Watch Guns ‘N’ Roses play a stripped back acoustic set at CBGB in 1987
Back in 1987, across America, there were posters continuously being pinned to walls. Bedrooms across the land were being adorned with the rock and roll imagery of one band; Guns ‘N’ Roses. It was at this time that the band were invited to the iconic stage of CBGB’s, the home of punk.
Rather than lay down a rip-roaring set of leather-clad rock and roll the band instead put together a stripped back acoustic set. Yet, despite their lack of electricity, they held the audience in the palm of their hands.
It was a few months after the release of Appetite For Destruction—the band’s breakthrough LP—when they were invited to play the small CBGB club gig but the band were far from flying up the charts. In fact, with the record stalling at 65 on the charts, the group were intent on gigging around the circuit.
It was the ethos that had seen them grow from garage band to Geffen Records signees and it would see them take on a duo of shows, the first at the Ritz and the second a week later at the home of punk. Well, the canteen of the home of punk.
That fact makes Axl Rose and the band’s decision to not plug in their instruments a little more palatable. What makes the performance positively delicious is the band’s decision to debut some of their newest material and therefore give us a live view of the upcoming Lies EP.
“This mic is a piece of shit,” Rose said. Not a great start as the gig got off to a slow start, “If [Slash’s] guitar isn’t mic’d right there’s no reason in doing this, so someone should figure this out. It would be nice to have some help,” he added. Soon enough they do get some help and jump into ‘You’re Crazy’ and then ‘One In A Million,’ the shockingly racist/homophobic/xenophobic/ song from Lies, which makes for some uncomfortable viewing. The fact that the band and the label put the song out on record is frankly astounding—even for 1988.
The debuts continue as ‘Used to Love Her’ and ‘Patience’ are given their first run out. The latter of which was in the earliest beginnings as in the clip, Axl can be seen reading the lyrics from a piece of paper. They finish with ‘Mr. Brownstone’ and ‘Move to the City’ and sign some autographs.
After admitting he hasn’t slept in two days, Rose says: “We’re like a family,” looking over his shoulder at Slash drinking straight from a Jack Daniels bottle. “We believe in each other. It’s almost like a family thing.” It was a family every single person of the 100 person show wanted to be a part of.