Guns N' Roses might represent the final stage of earnest rock-and-roll bombast before everything became fully ironic, retro, referential or conceptual.
For a taste of just how ridiculous and bloated G'n'R were at their peak, or maybe just past their peak, watch the video for "November Rain" from the band's epic 1991 record "Use Your Illusion 1." Axl Rose at a grand piano, with swaying back-up singers and somber orchestral accompaniment, Slash smoking a cigarette while he shreds on his Les Paul in the swirling dust of a prairieland churchyard. There's a nightmare, a wedding, a funeral — all kinds of stuff. It's absurd, but also awesome, a little like the band itself.
Of course, Axl and Slash and the fellas made some timeless rock: "Paradise City," "Sweet Child o' Mine," "Welcome to the Jungle," "Patience" and so on. After that there was a comically long-awaited come-back album. There were high-profile squabbles among band members. Axl got to join rock masters AC/DC, providing vocals for the group on a recent tour, which seemed to give new life to the off-and-on flicker of G'n'R excitement. Last year the band, with Slash back on board, launched its "Not In This Lifetime … Tour."
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the release of their iconic debut, "Appetite For Destruction." When future scholars and historians and record-store dudes look back on our age, they may very well say that Guns N' Roses was the last classic rock band. Diehard fans are thinking this: catch them now before they break up again.
Guns N' Roses at XL Center, 1 Civic Center Plaza, Hartford, on Monday, Oct. 23, at 8 p.m. $59 and up. xlcenter.com