Friday 20 April 2018

Welcome to the Jungle: Axl Rose and Slash in backstage luxury - while we brave the rain

Axl Rose and Slash of Guns N’ Roses in Slane. Picture: Fran Caffrey
Axl Rose and Slash of Guns N’ Roses in Slane. Picture: Fran Caffrey

Donal Lynch at Slane

The biblical downpour that begun the day could not dampen the spirits of the 80,000 revellers who thronged Slane early on Saturday for the much anticipated first leg on Guns N Roses European Tour.

Garda checkpoints caused lengthy tailbacks on the roads into the venue (leading to the inevitable question: if there were terrorists would they really proceed to a checkpoint that had been signposted?).

Guns N' Roses fans at Slane Castle, Slane, Co Meath.
Picture Newsfile | Fran Caffrey
Guns N' Roses fans at Slane Castle, Slane, Co Meath. Picture Newsfile | Fran Caffrey
Guns N' Roses on stage at the concert in Slane Castle, Slane, Co Meath. Picture Newsfile | Fran Caffrey
Guns N' Roses on stage at the concert in Slane Castle, Slane, Co Meath. Picture Newsfile | Fran Caffrey
Guns N' Roses fans at Slane Castle, Slane, Co Meath. Picture Newsfile | Fran Caffrey
Guns N' Roses on stage at the concert in Slane Castle, Slane, Co Meath. Picture Newsfile | Fran Caffrey
Guns N' Roses on stage at Slane Castle, Slane, Co Meath. Picture Newsfile | Fran Caffrey
Guns N' Roses on stage at the concert in Slane Castle, Slane, Co Meath. Picture Newsfile | Fran Caffrey
Guns N' Roses on stage at the concert in Slane Castle, Slane, Co Meath. Picture Newsfile | Fran Caffrey
Guns N' Roses fans make their way to the pit in Slane Castle, Slane, Co Meath. Picture Newsfile | Fran Caffrey
Guns N' Roses takes a picture of at Slane Castle, Slane, Co Meath. Picture Newsfile | Fran Caffrey
Fans in the pit at the Guns N' Roses concert in Slane Castle, Slane, Co Meath. Picture Newsfile | Fran Caffrey
Mary McGeoghan and Polina Duginova Dundalk at the Guns N' Roses concert in Slane Castle, Co Meath. Picture Newsfile | Fran Caffrey
Tamara Conyngham (centre) with friends in the castle courtyard at the Guns N' Roses concert in Slane Castle, Slane, Co Meath. Picture Newsfile | Fran Caffrey
Michelle Ruske and Frances Ruske from Longford at the at the Guns N' Roses concert in Slane Castle, Co Meath. Picture Newsfile | Fran Caffrey
Suzanne Tierney and Collette Byrne Skyrne at the Guns N' Roses concert in Slane Castle, Co Meath. Picture Newsfile | Fran Caffrey
Fans in the pit at the Guns N' Roses concert in Slane Castle, Slane, Co Meath. Picture Newsfile | Fran Caffrey
Dawn Hagan Louise Smith and Claire Bailly from Newtownards at the Guns N' Roses concert in Slane Castle, Co Meath. Picture Newsfile | Fran Caffrey
Nicola Lowey and Exter Barnes from Belfast at the Guns N' Roses concert in Slane Castle, Co Meath. Picture Newsfile | Fran Caffrey
Shauna Moran, Sharon Tyndal from Dublin and Caoimhe Tyndal from Swords at the Guns N' Roses concert in Slane Castle, Co Meath. Picture Newsfile | Fran Caffrey
Elouise Kennedy Anita McDonnell from Wexford at the Guns N' Roses gig at Slane Castle, Slane, Co Meath. Picture Newsfile | Fran Caffrey
Otherkin on stage at the Guns N' Roses concert in Slane Castle, Co Meath. Picture Newsfile | Fran Caffrey
Otherkin on stage at the Guns N' Roses concert in Slane Castle, Co Meath. Picture Newsfile | Fran Caffrey
Otherkin on stage at the Guns N' Roses concert in Slane Castle, Co Meath. Picture Newsfile | Fran Caffrey
Blood Royal on stage at the Guns N' Roses gig at Slane Castle, Slane, Co Meath. Picture Newsfile | Fran Caffrey
A new bottle of Slane Whiskey makes it for the Guns N' Roses gig at Slane Castle, Slane, Co Meath. Picture Newsfile | Fran Caffrey
Royal Blood on stage at the Guns N' Roses concert in Slane Castle, Slane, Co Meath. Picture Newsfile | Fran Caffrey
Fans in the pit at the Guns N' Roses concert in Slane Castle, Slane, Co Meath. Picture Newsfile | Fran Caffrey
Royal Blood on stage at the Guns N' Roses gig at Slane Castle, Slane, Co Meath. Picture Newsfile | Fran Caffrey
Royal Blood on stage at the at the Guns N' Roses gig at Slane Castle, Slane, Co Meath. Picture Newsfile | Fran Caffrey
Royal Blood on stage at the Guns N' Roses concert in Slane Castle, Slane, Co Meath. Picture Newsfile | Fran Caffrey

The post Manchester paranoia was apparent in the nearby village of Slane with bag checks even in operation at one pub entrance.

At the venue itself security was tight with 400 extra Gardai making themselves visible. Inside more stewards scanned wristbands - an effort, apparently, to get a handle on numbers attending concession tents rather than a security measure.

Locals had been treated to a raucous and lengthy soundcheck on Friday and a member of the band’s entourage had tweeted a picture of the gym which they were enjoying backstage. As with most events at Slane the comfort of the act was in inverse proportion to the comfort of the fans and media, who had to file copy lying on wet mats.

Perhaps fans were concerned that Axl Rose would be another no show - as he was in Dublin in 2010. The buzz around the concert was very much driven by nostalgia and the tales of the band’s epic 1992 show at Slane when they were at the peak of their popularity and Use Your Illusions 1 and 2 were still riding high in the charts.

A quarter of a century on and there is no getting away from the impression that the sometime sound track to youthful rebellion has become mom rock. A huge continent of middle aged women roar out the hits on the long walk to the venue (mixed in with the Proclaimers’ I Would Walk 500 Miles) and inside the tents their is glee at how close this comes to the drinking in fields of our youth.

There is perhaps some relief that the crowd has reached the age of sense. No chance of a repeat of the the incident known to one and all as Slane Girl. And on Twitter a warning from a councillor that filming people who are too inebriated to know what’s going in is not cool.

Dawn Hagan, Louise Smith and Claire Bailly from Newtownards at the Guns ‘N’ Roses concert at Slane. Photo: Fran Caffrey
Dawn Hagan, Louise Smith and Claire Bailly from Newtownards at the Guns ‘N’ Roses concert at Slane. Photo: Fran Caffrey

As the afternoon wears on the poncho clad hordes drink their overpriced beer and wonder if it was wise, or too sensible by far, to leave so early, as we were urged in the press.

There is a rumour that Axl has put his wild ways behind him and now shows up early. Perhaps the fans are not the only ones who’ve become middle aged.

It took a few numbers for the still damp crowd to get going (only at Slane could sunburn chafe on wellies) but by the time they launched into snarling, stomping renditions of You Could Be Mine and Live and Let Die the pit had well and truly woken.

Axl might now look slightly like a trailer park meth mom but his distinctive rasp hasn’t aged a day and he had more costume changes than Madonna.

Slash’s epically baroque guitar solos were the force of nature everyone came to see, not least on an affecting version of Black Hole Sun by fellow rock icons Soundgarden, whose lead singer Chris Cornell died two weeks ago.

There might have been slightly too much filler and not enough audience interaction in the three-hour set, but the fans (including Westlife stars Kian Egan and Shane Filan) didn’t seem to mind.

The band didn’t play Don’t Cry — but, as always with Slane, that’s what everyone tried to tell themselves as they made the torturous journey home.

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