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London, Hammersmith Apollo, 7 June 2006

This was supposedly a warm up for the weekend headline date at Donnington, but also a chance for GNR to play the legendary Hammermith Apollo, formely Odeon.

Having completed three dates in New York, this would also be the smallest venue the band has played for some time. As resident rock fans are aware, the UK does not treat anyone with automatic respect, regardless of their past or pedigree. Hence, a sold out Apollo were not slow in booing between interval songs when 1030 arrived and the band still hadn't appeared.

But five minutes later they did and what followed was around two and a half hour's of pure brilliance. The focus of the set remained with Appetite era songs with the the album performed in its entirety bar three numbers.

Only four songs were played from the Illusion set, Patience from 'Lies' and four new songs. Pyrotechnics were aplenty throughout and the stage set looked as though what had been brought over for Donnington had been shoe-horned into Hammers mith.

It was the most visually impressive and bombastic concert Hammersmith has seen for a long time. I had no criticism of the bad at all, apart from a fluffed first guitar solo in November rain. And although the (now 3) guitarists are also joined by two keyboard players, they were very low in the mix, only really coming through on the new songs.

Axl's performance was spot on with surprisingly strong vocals and a abundance of energy. Guitarist Robin Finck also has no problem moving around the stage (including jumping from it into the pit) although the remaionder of the band are more static.

If criticism is to be made, it is that between songs the band tend to adopt low key jamming sessions which Axl will either join in on, use to introduce the next number or just abort. These had the effect of slowing down the pace and whilst it was fine in the relatively small confines of Hammersmith, might well be less welcome at larger venues.

But this is a minor quirk and equally applied to the original line up who were also not always quick at getting into the next song. The songs themselves had energy that at least rivalled the original band.

All in all, GNR delivered on all counts and the gig was one of the best I have seen at Hammersmith for many years. Whether the band capitalise on that remains to be seen, but after a performance this strong they are well placed to.


Review by Andy Hanson

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