After months of backlash about their headline slot, Guns N’ Roses finally take to the stage at Glastonbury 2023 and deliver one of their strongest sets in recent years. The only pity? It’s to the wrong crowd.
The controversy stemmed from both the lack of female headliners for 2023 — with acts like Lizzo and Lana Del Rey being pushed onto other stages — and the reluctance of the festival organisers to use bigger slots to support emerging talent. Hell, even Noel Gallagher weighed in and voiced his concerns about the decision and called the set: “crazy shit”. So, fair to say when it came to the final moments before the band took to the stage, there was a sense of anticipation and curiosity in the air.
To any G’N’R fan, the Glasto set undoubtedly marks one of the strongest sets that the rock veterans have given in recent years — completely devoid of sound issues, Axl Roses’ vocals in pretty good form, Slash at the top of his game and, probably the second biggest shock of the night, the band beginning the performance bang on time.
Unfortunately, this is somewhat lost on the Glastonbury crowd, as Guns N’ Roses’ sultry, whiskey-chugging, in-your-face brand of rock felt misplaced when delivered at the hippie nucleus of the world.
For the most part, the majority of the setlist goes unrecognised by the audience, and momentum only really gathers for a handful of songs in their 24-song set. The quiet moments between the band kicking off another song — instead of being greeted by endless applause like seen at their headline shows — become awkward silences, as the crowd waits for them to hurry up and bring out another one of their most famous tracks. Even Roses’ tongue-in-cheek joke of introducing ‘ABSURD’ as a track that “tugs at the heartstrings” fell on deaf ears.
There are some unexpected highlights through the set, however, with the band using the iconic slot to pay homage to some of their heroes: U.K. Subs (‘Down On The Farm’), The Stooges (‘T.V. Eye’) and Wings (‘Live And Let Die’).
While they teased a potential guest cameo from Paul McCartney with the latter: “We’re helping a certain individual celebrate the 50th anniversary of this song”, the only surprise appearance came at the end of the show, as Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl joined the band for a rendition of ‘Paradise City’.
All in all, while the Saturday headline slot may have fallen a bit flat, perhaps it’s fitting. This comes as 2023’s bill sees a live performance from another music veteran, Elton John, who will play the final date of his farewell tour on Sunday. If Glasto-goers spin the narrative and see this year as a final stint from the icons of the ‘70s and ‘80s, this instalment can be seen as the end of a chapter, and pave the way for new talent to emerge in the years ahead.
Guns N’ Roses played:
‘It’s So Easy
‘Slither’ (Velvet Revolver cover)
‘Welcome to the Jungle’
‘Pretty Tied Up’
‘Double Talkin’ Jive
‘Live and Let Die’ (Wings cover)
‘T.V. Eye’ (The Stooges cover, with Duff McKagan on vocals)
‘Down on the Farm’ (UK Subs cover)
‘You Could Be Mine’
‘Sweet Child o’ Mine’
‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’ (Bob Dylan cover)
‘Paradise City’ (with Dave Grohl)