This week, Guns N’ Roses will wrap up the 2017 leg of their Not in This Lifetime world tour with a hometown show at the Forum in Los Angeles. The tour resumes in June with a six-week run of festivals and stadiums in Europe, but their plans beyond that are unclear. By the final date of the 2018 European leg they will have been on the road for two years and three months, hitting just about every territory imaginable – from Las Vegas to Osaka, Dubai and Tel Aviv. They managed to do it without talking to any major U.S. press outlet, showing any sign of tension between band members, taking the stage late or igniting even a single riot. But where do they go from here? Here are some scenarios.
Keep the Tour Going Indefinitely
The global audience willing to pony up big bucks to watch Axl, Slash and Duff play the classics is clearly enormous. During the past two years fans coughed up about half a billion dollars and there’s certainly plenty more where that came from. If GN’R are so inclined, there’s no reason they couldn’t do this for at least another three or four years. Sure, they may no longer be able to do multiple nights at football stadiums, but that doesn’t mean they can’t make huge money playing arenas and festivals. So far, they’ve only played arenas in the biggest U.S. markets. The country is full of smaller arenas in places like Roanoke, Virginia; Dayton, Ohio; and Bangor, Maine. Guns N’ Roses can sell out every one of them and bathe in money each and every night. There’s also festivals like Rocklahoma and Rock on the Range that would love to have them. This is basically the REO Speedwagon scenario where the tour never, ever ends.
Go to Las Vegas
The previous version of Guns N’ roses sputtered to its final gig at the Hard Rock Las Vegas where they played a long residency. With Slash back in the fold, they could take over for Elton John or Celine Dion at the much larger Colosseum at Caesar’s Palace. They could basically set up shop there until the end of time, never change the set list once and sell every ticket every night. Such a move would have seemed absolutely impossible back in 1988, but we live in a weird future where anything is possible. And if the Who are reportedly about to do it, why not Guns N’ Roses?
Record a New Album
This may seem like a far-out idea, but most bands do this crazy thing where they write new songs, record these songs and then play them on tour. Guns N’ Roses have had a hard time doing that ever since Slash and Duff left the band. There’s only been one GN’R record in the past 26 years, and creating it was just about the most laborious/expensive process in rock history. There’s not even a tiny hint that Axl is contemplating cutting new music with Slash and Duff. Playing old songs for adoring fans heaving money onto you is one thing, but the tough work and endless compromise it takes to craft new ones is probably too much for these guys at this point. But if they do ever pull it off, they could simply become a normal band again that releases new albums and takes them on the road.
Truly Reunite the Old Band
The Not in This Lifetime tour has been touted as a Guns N’ Roses reunion, but that’s really not the case. Duff McKagan played a bunch of gigs with the group in 2014 when Tommy Stinson had to step aside for the short-lived Replacements reunion, so this tour was basically just Slash taking the place of guitarists Bumblefoot and DJ Ashba. (And, yes, keyboardist Melissa Reese took the place of Chris Pitman.) Founding rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin never stepped foot near the stage and drummer Steven Adler was only allowed behind the kit on a handful of very, very brief occasions. If they want to get the old fans excited by the same songs yet again, the best move is to bring back Izzy and Adler.
Get Creative With the Set Lists
GN’R have largely stuck to the same basic set list ever since they reunited, though they have added in a few covers to honor departed rock stars and every once in a while they sprinkle in some new Chinese Democracy songs. If they want to keep touring without anything new, they should consider really mixing things up. The most obvious move is to play their albums. An Appetite for Destruction show would be the obvious money-maker, but imagine a multi-night stand where they played both Use Your Illusion albums. (Actually, with songs like “Get in the Ring,” that is a little hard to imagine.) Chinese Democracy night might not be a huge hit with the public, even though Slash has added wonderful bits to songs like “Better” and “Prostitute,” and seeing him tackle all of it would be fascinating. A complete Lies means they’d have to do “One in a Million,” and that’s not happening for obvious reasons. OK, maybe this isn’t the best plan. But there’s no reason they can’t do Appetite for Destruction in sequence.
Call It Quits
Nobody wants to see this happen, but it’s not like Slash, Axl and Duff will be strapped for cash when this tour ends. If they leave now, they really go out on top. What are they going to realistically do at this point beyond continue flogging these songs to death? Axl has gotten his voice into pretty good shape on this tour, but he’s just a little over four years away from hitting 60. Perhaps they’ve always seen this as a swan song.
Go Back to the Pre-Reunion Groupings
Axl and Slash seem pretty copacetic onstage and were even filmed briefly chatting offstage at one point, but who knows what things are like truly behind the scenes? Once Axl fulfills his reunion tour commitments he might pull a Mike Love and go back to the fake GN’R. After all, he owns the name rights and can do whatever he wants. Any group of randos he throws onto a stage instantly becomes Guns N’ Roses. They’d be back to playing B-list festivals and large club gigs, but maybe he’d prefer that to putting up with Slash each and every night. Then Slash can get back with Myles Kennedy and it’ll be like all of this never happened. That’s a little hard to imagine, though. Now that the public has seen Axl and Slash back together and proved how much they’ll pay for it, they’ll have a hard time accepting any other version of the band. Whether or not they like it, Axl and Slash are now probably stuck with each other forever.