How I blagged my way upfront at Guns N' Roses - without a ticket
Eva Hall flew all the way to Vegas to see her favourite band live, only to realise she had no ticket. But she wasn't going to let that stop her ...
At the start of this year, the two things I wanted most in the world, (apart from world peace obvs) were to see David Bowie perform live, and for the original Guns N' Roses line-up to reunite. Sadly, David Bowie passed away in January, and after 23 years of friction, it wasn't looking likely that Axl Rose and Slash would kiss and make up in my lifetime.
And then in February, in a move more shocking than Axl Rose's gut and corn rows combo from 2002, the unthinkable happened, and it was announced that Guns N' Roses - Axl, Slash, and original bass player Duff McKagan - would indeed reunite for a reunion gig in Vegas ahead of their headline slot at Coachella in April. Even original guitarist Izzy Stradlin and drummer Steven Adler were tipped to make an appearance at the aptly named 'Not in This Lifetime Tour'. I immediately set the wheels in motion.
Now, being the youngest of seven meant I never had much chance of finding things out for myself; my brother couldn't wait to tell me the truth about Santa, my sister ruined the pivotal moment of Star Wars before I got to The Empire Strikes Back. But finding Guns N' Roses was a discovery I made all on my own, albeit through a detour of Sheryl Crow. Watching MTV one day, Sheryl Crow's version of Sweet Child O' Mine was on. Thinking it was the best damn song I ever did hear, I started singing it all around the house. It was 1999, and I was nine-years-old.
My sister, six years my senior, asked how I knew all the lyrics. She then explained it was in fact a Guns N' Roses song, and not a Sheryl Crow original, and there ended my Crow fandom.
Bands came and went; that same year I got dragged to my first concert by another sister - it was Boyzone. It was around the same time she bought me Blue's album (All Rise being a particular favourite). But I was always indie and rock at heart, and my love for Guns N' Roses only grew when I could afford my own CDs.
I thought no one would ever be as cool as Slash (I was right), no one could ever be as good looking as Axl (90s Axl anyway) and I'd die trying to replicate Duff's wardrobe (still at it).
Of course, by this stage, GnR in their original form were long gone, and Axl's new line-up of a bunch of unheard-ofs were working on Chinese Democracy for about 10 years and Slash and Axl hadn't spoken in 15 years.
But then 2016 happened. Maybe it was an unpaid tax bill, maybe they found drugs again. Who knows? Who really cares? Because GnFnR are back together.
I flew to Vegas with my sister, and we practised our snake hips, wondering whether Axl had lost weight since the last time we saw him perform a breathy Welcome to the Jungle. We were beyond excited. Not even receiving the news just hours before the gig that Axl had broken his foot could put a dampener on things. And then, the worst thing of all happened.
Our tickets fell through at the last minute.
With touts selling them online for the guts of $1,000, we knew we'd have to pull some Detroit Rock City moves out of the bag to get in. We hadn't flown 13 hours, travelled 5,000 miles, and made our mother hand-sew patches onto a cut-off denim waistcoat to give up at the last hurdle.
We arrived at the arena on gig night with nothing but brass necks. "We're on the list," I said. "What list?" a girl with a scanner asked. "The guest list, we've to collect wristbands here," I replied. We couldn't have looked more unprofessional - me with my Hulk Hogan-style bandana, flannel shirt and skinny jeans so tight they looked like they were painted on. My partner in crime wasn't helping with her waistcoat and more eyeliner than Alice Cooper.
A security guard caught my eye. "Hey, do you know where we get our passes?" The look in his eyes told me he didn't, but he went with it anyway. "Go to Section A and see if they're there?"
So we moonwalked backwards away from the scanners and muttered something about section A until we were out of sight.
We were past the first hurdle - getting in the door.
As we followed the darkness to the main area, we dodged security guards at every turn. And before we knew it, we were listening to support act Alice in Chains.
Our next obstacle was to figure out the floor plan - the ground floor was part pit, part seating, and being a sold-out show, we couldn't take someone's seats. We needed to get into the pit.
Moved from pillar to post over the next hour by four different security guards, the panic-induced sweat was dripping down my bandana. We needed the lights to go down, but this being a GnR gig, Axl wouldn't take to the stage until at least midnight, which meant another two hours of security dodging.
Eventually one asked: "Have you got tickets?" When I pointed one way to our fictional seats, and my sister pointed another, the jig was up. As luck would have it, this particular security guard was Irish American (of course he was) and wanted to chat to pass the time.
So we feigned interest when he talked about Conor McGregor, we pretended we weren't insulted when he didn't know the difference between Dublin and Belfast, and eventually mustered up the courage to casually say: 'So, are we getting in the pit?'.
We watched as girls with valid tickets were refused entry to the standing area, and, as the clock approached midnight, I had little faith in our new friend getting us beyond the barrier.
Then, just seconds before the lights went down, the Irish American ushered us up the front and past two burly men in black suits.
We were in.
Not only were we in, but we were within touching distance of the stage. And at 11.57, Axl Rose was wheeled on stage in what looked like a scene from Mad Max. The 54-year-old had broken his left foot during a warm-up gig at the Troubadour in LA.
"Do you like my furniture?" asked Axl as he settled into the chair he'd borrowed from Foo Fighter's Dave Grohl - who performed in it when he broke his leg - propping his cast into a stirrup. "A friend brought this," he added, before launching into It's So Easy, with Duff on his right, and Slash on his left for the first time since 1993.
The throne turned out to be a blessing in disguise, for without his usual on-stage antics, Axl was only able to concentrate on his piercing vocals that made me weep the first time I heard November Rain in full.
The original trio blasted out the hits from debut album Appetite for Destruction, and interacted together briefly for a rendition of Eric Clapton's Layla, with Axl on piano, running seamlessly into November Rain.
Two-and-a-half hours later, in a daze of bewilderment, as we walked out of the arena, with Brandon Jenner (Caitlyn's son) and Eli Roth to the right, I pondered "Should we ask about an after party?"
"We've to be on a plane in three hours" my sister reminded me.
It's probably too soon, at the age of 25, to say I've had the best night of my life. Best night so far? Sure. Best night I will ever have? If I'm honest, probably.
Not bad for a couple of girls without a ticket.