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All guns blazing

Even by the standards of Axl Rose -- one of the most mercurial singers in the pantheon of rock -- it was a remarkably terse way to end an extraordinary few days of public tirades.

"We come here to play for you but the cops and the promoters wanna f**k us in the ass," was all the Guns N' Roses front man had to say to 80,000 fans in Leeds.

"We would like to play a few more songs for you, but we'll just play one."

After hammering out an encore of their anthemic hit Paradise City to roars of approval from the crowd, Rose couldn't resist a final swipe at the festival organisers.

"Be safe, good night and to all the cops and promoters -- f**k you. This war isn't over."

Judging by this, his appearance at the O2 in Dublin tonight should be anything but dull.

For much of the past two decades, the only remaining founding member of Guns N' Roses has carved out a niche as one of rock's trickiest characters, prone to onstage strops, tardy appearances, bust-ups with band mates and angry four-lettered outbursts.

Sword

Depending on which side of the fence you sit, Rose's perfectionism -- his last album, Chinese Democracy, took 15 years to create -- and unpredictability is either part of his enduring appeal and musical genius, or sums up everything wrong with the current incarnation of a group that was once regarded as one of the world's best live rock bands.

For music promoters, booking Guns N' Roses is a notoriously double-edged sword. On the one hand, you get an act that rarely fails to sell out any stadium you put them in and can still deliver blistering performances -- in Tokyo last year, for instance, the band played their longest set yet, clocking up an astonishing three hours, 37 minutes on stage.

But you also have to deal with the unpredictable storm of controversy and volatility that is Axl Rose.

The band's spat with festival organisers first began on Friday night, when Guns N' Roses appeared an hour late as the headline act for Reading's opening night.

Incensed at being cut off by the festival's curfew, the band initially tried to play without amplification, with Rose announcing through a megaphone that he would not turn up to Leeds on Sunday evening. In the end, they did play. But for the best part of 24 hours, the organisers had no idea whether the headline act for the last night of Leeds would even show up.

The band seemed to get a mixed reaction from fans, with some booing their performance, while others shouted chants that were critical of the organisers. The critics, however, were unanimous in their excoriation of the current Guns N' Roses line-up.

Genius

"There was no charisma, no chemistry and, actually, so little vocal that the rumour of the night was that Axl had drafted in Mickey Rourke as a body double," was one critic's contribution.

Another reviewer at virtualfestivals.com added: "Axl is every inch the Gazza of rock, a sad old figure riding on past glories who leaves you pining for the genius days gone by."

Rose used his Twitter account to demand an apology and, last night, claimed that festival organisers for Leeds reneged on a promise to give them extra time. "Don't know what it is w/us or these last 2 shows," he wrote. "Takes the fun out it 4 everyone fans, band n' crew alike but whatever."

But if Melvin Benn, the chief of Reading and Leeds, was put out by Guns N' Roses' criticism, he wasn't willing to show it publicly. In an interview with the NME, he denied there were any splits between the band and festival organisers.

"I haven't got a grudge against the band," he said. "Why would I have a grudge against the band? They're one of the greatest bands in the world and they're playing one of the greatest festivals in the world."

Mr Benn did admit that it was unlikely the Guns N' Roses front man would want to grace the stage at his festival again.


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