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.
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.
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.
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.)