I haven't seen the performance, but I'll say this:
GNR isn't "Axl and Slash." It's Axl. Period. He is Guns and Roses, no matter who backs him up. You're all gonna kill me for saying this, but I think you can take about two dozen other famous guitarists and they would have no problem playing Slash's stuff. He's good...but he's not OMG DUDE awesome like everyone makes him out to be. He's replaceable, but Axl is not.
All that being said, I am simultaneously thrilled and leary that they are playing again. Thrilled because I love GNR, but leary because there's no way they can fit in the current (or future) rock scene, in my opinion. They'll be like Motley Crue...they'll just never have it again. They'll always look like washed-up goofballs.
But I might be wrong. I hope I'm wrong. GNR is kind of a legendary band in much the same way Shawn Michaels is a legendary wrestler: kicked total ass back in the day, left in their prime, have tons of devoted fans who are slathering for ONE MORE RUN.
I said HBK vs. HHH would suck and I was wrong. Hopefully, I'll be wrong about GNR and they'll take over the world again.
"Oh, i'll never understand this emptiness...but I'll never really try and understand, I guess." - Whiskeytown, Sit and Listen to the Rain
Buckethead is the man! Guns n' Roses Rocks. Buckethead is the man! Did I mention Buckethead is the man? Mask, Raincoat, Chicken Bucket, hmmmmm Fozzy doesn't know what their missing. I'm shocked Buckethead did'nt get Bootsy in the band......just kidding. I really liked the new song, and I think there was a fuck up with Axl's ear piece.
Parts, I absolutely agree with you about AXL being Guns. It is much easier for a group to lose the lead guitarist than the lead singer.
As for comparing them to Crue and how they might wind up looking like washed-up goofballs, I just don't see it. The main difference with this rendition of Guns and the Crue is that Axl has replaced almost every former member (sans Dizzy). These gusy are all relatively young, and seem to give off such a passion for the music. After about the fifth time watching it, after I got through the whole "HOLY SHIT, IT'S AXL ON T.V." thing, the first thing that struck me was "Wow, this band is FUCKING TIGHT!" The next thing that hit me was "Damn, these guys LOVE playing what they're playing." I've asked several of my friends about this, and they all come to the same conclusion; these guys are fuckin psyched to be playing the material.
The only way that Guns could have possibly come back looking like washed-up goofballs would be if AXL hadn't gotten rid of the rest of the band. Yeah, it would have been cool to see Slash on stage with AXL, but seriously, the nostalgia would have worn off eventually after everyone saw that the years have not been kind to Slash at all. Time has been rather kind to Mr. Rose (plastic surgury???). He looks absolutely awesome, and when you compare him to other metal singers of the 80's, he looks that much better. Diamond David Lee Roth comes to mind... that motherfucker is just plain scary now...
Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery. -Malcom X