This year’s edition of SEE-ROCK festival in Austria, on Schwarzlsee near Graz, offered to its visitors the ultimate rock refreshment in the form of the legendary Guns N’Roses, along with bands with an equally cult status (The Cult) or offering rafined Finnish metal (Sonata Arctica), so we gladly traveled to ‘neighbouring’ Austria to get a portion of the best r’n'r before the Guns show in Split and still vividly remembering their spectacle in Arena two years ago.
The organizers obviously wanted to please fans of almost every subgenre of rock with the line-up, so miscellaneous bands exchanged the stage in just a few hours. At exactly 16:20 the ‘hosts’, Austrian Alkbottle took the stage, positioned with its music expression somewhere between Hladno Pivo and Rammstein, with rhythm machine that is somewhat not suited for it and a lyrical spectrum from „Geh’ scheissen“ to „Fotze“ – but even this, a bit surprising, mixture brought hardcore fans here and entertained the audience that arrived up to that point and cooled down with hectoliters of sponsor beer, awaiting the main act of the evening. When the voices of Finnish roadies started sounding off from the stage, we immediately felt at home – Finland, as the true homeland of metal, sent its emissaries to See-Rock in the form of Sonata Arctica, which showed that without it, the festival would definitely miss that „certain something“. Promoting the new album „Stones Grow Her Name“, singer Tony Kakko, along with the rest of the band, showed his longstanding virtuousity of owning the stage and with unobtrusive nature gained liking of those who were able to enjoy the music of these respectable Finnish metallers for the first time. Harmonious Sonata set lasted for about 50 minutes, after which they gave the stage over to the famous Brazilian-American hardheads Soulfly. Still continuing ‘the message’ of Sepultura with his heavy sound and ritualistic invocations, Max Cavalera, and I have to admit that, has built a recognizable audio-visual image of the band and, as years before, still manages to get under the audience’s skin by appealing to its subconscious mind, while at the same time drawing out primal urges from it – soon a mass was created in several places in fan pit and behind it, wanting to uncontrollably jump and scream – I guess it’s necessary to blow out some steam every now and then. On „Revengeance“, track from the new album „Enslaved“, Max was joined on stage by Igor and Ritchie Cavalera, proving that heavy metal ecstasy exists in the entire Cavalera family, and the audience wasn’t short of some classic Sepultura songs either.
As the changes on stage were happening, the weather decided to follow suit – in just a couple of hours rain and unbearable heat switched places, but the organizers showed themselves ready to answer to any erratic force of nature – free raincoats were available to the visitors, as well as refreshments (sadly, not free) on each corner between the entrance and stage. What surprised us positively was the laid-back atmosphere of the festival and audience which only in certain moments decided to act wildly to famous tunes – unlike concerts f.e. in Italy, and even back home, where you have to be mentally and physically prepared for a fight for life and possible rib fractions during rock and metal performances.
If the first three bands haven’t asked for a greater audience dedication, such visitors’ mood still left an expression of incompleteness at The Cult appeared on stage in the warm evening, which the singer Ian Astbury noticed too, so he tried to animate the audience with his German pronunciation and funny quips. A real audience-band connection still didn’t happen, which is a shame, since The Cult really showed worthy of their high status with this performance – an elegant look in black, obviously inspired by the recently released „Choice of Weapon“ and Ian in one of his best editions so far would not leave a single Cult fan dissapointed. The setlist contained a balanced ratio of classic songs and new tunes, so the sounds of „She Sells Sanctuary“, „Rain“, as well as the first single „Lucifer“, „For The Animals“ and „The Wolf“ went across Schwarzlsee. The audience atoned at the end and suitably greeted the British band with a big applause. However, if it was ever clear why all of us gathered here in the first place, it was then – Guns are simply one step (or a hundred) above all else, able to attract large rock masses with their unequivocal music and experience, even after 20-something years.
On the other hand, everyone who thought that this band will follow its forerunners with a punctual coming to the stage, were wrong in about one hour – Guns appeared in full shine at about 22:40 and wiped out all frustrations about waiting in a second – „Chinese Democracy“ opened a two and a half hours show and set Schwarzlsee on fire with a mix of pyrotechnics and stunning backdrop visuals. Guns are finally here! If someone wasn’t completely aware what was going on, the second song on the setlist, „Welcome To The Jungle“, cleared up any suspicions as one of the cornerstones of each of their shows, and Axl Rose really put some work into it and simply charmed everyone, not only with his presence and huge amount of charisma, but with the dedication to the performance as well. No ego or some empty elevation of oneself – Rose made sure to present each member individually and show that they are one group, whose harmony could be felt for kilometers. All initial turbulences after the long waiting for the new album and breaking-in of the crew are long gone – this is Guns N’Roses now and any alternative stories are absolutely unnecessary. „Estranged“, „Live And Let Die“, „Shackler’s Revenge“, spiced with solos by Dizzy, DJ Ashba, charming „Glad To Be Here“ by Bumblefoot, an homage to Cult with whom their path has been crossed for decades with a few accords from „Rain“, all that and more was a feast for eyes, ears and heart which is surely still pounding to the rhythm of Ferrer’s drums, not willing to part with the phenomenal last night. „Sweet Child O’ Mine“ opened a mini set where the audience followed a smiling Axl verse by verse, continued with his piano solo with a snippet of Floyd’s „Another Brick In The Wall“. And then a stone in the throat with the first sounds of the mythical „November Rain“ and the world could have come to its end right then and there. „Don’t Cry“ with a really amazing performance, after which a 10 minute long „Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door“ followed, and „Nightrain“, announcing the show’s ending. Encore was marked by the beautiful performance of „Patience“, even though it’s hard to accentuate any song in such a phantastic set, and the real ending was, of course, „Paradise City“, giving the core of Guns and a feel of the old times in a new spectacular attire, with the band’s bow, fireworks and sky in the explosion of lights and red confetti.
While we exited the concert space, ourselves smiling and delighted as Axl and the other seven were, followed by Sinatra’s „My Way“, a unique feeling of true, undistilled love to rock did not leave us – which is exactly what this band gave us in their full glory.
These are the Guns that have to be experienced!
Report: Ilhana Škrgić
Photo: Ivana Sataić