TORONTO - How do you know you're at a Guns N' Roses concert?
You have to wait a really long time for the show begin.
And so it went on Thursday night at the Air Canada Centre as a crowd of about 21,000 waited for frontman Axl Rose to begin just over two hours past the scheduled start time - would you believe at 11:25 p.m.? - following sets by homegrown opening acts Danko Jones and Sebastian Bach.
Somebody needs to grease Axl's wheels. Seriously.
Of course, waiting for the 47-year-old Rose is nothing new.
He made fans wait some 17 years for the latest GN'R release of original music, Chinese Democracy, which came out in November 2008, and for which Rose is currently touring the world, including some 13 dates in Canada in January and February.
While fans cooled their heels at the ACC, women in the stands - either in various states of undress or making out with each other - were shown to huge cheers but time dragged on and there were boos as the crowd's impatience grew.
By the time Rose and the latest lineup of Gunners - guitarists Richard Fortus, Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal and DJ Ashba, keyboardists Dizzy Reed and Chris Pitman, drummer Frank Ferrer and one-time Replacements bassist Tommy Stinson - opened with Chinese Democracy's title track, it felt underwhelming.
Especially since Rose made his entrance in a wheelchair, wearing a black fedora over his red scarf and sunglasses (the fedora and glasses he eventually ditched), his blond hair now shoulder length and sporting a moustache, dressed in an unbuttoned shirt and jeans with a large cross and heavy necklaces adorning his chest.
"Sorry about the time delay," said Rose after that first song. "We got a little carried away .... last night. But anyway, we're here."
He even joked later that some local deejay had predicted the band wouldn't go on until 2 a.m.
"I'm early," he cracked.
Thankfully, Rose and company got the crowd quickly on side with the second song, an explosion-heavy version of the GN'R classic Welcome To The Jungle.
Other song highlights were no surprise: A fiery, explosion-laced version of Live and Let Die; the GN'R signature song, Sweet Child O' Mine featuring stellar guitar work by Ashba; the heartfelt ballad November Rain with Rose at the piano; the propulsive You Could Be Mine; a great cover of Bob Dylan's Knockin' On Heaven's Door that included an audience singalong; the anthemic Night Train and the show-ending Paradise City complete with more explosions pink confetti and silver streamers. (It's 1:55 a.m when they finally leave the stage although Axl returns to take a bow with his band and distribute shots to some people in the crowd and throw flowers out into the audience.)
Less effective was much of the Chinese Democracy material save for the soulful mid-tempo rocker Street Of Dreams; the dramatic power ballads Madagascar and This I Love, the latter featuring Rose standing on top of Reed's piano.
On the plus side, Rose proved to be a non-stop man in motion, constantly running around his enormous stage that was adorned with large video screens and lighting columns, two circular staircases, three mini-catwalks, and elevating platforms for the guitarists to play on.
He also performed his trademark side-to-side dance moves and stomped his right leg so hard, it's no wonder he kept running off to a little black tent at the side of the stage where he changed his sweat-soaked shirts.
Rose was generous frontman too, sharing the spotlight with nearly all of his musicians who were given extended solos with special mention to Reed on a mirrored grand piano and the heavily-tattooed Ashba on a glittery black guitar.
Axl even performed his own instrumental piano medley of Elton John songs.
So far the best reported sidebar about this tour is that the Rose has banned Guns N' Roses fans from wearing Slash T-shirts or top hats (I'm pretty sure Ashba was symbolically wearing a squished one) at the shows.
The incredibly silly move has been denied by Rose's camp even though TMZ claims a member of the concert security team has confirmed it.
Rose and Slash has been at odds since the guitarist left GN'R in 1986 and then wrote about their feud in his 2007 autobiography.
Someone will have to ask the former GN'R axeman, who will release a solo album later this year, what he makes of it all when the guitarist shows up at Canadian Music Week in Toronto in mid-March to be a keynote speaker and play some tunes.
Can't we all just get along?