Austin City Limits as a brand -- be it the 45 years-running PBS television show or its multi-day festival, which kicked off the first of two weekends at Zilker Park for its eighteenth year on Friday (Oct. 4) -- is historically about preserving all musical traditions. For much of the past decade, the festival's roster has evolved to include heftier helpings of prevalent hip-hop, electronic, pop and virtually every other emerging style to appeal to increasingly younger demographics.
So was it a risk to book a legacy headliner headliner like Guns N' Roses that might only attract a relatively small diehard contingent? Absolutely. The seminal Los Angeles hard rock band -- which saw the reunion of frontman Axl Rose, guitarist Slash and bassist Duff McKagan in 2016 -- wouldn’t resonate as universally as last year’s Paul McCartney Friday finale, but pitting them against millennial darlings Tame Impala arguably served the fest’s overall population better by breaking it up into more pleasantly even masses.
Besides, since GNR started their 2.5-hour conquest of the American Express stage a whole 45-minutes before the Australian psych rock fusionists, casually curious patrons got to witness Axl Rose lead the septet through familiar hits like “Welcome to the Jungle” and one they might’ve recognized from watching Macca last year, the nearly-two-decades-standard rendition of Wings’ “Live and Let Die,” before high-tailing it to the other end of the field to round out the overall population’s fairly 50/50 split.