Axl Rose is one of the biggest names in music. In 2018. And Guns N’ Roses is wrapping up one of the most successful tours of all time. Of all time, you guys. What the hell is going on?
The deep answer is probably that the world never lost its passion for hard rock, and Guns N’ Roses just decided to deliver to ridiculous effect. More on the surface though, what happened is Axl Rose and his band mates basically made up their minds to market themselves and kick some ass for a couple years, and it’s catapulted the frontman to insane heights. Let’s look back on everything that’s happened….
The Movie Trailer
When Star Wars: The Force Awakens came out, the last thing anyone expected to see was Guns N’ Roses material. But at least at a number of screenings around the U.S., Axl Rose and Co. had a sort of teaser trailer set up. It wasn’t promising a new album, or even necessarily a reunion or a tour, but it made it clear that Guns N’ Roses was up to something. Vague though it was, it was a brilliant ploy, getting people buzzing about the band even though they weren’t really sure what specifically they were excited for or curious about.
The Online Game
Labeled “almost an EP in itself” by one Canadian database on internet games, the Guns N’ Roses slot arcade came out of nowhere. But it was clearly also made with input and/or approval from the band. NetEnt designed the game, which takes a regular video slot format and infuses it with hard rock hits and imagery associated with the band. It was by no means as big a deal as an actual EP would have been, nor does it stand up to the tour in significance. But putting out a sort of greatest hits hodgepodge in the form of an internet game was a bizarre stroke of marketing genius.
The band got together in full force in the spring of 2016 at Coachella. It wouldn’t have seemed so remarkable had it been just any comeback for a band past its prime. But in this case, Axl Rose and Slash had essentially made it clear that they wouldn’t be playing together anymore. So seeing them together on stage had a greater impact on fans than a typical comeback show would have.
Straight from Coachella, Rose, Slash and the band launched a massive tour, which we mentioned in the introduction. The tour was even dubbed “Not In This Lifetime” as a sort of tongue-in-cheek reference to previous comments Rose had made about how unlikely it was that he and Slash would play music together again. As it turned out, Coachella and perhaps even the movie trailer were the perfect launching points for this comeback, because Guns N’ Roses hit the ground running and played a ridiculous streak of high octane performances both in the U.S. and abroad.
The AC/DC Crossover
Seemingly unsatisfied with leading one of the great musical resurgences in history, Axl Rose also crossed over to rival group AC/DC, for whom he has essentially become the lead singer. There are actually some fans of the classic AC/DC lineups who aren’t thrilled with this arrangement, but for more casual fans of the genre there’s a certain charm to seeing the two working together. If nothing else it’s left no doubt that Rose’s passion for the music lends him otherworldly energy for a rock star in his mid-50s.
There’s also new material on the way. AC/DC has announced that it is set to release a new album (and tour) with Axl Rose doing lead vocals. And while nothing has been announced, new material from Guns N’ Roses is widely expected in the aftermath of their lucrative tour. That means essentially that Axl Rose’s remarkable two-year run isn’t at an end just yet. In year three of his public comeback, he might just help put out two brand new albums with two of the biggest rock bands in history.