The 1st day of July was an interesting one; fuelled by classic rock and metal tracks, Axl Rose’s tight shorts, copious amounts of alcohol and a dog wearing a purple scarf all for a mere fiver. Two bands were playing; Firewall, a Hull based covers band, and Guns 2 Roses – who are one of the greatest tribute bands I have ever seen. The gig also managed to ignite some passion in Hull metalheads as the turnout was pretty impressive. Even though the opening band had finished their sound check by the time doors opened (eight) it was an hour before they took to the stage. The event started about as promptly as Duke Nukem Forever’s release.
The gig marked the second time in as many days that I had seen Firewall, and I was expecting great things since they had impressed me at Downward Spiral on the 27th. Opening for Guns 2 Roses worked perfectly for them, because of the nature of their band. As a covers band everyone should naturally know and be able to enjoy the songs. From the very moment they stepped on stage their natural presence is clearly visible immediately owning the stage with their rendition of Sabbath’s Dirty Women. Fortunately they had a bigger audience than the tiny, barely interactive crowd they had received on the previous Wednesday.
Not that it is really an issue, as no matter what the crowd size they always give a performance as though they were performing to a packed room; a performance fuelled by vocalist Mark Polland’s humour and his interaction with guitarists James and Paul. Their easy laid back nature masks the technicality and ferocity of the musicians; the guitarists are able to tear through a Metallica solo with incredible ease, drummer Jordan aggressively beats his drums to the likes of Five Finger Death Punch and Disturbed and Steve gets to play some interesting bass riffs such as the one during Dirty Women’s solo. However their greatest asset is Mark and his powerful and versatile voice. His bluesy rock style often gives a nice contrast to the fast and heavy playing styles of the other members. For me the highlights were Whisky in the Jar, Down with the Sickness and an amazing version of Black Hole sun that , in my opinion, actually improved over the original. As always they ended on a high, playing their Metallica Medley (a combination of a few of Metallica’s early hits intertwined including Seek and Destroy, and For Whom the Bell Tolls) which showcases everything great about Firewall.
The set wasn’t without its flaws however; I thought Mark’s voice occasionally struggled during Faith No More’s From Out of Nowhere, and there were some minor feedback/monitoring issues throughout the set which seemed to distress Paul somewhat (though he managed to soldier on regardless.)
Overall Firewall was a fantastic band that was ideal for kicking off proceedings. Some minor technical issues did nothing to detract from my enjoyment and I would like to see them again and witness what other songs they have in their repertoire as I’ve been impressed by the majority of covers they have done so far.
Next up came the main event, the mighty Guns 2 Roses. When they took to the stage they had already consumed enough alcohol to knock out a Russian bear, so I am amazed they even managed to last the two hour set. Things started off shaky, with it being quite hard to hear Gavin’s vocals (I mulled over whether I should refer to him as Gavin or as the role he is playing – Axl.) However after about three songs it became abundantly clear as to why Guns 2 Roses are the UK’s greatest Guns N Roses tribute. Gavin is absolutely perfect as Axl Rose – his vocals, his raw energy, his crazy moves, all come together to deliver a performance that could have been torn straight from the glory days of GNR. It was often hard to take a decent photo of him because he was never stationary for long.They blasted through many of Roses’ hits including: Night Train, Civil War, Sweet Child O’ Mine, Don’t Cry, Rocket Queen and It’s So Easy, in an alcohol induced frenzy. The crowd handed them more and more drinks, as though they held some bizarre vendetta against the livers of the G2R members. Gavin wooed the ladies whilst guitarist Leo (in the role of Slash) was forced to contend with wild local cougars. Every member performed their role and performed it well; drummer Richie (filling the shoes of Steven Adler) seemed content at the back belting out GNR’s rhythmic drum beats and sweating like a fat man on a treadmill, which made it all the more amusing when he couldn’t reach the alcohol the crowd members were handing over. After Gavin, Leo was the second most mobile member on stage as he constantly traversed from one side to another, often stopping to stand on the speakers and playing his guitar mere inches from the faces of the adoring crowd. Nile (aka Izzy) rarely left his half of the stage though this wasn’t a bad thing as there was already a lot going on and it would have been very easy for the performance to become a cluttered mess. Bassist Bob also performed backing vocals on a couple of songs.At certain points there were a couple costume changes, most notably from Gavin who wore the awesome Confederate rebel jacket during Civil War, as well as those spandex shorts. The costumes were lacking variety, but it should be noted that with Hollywood and Vine being a smaller more intimate venue the band were playing more of a club set so it’d be natural for there to be less theatrics.
One thing that I was disappointed with was the fact the line-up that played wasn’t quite the typical line-up, Bob Waterfield from Guns Or Roses was helping to play the role of Duff Mackagan. He was playing with them for two days and he did an excellent job – though it wasn’t all that much of leap for him since he plays the same role in Guns Or Roses. They didn’t have a keyboardist with them (due to size of stage) so classics such as November Rain couldn’t be played – though it should be noted that in Guns N Roses Axl played the piano. I’m hoping that when they return to Hull to play the Skullfucker weekend they will have their regular bassist as well as a keyboardist (that last part remains unlikely).Around the two hour mark the crowd were still under their influence but it was very clear that fatigue had begun to set into the members of Guns 2 Roses (as well as myself due to my work related alcohol ban) and so things began to draw to a close. When they started to perform Sweet Child O’ Mine as I thought it made for a little anti-climatic ending, however they decided to play one more song after the audience demanding so; and no it wasn’t A Whole Lotta Rosie, which had been jokingly suggested throughout their set. Instead they finished with a personal favourite of mine, Get in a Ring, a song that is a personal fuck you to arsehole critics and one that is powered by pure Axl-Roseism. It was the ultimate song to end the night and actually left me wanting more despite my previous lassitude.Guns 2 Roses were everything you’d expect them to be; confident, entertaining and full of raw energy – the ultimate crowd pleaser. For me they reinvigorated my love for Guns N Roses and I would earnestly recommend them to anyone, even if they only expressed a passing interest. But the fact that they attracted a huge audience speaks for itself, because doing so in Hull is usually as difficult as performing a blood test on a Stone Golem. Of course the real star of the gig was the scarf wearing black Labrador that had gotten inside Hollywood and Vine.