Guns N’ Roses is not dangerous the way it once was — its show at a packed TD Garden on Sunday started right around 7:30 p.m., and the sweaty, generous performance fell well within the boundaries of big-ticket arena rock. No curfews were broken, no fines were incurred.
But in its current guise, Guns N’ Roses is dangerously good. Killer, even. And this rambling, three-hours-plus party exploded right on schedule as a series of well-placed thunderclaps. Even stuffed with catalog cuts and unexpected covers in addition to the hits, the show felt urgent. It left room in the early going for a spaciously expanded guitar solo by Slash in “Double Talkin’ Jive” and, an hour or more later, piloted “My Michelle” and “Sweet Child O’Mine” to safety like screaming, supersonic jets landing on a short runway.
The big news on the “Not In This Lifetime Tour” — in the best tradition of The Eagles, it’s named ironically for a now-obsolete declaration that no such reunion would ever happen — is the presence of Slash and bassist Duff McKagan, who both rejoined the band last year after suffering seemingly permanent rifts with frontman Axl Rose in the 1990s. Keyboard player Dizzy Reed has remained a fixture, alongside Rose, since 1990. The current, seven-member lineup sounds sharp and free of bloat.
Guitarist Izzy Stradlin and drummer Steven Adler remain absent, but while purists can gripe all they wish, this is no longer the “Axl Rose and Friends Play Guns N’ Roses” show. In fact, if you came away from this show feeling like it was Slash’s band, it would be hard to argue with you.
Looking fully committed and in fine voice, Rose ran around the stage and performed his familiar, hip-shaking dance moves. But Slash was the center of gravity, drawing all eyes as he tore through solos packed with 16th notes, sometimes interjecting a bit of rock ’n’ roll heart into these fleet-fingered displays of technical proficiency.
Elements of mid-’70s glam rock, Led Zeppelin worship, and heavy metal fused into the better-left-forgotten idiom of 1980s-era hair metal, yet Guns N’ Roses has always transcended the cheesy company from which it emerged. Indeed, this show was in part a thesis statement positioning the band squarely in the tradition of classic rock. It’s a version of rock history in which punk never happened and Nirvana has yet to break, but still.
A mid-set Slash centerpiece segued into a few ripping choruses of “Johnny B. Goode,” and sometimes he nearly duck-walked around the stage like Chuck Berry. An instrumental cover of “Wish You Were Here” was a soulful highlight, and the piano coda to “Layla” proved a fitting prelude to “November Rain.”
Who knows how long this reunion will last? But while this band seeks to burnish its legacy, the result is some superb rock and roll. Get it while it’s hot.
GUNS N’ ROSES
At TD Garden, SundayJeremy D. Goodwin can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremydgoodwin.