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Duff McKagan: “It’s About The Songs”

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(Photo Credit: Carl Harp / CBS Radio)

(Photo Credit: Carl Harp / CBS Radio)

Last night at the House Of Blues in Cleveland, former Guns N Roses bass player Duff McKagan did a public reading from his autobiography, It’s So Easy: and other lies. From the stage, he thanked fans for their support and said of his ex-group “It’s not about any one of us, it’s about the songs and how you in the audience related to them.” Fans who were hoping to hear venting about Axl Rose may not have been satisfied with that, but McKagan was adamant that he had not much more to say on the subject.

One thing fans did get to see was an onstage reunion with former Guns N Roses members, as drummer Matt Sorum joined for a few music segments on tambourine and shaker (there were no drums on stage), and GilbyClarke played guitar on a few numbers, including “Sweet Child O’Mine.” (Sorum is one of the members of Guns N Roses who will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame tonight; Clarke is not being included).

The event wasn’t strictly a musical performance: instead, McKagan read select passages from his book while a few musicians – including members of his band Loaded – played musical pieces behind him. The pieces seemed rehearsed and went well with McKagan’s storytelling (indeed, even the light show was coordinated and enhanced the show). He would occasionally play guitar and sing parts of different songs (“Sweet Child,” “Paradise City,” Johnny Thunders’ “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory”) in between the spoken segments.

During the evening, he told stories both funny (chaperoning his daughter’s birthday party, his first meetings with Slash and Steven Adler), dramatic (Guns N Roses audiences rioting, his gradual descent into drug abuse) and touching (meeting his wife, the birth of their first child). He visibly welled up with tears when discussing his wheelchair bound mother who suffered from Parkinson’s Disease, visiting him in the hospital after his pancreas exploded.

While some in the crowd were visibly (and vocally) disappointed that the show wasn’t a full-on concert, most of the audience (which included Billy Joe Armstrong of Green Day, who will be presenting GNR at tomorrow night’s induction ceremony) was engaged with the stories of the bass player’s life.

In McKagan’s book, he details how he was determined to conquer new challenges. As a teenager, he was a music prodigy proficient atbass, drums and guitar. As an adult, he mountain biking and martial arts, earned a college degree, started a wealthmanagement firm, and kicked drugs (twice) without going to rehab. Now he can add spoken word performer to his resume.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony takes place tomorrow night and airs on HBO May 5. At press time, there’s no GNR performance scheduled, although rumors have been circulating that some of the former members of the band may take the stage and perform with Myles Kennedy from Slash’s band singing.

– Brian Ives, CBS Local

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