Live Era: 87-93

by: Guns N' Roses

The double-disc Live: Era '87-'93 was designed to do two things -- satiate die-hard fans longing for old-school GNR, while clearing decks for a new studio album. It sounds good in theory, yet it suffers in its execution, since it relies on tapes "recorded across the universe between 1987 and 1993." That's not what GNR fans want -- they want the band in its nervy late-'80s prime, when it seemed like they could self-destruct at any second. Live: Era '87-'93 offers the polar opposite with slick, professional tracks that sound pieced together from various performances. Axl's vocals are not only distant -- as though they were sung in a booth, separate from the band -- but also amazingly mannered, sounding for all the world as if they were redone in the studio. Meanwhile, the band's performances are either brushed up or heavily edited, so it's impossible to tell if any of this was recorded during Appetite-era shows. Certainly, much of this derives from the Illusions tour: there are backing vocals, horns, and just what every fan wants -- lots and lots of Dizzy Reed. And if that isn't indicative of Axl's mindset, there is the priceless moment on "Knockin' on Heaven's Door," when he shrieks "Gimme some reggae!" and the band collapses in a sunsplash groove. So, this is heavy on Axl pretensions and short on pure, brutal rock & roll. At its best, it may come closer to vintage GNR than the Illusions did, but the missing ingredients are all too apparent, and in this context, their absence is all the more painful. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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