Concert Review: Guns N’ Roses / Dirty Honey @ SPAC, 09/01/2023

The heart of the 1980s pulsated through SPAC last night as over 20,000 rock enthusiasts, primarily clad in black tees, blue jeans, and more bandanas than I’ve seen in a couple of decades, gathered in the summer evening, harking back to days of youth and wild abandon. For many 40 or 50-somethings in attendance, it was a night to pretend they were teenagers again and bask in the glorious aura of rock’s golden era.

Photo by Jim Gilbert

While the main attraction of the evening was the legendary Guns N’ Roses, it was Dirty Honey, the opening act, that proved to be the unexpected highlight. Opening while daylight still lingered, Dirty Honey took control of the stage and quite possibly the entire evening. Their performance was a burning reminder that the spirit of rock and roll is still very much alive. For Nippertown readers, the spectacle of seeing Niskayuna’s own Marc LaBelle lead the band was a treat unto itself. The hometown crowd radiated sheer pride, and rightly so. LaBelle and his crew delivered a tight, electrifying 45-minute set that boasted wailing guitar solos, an anchoring bass, and the thunder of drums.

Though Dirty Honey’s musical style pays tribute to the 80s hair bands, they’ve cultivated a distinct voice that firmly places them in contemporary rock circuits.

The night’s zenith in terms of anticipation, however, was when Axl Rose, Slash, and Duff McKagan from the classic Guns N’ Roses lineup took the stage. Their set started promisingly enough. Slash’s trademark guitar prowess was on full display, and Duff’s bass gave the performance the grounding it needed.

Photo by Jim Gilbert (Google Pixel 7 Pro)

However, as the set progressed, the cracks began to show. Axl Rose, once an emblem of raw vocal energy, struggled. This wasn’t the same band that defined a generation with its rebellious anthems. While the songs remained unchanged, Axl’s renditions felt weary; his voice strained, often out of key, and the signature wails and screams of his youth seemed out of reach.

Their setlist had all the hallmarks of their storied career: “Welcome to the Jungle” with its characteristic Link Wray’s “Rumble” intro, the poignant “November Rain,” and classics like “Sweet Child o’ Mine” and “Paradise City”. Yet, for all the nostalgia these tracks stirred, it was hard to ignore that time had taken its toll on the band’s frontman.

Photo by Jim Gilbert (Google Pixel 7 Pro)

The encore of “Patience” followed by “Paradise City” wrapped up the night. It was a bittersweet reminder of the band’s indomitable legacy and the inexorable march of time.

While Guns N’ Roses may have been the main act on paper, it was Dirty Honey that truly captured the spirit of the evening, proving once again that while legends are revered, it’s the energy and passion of the present that truly ignites a concert.

Note: Guns ‘n Roses didn’t allow professional media photos. (All photos of GnR are from a Google Pixel 7 Pro.)

  1. Toast says

    I knew what I was getting into before I went. AXL can’t sing the middle range stuff. He can sing high and low but the middle was terrible. Rocket Queen (among others) was a disaster vocally. Also there was no chemistry on stage at all. I felt as if they were going through the motions.

  2. Tbark says

    Jim you’re wrong GnR killed it

  3. Tanya R says

    We saw them in Charlotte amazing performance, took me back to my younger years! Axl did an awesome job even with his strand vocal cords!! 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

  4. Debbe says

    It was sad. They were the main act and dirty honey blew them out of the water. Axl can’t carry a tune anymore. Time to retire. Drove 4 hours to see them. Never again

  5. Hal says

    I thought it started out great ….and he even apologized..that his voice is not what it once was ..and of course we all knew that ..he did his best ..I still enjoyed the 1st hour..after that I headed out. All in all I liked it .and the vibe of the crowd was great

  6. Music fan says

    I thoroughly enjoyed the show. Axl’s voice was off at times, but the overall band led by Slash is insanely talented. It was a great experience overall.

  7. Cassie says

    This concert sucked we left early what a disappointment

  8. James says

    I do not like the way that the guy who wrote this talk kinda bad about his voice. We all know hes older. And we all know that there’s crack one in his voice. But that’s not the point, leave that out of your review. Come on, now, these guys are amazing. Stop talking about that stuff. And I think the review sucks. Because the way you talk about that, you know, get a different job if you don’t like your job. We thank Guns & Roses all of the band members will love you forever. We love you forever.

  9. James says

    You all did a great job, and I’m talking to the band. The person who wrote this review you have problems. They are iconic, we love We love you all guns.

  10. Jason says

    Well, you also left out that Axl had been sick the few days prior to the show, so that affected his voice. It really vintage Axl, but still a great night and the crowd loved it. You could tell

  11. Kevin says

    I drove from Buffalo to Saratoga for the concert. I was very disappointed and we actually left the concert 4 songs before the end. You couldn’t here the words at all. The opening went was great. I was really hoping to have a great time, I felt like a kid again but the concert just felt forced.

  12. Rickie Ann Holiday says

    Excellent pictures Thank You for Sharing

  13. Dan says

    I dunno. I personally loved it. I think most people’s issues were with the setlist, since we’re talking about a band that had a 20-year break from each other. The TU review explained this really well. So if you’ve been following the band through Chinese Democracy and Velvet Revolver, a listener would have more appreciation for how that issue was navigated. I guess it’s OK to slag Axl’s voice, but I would probably have also mentioned he said he was sick and how he was visibly hocking loogies into a bin sidestage for all to see.

  14. James B says

    We spent over $600 for two tickets plus $120 for official merch at the show. We feel that this type of controversial review is exactly what inspired “Get In The Ring” (BTW, recorded at SPAC (same venue) in 1991. Debuted on their Use Your Illusion II album). Fake news!

    After their 22+ Song set, we feel that we got more value for our money than GnR got in terms of my money. This show was AWESOME. And, this was my 4th time seeing them live…

    Dirty Honey was good, too.

  15. Jack says

    None of us are what we were 35 years ago. Keep your expectations in perspective. Thank you Axl, Slash and Duff and the rest for over 2 1/2 hours of pouring out your hearts and taking us back in time. I don’t regret a moment of the evening or a dollar I spent on tickets and parking. Still a Bucket List band for sure!

  16. Joe Gutto says

    Bad review

  17. Tina says

    This review is spot on if, perhaps, a tad too kind.
    I adore GNR, have since I first heard them in 88′. However, it is time for them, particularly Axl, to ride off into the sunset. I actually found it sad. He has no voice anymore, can’t hit the high notes or the classic Axl screams. He was off key and out of breath A LOT. He also disappeared from the stage after every song. We watched so many people packing up and leaving early, until we finally headed out a little before 9.
    It was so bad.
    Dirty Honey nailed it and I suspect they will be more widely known sooner than later!

  18. Jeff says

    Dirty honey is good but better then GNR??!! That’s insanity!!!

  19. Ingrid Quintana says

    The guys did great considering their age and time separated thank you so much guns and roses love you guys forever !

  20. Bob says

    Being a personal friend of Sash, I cannot say anything bad about his guitar playing. First of all he never was a shredder. As for axl that’s another story. I think it was inevitable that the band reunited at some point however as long as they don’t make it a 20-year farewell tour like kiss is doing I can overlook a bad couple months especially with dirty honey it’s an opening act.

  21. Jason Palermo says

    I saw GNR at MetLife stadium and found AXL’s vocals to be good. He is 62 years old not 25, nobody sounds like they did years ago. Dirty Honey is at best an opening act.

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