By 1992, Guns N’ Roses had risen up the ranks of music hierarchy to become one of the biggest rock bands of their time as well as one of the best-selling artists of the year. After the release of the double album Use Your Illusions I and Use Your Illusions II in 1991 – which was their first full length release since their debut album Appetite for Destruction, the bands success skyrocketed them to further worldwide acclaim. Following this, they embarked on the 26 month long Use Your Illusion tour, which would be one of the longest tours in rock history and was littered with scandals and controversy thus making the band infamous across the world.
Pro-shot footage of this notorious tour is few and far between, and the only official release captures the band on their third night at the 150,000 capacity Tokyo Dome, on February 22nd 1992. The film was split into two parts and produced by the band’s drummer at the time, Matt Sorum. It was strewn with classic rock hits and astounding cover songs whilst successfully capturing the bands huge onstage presence, and the film was consequently certified Gold having sold over 50,000 copies after its release in the December of 1992.
The intensity of the performance in the film is made immediately clear as the band unleashes a wild rendition of ‘Nightrain’, in which every member of the band can be seen to be careening across the stage with an energy that is entirely infectious. ‘Nightrain’ is seen out with a solo by the lead guitarist Slash which is fuelled by ambiguous intoxication, grit, fire and a little bit of endearing sloppiness which reminds the listener that he is human, yet serves to convey endless amounts of character that is better than any mechanically shredded solo that typified the 80s.
Perhaps the highlight of the film comes from the one-two punch of ‘Pretty Tied Up’ and ‘Welcome to the Jungle’. This performance of ‘Pretty Tied Up’ ended up on the Live Era: ’87-’93 album, and provides a relentless assault of guitar which brings the crowds excitement to a fever pitch. This excitement explodes upon the opening riff of the iconic ‘Welcome to the Jungle’, which showcases the talent of frontman Axl Rose profoundly. He sings with a violence and dangerous charisma that is unmistakable, and he writhes around like a wild animal fighting for his life in the headlights of the stage. There is a ferocity in his face that tells you he’s been there and done that with all the dark details he is singing about. This demonstrates how great the performance is, as it shows how even in their prime, amongst all the fame and convolution, the band could still tap into the raw aggressive energy that made them iconic as the most dangerous band in the world.
Preceded with a hauntingly beautiful guitar solo by Slash, the crowd is shown to be completely in the hands of the band as ‘Knocking on Heavens Door’ rolls around. With a crowd singalong interspersed with reggae jams, that is headed by Rose and the prominent bass licks of Duff Mckagan, the entire stadium can be heard to repeatedly scream the words ’KNOCK KNOCK KNOCKING ON HEAVENS DOOR’! Additionally, the closing song ‘Paradise City’ provides another memorable moment as it features Slash running around the stadium, past the legions of fans as he belts out the songs unforgettable lead licks and solo.
The covers that feature on the film are also of an exceptionally high calibre. The bands instrumental version of the Godfather Theme, lead by Slash, has become an iconic and instantly recognisable solo that has been a staple of the bands setlist ever since. Furthermore, the rendition of the Rolling Stones’ ‘Wild Horses’ features Slash and rhythm guitarist Gilby Clarke duet in a dog fight of guitar talent that ends with the band singing a verse arm in arm – creating an illusion of the calm in the eye of the storm.
Whilst the film may not have received the best sound mixing, with the crowd usually barely audible, and with some songs being played noticeably at a lower standard than others, the Use You Illusions World Tour film is still one of the best concert films to date. This is because it showcases some of the bands best live performances within a stadium setting, and provides a brief glimpse into the tumult and debauchery of a tour that epitomized the rock n’ roll lifestyle. It captures the visceral energy and tantalizing skill of all the bands members that made their shows so exciting, and ultimately today provides a refreshing respite in the characterless sea of modern rock.
Guns N’ Roses: Use Your Illusion World Tour – 1992 in Tokyo available via Geffen Home Videos