DEVORE, California — Muse came to KROQ’s sixth annual end-of-summer Inland Invasion festival on Saturday armed with an extra set. Just in case.
“We played with Guns N’ Roses once before and they didn’t show up, so we had to play longer,” singer Matthew Bellamy explained backstage. “So we have plenty of songs ready.”
At 10:50 p.m., nearly two hours after the previous band had left the stage, it was looking like those songs were going to come in handy. After all, something needed to calm the edgy crowd, which was booing, throwing full cups of beer (even at $11.50 each!) and starting fires in the lawn section.
Fortunately — and fittingly — just as another army of security guards was rushing in, the stage went dark and the familiar guitar riff of “Welcome to the Jungle” rang through the speakers.
“Do you know where the f— you are?” Axl Rose asked in his signature squeal. Well, yeah, we’ve been here for 10 hours now.
But really, Southern Californians have waited 14 years for Rose to return to the stage, what was another few hours? And at least we got a full show.
Guns N’ Roses treated the sold-out Hyundai Pavilion audience to a 19-song, hit-filled set featuring all but three tracks from Appetite for Destruction and only four new songs. There were a few surprises — guitarists Robin Finck and Richard Fortus played an instrumental version of Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful,” and Skid Row singer Sebastian Bach joined in on “My Michelle” — but it was mostly Rose doing what he does best: wailing, posing and snake-dancing to songs from “Sweet Child O’ Mine” to “You Could Be Mine.”
Axl’s four costume changes were unnecessary and even the metal-mocking Sunset Strip faves Metal Skool don’t solo this much, but it was still the kind of show you hold your bladder for. Watching Rose, whose rare banter was more geeky excitement than mysterious vanity, joke about their downloaded tracks and jump onto Dizzy Reed’s grand piano during the unreleased ballad “The Blues” were must-see moments, even for the many musicians who stuck around to catch a glimpse.
“It’s a dream come true for me,” Buckcherry singer Josh Todd said backstage. “Guns N’ Roses really inspired me when I was a youth.”
“I wish I could go back to my 14-year-old self and say, ‘Hey, you’re going to be opening for Guns N’ Roses,’” added Rise Against singer Tim McIlrath.
GN’R, of course, weren’t the only anticipated reunion act at Inland Invasion, as Alice in Chains also entertained the crowd with a greatest-hits set.
Singer William DuVall matched the late Layne Staley’s vocals to a T, but the highlight was a cameo from Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington, who sang “Man in the Box” with as much conviction as the original.
“I just came out to see Muse and as soon as I got here I was asked if I would sing,” Bennington said beforehand. “I’m kind of nervous. I’m like on recall, going through it in my head.”
Backstage, it seemed everyone was raving about Muse, a bit of a shock considering they were the odd men out on the metal-leaning bill. Perhaps it’s because the British rockers instantly won over the crowd by opening with their latest — and biggest-to-date — single, “Knights of Cydonia,” and then took the audience on a ride through their progressive catalog.
Avenged Sevenfold and Buckcherry (riding a huge comeback wave through SoCal with their infectious single “Crazy Bitch”) might have been more appropriate openers for GN’R than Muse and Alice in Chains, but it was nice to spread the sleaze-rock around the bill.
The former, whose M. Shadows announced it was their last show before returning to the studio, brought a whole lot of Sunset Strip flavor to their show in the form of four, ahem, dancers, who came out of their cages to seduce to the singer for the “Bat Country” finale.
30 Seconds to Mars went with a visually stimulating show of a different sort, taking the stage from the back of the venue, wearing all-white ninja costumes and masks and carrying flags.
When he wasn’t shaking hands with fans or climbing around the stage, singer Jared Leto was expressing gratitude for their newfound fanbase.
After reminiscing about coming to KROQ shows as a fan and sneaking from the lawn to the front of the stage, Leto dedicated the band’s breakthrough single, “The Kill,” to the people in the back, telling them, “Don’t be scared, just don’t get caught.”
Atreyu, Rise Against and Papa Roach also took the stage Saturday, with the latter mixing in their earlier rap-rock favorites with cuts from the just-released The Paramour Sessions.
“We’re going to do everything possible to steal the show,” singer Jacoby Shaddix said backstage. “I know it’s hard with GN’R, but you’ve got to set the bar high.”
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.