Axl’s back with his new act

‘Twas two weeks before Christmas and all over the Bay, there was no excitement until Christmas day. Then along came a weathered icon, dreadlocked and boozin’ and singing old songs from Use Your Illusion.

That’s right, kiddies, Axl Rose is coming to town.

It has been almost a decade since Axl, frontman and founder of Guns N’ Roses, put the band on hiatus by mysteriously retreating into hibernation at the height of the band’s success. Now he has returned with a new tour, a new band lineup and an apparent renewed thirst for musical success. But is he too late?

Guns N’ Roses, the most famous and acclaimed band to emerge from the ’80s hair-metal brethren, burst onto the music scene in 1987 with Appetite For Destruction — an album that many consider to be one of the greatest hard-rock albums ever.

The original lineup — known simply as Axl, Slash, Izzy, Duff and Adler — quickly became not only one of the world’s biggest rock bands, but also the lone ’80s metal band to capitalize on their success with a following and musical style unique enough to allow even vaster stardom in the ’90s.

After the simultaneous release of the rock epics Use Your Illusion I and II, the tensions between the ever-volatile Rose and his longtime bandmates began to crumble. This eventually led to the harsh and public trashing of each other, Axl claiming egotistical supremacy over the band’s likeness and, consequently, the canning of all of the original members.

Aside from a few soundtrack ornaments over the years, Axl’s GNR remained virtually silent, fueling various rumors about his mysterious seclusion–including those questioning his sanity. As the years and ex-GNR alumni solo-albums passed, the curiosity about the Axl enigma only grew.

And then, suddenly, he was back.

Axl had returned in 2001 with a few new tunes, a brand new GNR lineup and the music world awaiting him with open arms. But the lack of any new material or tours, and Axl’s return to seclusion, stomped out much of the anticipatory flames generated by the new GNR.

Then, this year, Axl once again sparked interest in the music industry by announcing the Chinese Democracy World Tour commencing in November — which rolls into the St. Pete Times Forum on Dec. 13.

The new GNR lineup is a buffet of members from other famous bands such as Nine Inch Nails and the Replacements, including a hockey-masked shock-rock guitarist who adorns his head further by wearing a KFC chicken bucket for a hat during performances. This GNR may be either an attempt to replace the original lineup and forge ahead or simply to allow Axl the backing to cash in on rehashed tunes — either scheme may be short-lived, or worse, diminish the imprint GNR has made in music history.

The fact remains, though, that Axl still has the fan base, the talent (which his ex-GNR mates have currently attested to) and he definitely still has the attitude. But the real question is not only whether Axl has the composure to deal with his new bandmates and his own persona, but also if he can reclaim his musical touch well enough to allow the new cast a chance to pick up where the old GNR left off.

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