ARLINGTON -- Taking a page from the Eagles' "Hell Freezes Over" tour, Guns N' Roses named their current trek "Not in This Lifetime" to remind fans just how implausible a reunion was, given the bad blood between the band's estranged members.
There were still hints of acrimony onstage Wednesday night at AT&T Stadium, where original members Axl Rose, Slash and Duff McKagan performed before an appreciative but often subdued crowd of about 40,000.
Rose rarely came within 15 feet of his band mates, especially guitarist Slash, who'd quit the band under a cloud of rancor in 1996. The singer frequently perched himself atop the stage monitors to bask alone in the audience's applause as the others steered clear and went out about their business.
Still, business was pretty good.
If the show wasn't quite the feel-good reunion fans wanted, it was at least proof that Guns N' Roses remains one of the most ferocious hard rock bands in the land.
The big question mark going into the show was Rose, who broke his foot in April and had to perform seated earlier in the tour. But he walked onstage just after 10 p.m. -- fairly punctual in GNR time -- and spent the next two-plus hours sprinting, sashaying and snake-dancing like the Axl of old.
His trademark shaky-shrill voice sounded more relaxed than it did in 2013, when he performed at the House of Blues with a Slash- and Duff-less version of Guns N' Roses. Back then, he constantly strained in vain to hit the high notes. On Wednesday, he uncorked an impressive shriek here and there, but he sang for the most part in a lower register and a softer voice than usual.
The good news is there were less botched notes, but the drawback was you could barely hear his voice at times between the blare of the band and the echoey acoustics of AT&T Stadium.
Slash, on the other hand, came through loud and clear. Impenetrable in his aviator shades and signature black top hat, he alternated between showy speed-demon solos and the shorter, bluesier riffs at which he's always excelled.
McKagan, the group's bassist, briefly stole the spotlight with his lead vocals on the Misfits' riotous "Attitude." The core trio got solid backing from longtime GNR keyboardist Dizzy Reed, live-wire rhythm guitarist Richard Fortus, drummer Frank Ferrer and keyboardist-backing singer Melissa Reese.
With no new album to promote, Guns N' Roses mixed classics from its six studio discs with a slew of covers, including Paul McCartney's "Live and Let Die," Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" and Slash's nifty version of "The Love Theme" from The Godfather.
Not all the old tunes were worth revisiting.
The Liberace bombast of "This I Love" from 2008's Chinese Democracy reminded you of the band's occasional weakness for mawkish pomposity.
But when it stuck to its punk-metal roots, Guns N' Roses still sounded like one of the great rock bands of its era. With Axl Rose snarling and stuttering up a storm and Slash bashing out foreboding guitar riffs, "Welcome to the Jungle" felt every bit as pertinent today as it did during the venomous presidential campaign of 1988.
Thor Christensen is a Dallas writer and critic. Contact him at Thorchris2@yahoo.com.