I was late to the party.
Guns N' Roses' 1987 album Appetite for Destruction was already a few years old when I came around to understanding Slash's guitar in "Rocket Queen" was personally blessed by the Almighty.
Better late than never to recognizing rock gods, right?
Whether it's the iPod on the treadmill early in the morning or a chain of songs on YouTube while cooking supper, between Appetite and its follow-up, Use Your Illusion I, maybe 15 Guns songs remain in heavy rotation for me.
That kind of connection to one band's music doesn't happen very often in life.
Nickelback will forever be on the outside looking in, though on those rare days when I'm feeling down on humans, I'll admit "If Today Was Your Last Day" always picks me up and helps me tap into the life force that GNR trapped in a bottle for my benefit.
I should be one among the legions hustling for tickets to Guns N' Roses' recently announced summer 2017 show at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Screw that, I say to plunking down multiple Benjamins to witness Axl and Slash reunited onstage together. Instead, this Just For Men-aged rock fan is seriously considering buying floor seats for Nickelback's just-unveiled Minnesota State Fair slammer later that summer.
You should be too.
1. Nickelback is loyal to the Nickelback brand.
I can defend the flutes, and Axl jumping off an aircraft carrier and swimming with porpoises as he does in the "Estranged" music video.
But Axl's actions in recent times have been the stuff of rock sacrilege for other reasons. His ruining "Shoot to Thrill" and "Thunderstruck" as AC/DC's impostor frontman in 2016 -- subbing for the forsaken Brian Johnson -- warrants throwing away forever my copy of Use Your Illusion II. Forget about giving him my money. He now ranks up there with infamous scoundrels.
You'd never see Nickelback's Chad Kroeger standing in for (fellow Canada band) Rush's Geddy Lee, would ya? That's because he'd never even entertain the idea. Not for all the Stanley Cup rings in the world.
2. GNR has not aged well.
Have you had a chance to listen to any of the online audio bytes of Axl's voice over time? That which was once gold started sounding like rust around Bill Clinton's presidency. Harsh away all you want about "Photograph" and "Never Gonna Be Alone." Kroeger can still sing.
Does dropping $876 (plus fees) for a pair of GNR tickets entitle the ticket holder to act surprised when Axl butchers "Welcome to the Jungle" live?
Hope all you want. Just typing the credit card numbers into the box online doesn't change the fact Axl hasn't been able to hit his notes since 1991.
3. Nickelback are better people.
Everyone loves Slash, the yoga-practicing biracial guitar guru. But Guns N' Roses lyrics were all about exclusion eons before it slipped into modern politics. Have you listened to "One in a Million" lately? There's some tolerance and healing for you.
Contrast that with the Nickelback guys, who, like all good Canadians, are humanitarians. Treana Peake, wife of Nickelback guitarist Ryan Peake, started a foundation to raise money for clean water in Africa. Just like the good Canadians they are, Kroeger and other band members champion and give generously to STOMP Out Bullying, the signature program of an American nonprofit fighting school violence among kids.
4. It's humanly impossible to take modern-day Axl seriously.
Back in their heyday, Axl couldn't have weighed more than a buck ten sweaty, but still looked badass in his wool kilt and just-below-the-knee leather boots. Their heyday is long gone.
Maybe it's the way too obvious work he's had done on his face. Perhaps the paunch. The man-child lead singer attempting to reconnect with a force in the universe that can't be manufactured.
As for Nickelback, thank goodness Chad Kroeger nixed the metro mullet about the time the Vikings drafted Randy Moss. When they take the stage at the Minnesota State Fair 2017, Kroeger will again prove jeans and a T-shirt never go out of style. Hopefully, the set will stay away from the ballad stuff and Kroeger will be belting out "Figured You Out" in tastefully tattered Levi's, waist size 32.
5. For the love of Steven Adler, you must not.
Adler was the man about whom Izzy Stradlin, another founding member, said, "[Adler's] sense of swing was the push and pull that give the songs their feel."
Adler hammered GNR's drums for its first five years. He, like other Guns members, danced with "Mr. Brownstone," better known as heroin. His habit hurt Adler's musicianship to the point he couldn't get clean on his own. How did Axl respond to his bandmate in need?
He fired the drummer during the MTV Music Awards in 1990. Axl then threw Adler further under the bus by telling the world the Guns' former drummer is a junkie.
And people wonder why bassist Duff McKagan didn't play with Guns N' Roses for 17 years, and why Slash stayed away even longer.
Nickelback's core three players have remained intact since '95. That's the lineup slated to play St. Paul next year. That's where I'll be.
I can't argue "I wish you'd unclench your fists, and unpack your suitcase" are cooler rock lyrics than "Wake up late, honey put on your clothes, and take your credit card to the liquor store."
But I can tell you which band I'd rather give my money to.
Excitement and upper-deck seats selling on the secondary market will prove too enticing for some Guns N' Roses fans in the coming months. But a sold-out show filled with fans who overpaid for a GNR that's sure to disappoint, at the venue that was built on avarice -- just like this reunion tour -- seems fitting. And doomed.
Weeks later, maybe my family and I will "See You At the Show," rocking out to a band still doing its damnedest to give fans their money's worth.
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