Duff McKagan- Manchester, 1st September 2019
Last week in Manchester it was 30 degrees. A glorious, scorching August day where the locals exhibited their satisfaction through the wearing of shorts, vests and precious little else. Grabbing these opportunities while they could, it was almost as if this was a closing down sale for the summer. You can’t blame them. Fast forward 7 days and it’s a very different picture. "It’s so cold!" are the opening words Guns n Roses bass player Duff McKagan presents us with as we greet him at the Manchester Academy stop of his current UK tour in support of his new album Tenderness. And what an incredible album this is. 12 hugely powerful tracks are performed largely acoustically and in partnership with Duff’s long-time friend and country/Southern rock icon Shooter Jennings. Tenderness is a laid back affair and not exactly an uplifting record - but neither is it intended to be. These are songs which reflect the importance of family and also share observations and frustrations around world events. It’s a record that connects with the listener on quite a profound level.
Duff is a busy man with his day to day activities including his commitments to Guns n Roses – which so far has involved 3 years on the road as part of the Not In This Lifetime tour, his own band Loaded, Walking Papers, his journalistic pursuits and perhaps most inspiring of all the fact that he is a fiercely devoted husband, father and family man. So how did he actually have time write this record?
"I wrote it on the road and then when I got back Shooter was ready. We used Shooter’s band and they’re just lovely and they just really like interpreted the songs perfectly! And that’s the band that’s out with me now. They’re on the record."
Tonights show has a capacity crowd of 600 fans. After a strong support set from Shooter Jennings and the band who made the Tenderness record with Duff, the man himself takes to the stage to rapturous applause. Dressed in black shirt and waistcoat, his iconic presence immediately shines through as he picks up his Gibson Hummingbird guitar. Perhaps surprisingly the set kicks of with the Use Your Illusion I track You Aint The First, and it’s the first of 3 Guns n Roses tracks that will be played tonight. The huge cheers prove that it’s perhaps the best way to capture the audience right from the outset. Next up is Breaking Rocks from the new album, and we immediately see that the hypnotic vibe of the record translates beautifully to a live setting. This is followed by the title track Tenderness, Chip Away and then Feel. It’s with Feel that Duff delivers a very heartfelt message to friends no longer with us that their star never fades. Sadly as the years go by, the list of names only grows…
It was never a question whether or not the track Wasted Heart was written about Duff’s wife Susan. Tonight Duff specifically dedicates this to the person he has been married to for 20 years. It’s with absolute devotion and the most beautiful emotion that Duff delivers the line You’re my flower, your my rose…
Before the track River of Deceit, there’s an opportunity to talk about logistics and how apparently there is a direct flight from Seattle to Manchester. This creates a demand from the audience for Duff to make the journey more often. As the track begins, Duff dedicates this to his late friend Layne Staley. It’s time to swap his Hummingbird for a telecaster for the second Guns track Dust n Bones, providing the opportunity to take the energy level up a gear.
More than once during the show, Duff makes reference to the fact that he is high on steroids, a necessary medication to allow his voice to do what it needs to do tonight. He promises to do 1,000 press-ups later to shake it out. Duff also takes the opportunity to talk about Manchester and how he believes he came here in ’92, asking the audience to confirm that it’s true, hazy as his memory is of that specific time. He also decides to make up a song on the spot about Manchester. The impromptu nature and subsequent expected low quality track with its dominant recurring line of Manchester We Love You would die anywhere else but tonight the crowd welcomes the patriotism, and for tonight Duff is an honorary Mancunian.
The rest of the set focuses heavily on the new record and there is a certain justice here. Tenderness is the home to an incredible body of work and these songs deserve to be heard. Dead Horse is the final Guns n Roses track tonight and it’s during an extended version of Don’t Look Behind You that Duff steps down from the stage to shake hands with everyone in the first, second and third rows. It’s personal moments like this that every fan will remember for the rest of their lives and it’s wonderful that Duff has selflessly given them that gift. As the final chords ring out Duff makes his way back on to the stage where he delivers on his promise to give us some press-ups! And perhaps this is quite an important observation: that without exception Duff always delivers.
Tonight has been something very special indeed with Duff bringing the perfect balance of pounding rock, the most heartfelt songs and moments of poignancy, backed by one of the most talented and captivating bands today.
The full set list was as follows:-
You Ain’t The First
River Of Deceit
Dust n Bones
It’s Not Too Late
Don’t Look Behind You
Check out the photos from the pit and the fan-filmed footage of Dust n Bones below.