that deserved so much more. Having themselves been stuck in that traffic, the band had - as Axl detailed on stage - driven through the desert to get there in time, despite getting stuck in the sand en route. And they treated their fans to an epic, passionate, technically perfect set so good that it easily measured up to the ones from their big-haired pomp and prime.
All the talk today will no doubt be of the (lack of) organisation on the night - and deservedly so. But with belting performances of everything from Patience to Knocking on Heaven's Door to a barnstorming Welcome to the Jungle and a euphoric, glorious, climactic Paradise City, the more permanent truth is this: last night Guns N' Roses hit the UAE, and they owned it. And nothing should ever take away from that. Best band ever? Yeah, they still got it.