LOS ANGELES - With concerts scheduled throughout Europe this summer and its 10-years-in-the-making album slated for release this fall, Guns N' Roses appears ready to make its rock 'n' roll comeback.
Does anyone care?
Some clearly do: Tickets for the band's four New York shows, starting Friday at the Hammerstein Ballroom, sold out in a snap. (Exactly which band members would be performing was still unannounced Friday.) Tracks from its long-anticipated album "Chinese Democracy" leaked onto the Internet and caused a frenzy. A surprise radio appearance by GNR frontman Axl Rose stirred up a swirl of online chatter.
Still, rockers at classic haunts along L.A.'s Sunset Strip mostly greeted word of a Guns N' Roses comeback with a yawn. Or worse.
Gina Penney, a talent booker at the Strip's Whisky a-Go-Go, where the band played its earliest shows in the '80s, said Rose is old news.
"He really lost it for himself," she said. "The other guys were taking other projects and keeping themselves visible in the industry, where Axl just became a recluse. I think a lot of people just feel that he's kind of a joke."
A return to the group's glory days will take a lot more than Rose, said David Boivin, wearing a top hat and shades as he dined with friends at the legendary Rainbow Bar & Grill.
"It's just Axl, not Guns N' Roses," he said. "I don't care at all because it's not really the band."
Formed in Los Angeles, Guns N' Roses rose to multiplatinum prominence with its debut record, 1987's "Appetite for Destruction." The group was one of the loudest forces in rock when it disbanded in the mid-1990s.
While Rose faded into obscurity, his former bandmates - guitarist Slash, bassist Duff McKagan and drummer Matt Sorum - joined with Stone Temple Pilots singer Scott Weiland to create Velvet Revolver.
Rose staged something of a Guns N' Roses comeback effort in 2002, though only he and keyboardist Dizzy Reed remained from the band's original lineup. The group ran into problems during the North American leg of its tour, when Rose failed to show up for a performance in Philadelphia.
Fans haven't forgotten that, said Rainbow regular Amanda Pelisek.
"Axl's got a lot of making up to do," she said. "There was a stadium in Philly filled with fans who were ready to give the new Guns N' Roses a chance and Axl screwed them."
Rose declined to be interviewed for this story. His manager, Merck Mercuriadis, agreed through his secretary to talk about the band, then failed to respond to numerous messages left at his office.
Rose's return to the spotlight has been gradual. It started in January when he showed up at a Hollywood party wearing long cornrows, a reddish-blond goatee and a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey. Soon after, the singer rang in his 44th birthday by bopping around New York City nightclubs.
Three "Chinese Democracy" tracks found their way onto the Web in February, then the band's scheduled European tour dates emerged.
Last week, Rose made a surprise appearance on the Eddie Trunk syndicated radio show and declared that Guns N' Roses' new album "will be out this year."
On Friday, the band's latest incarnation takes the stage in New York.
"They announced those shows and they sold out in three minutes. That tells you how much people want to see Guns N' Roses," said Dessica Depompeis, a bartender at the Cat Club on the Sunset Strip. "They're a straight-ahead American rock 'n' roll band. If they pull themselves together, they could make a major comeback."
It all comes down to the sound, said Tracy Barnes, founder of Hard Radio, an Internet-based station dedicated to heavy metal and hard rock.
"It's just going to hinge on the quality of the music," he said. "Fans are still interested. We'd love to see another Guns N' Roses record come out and just blow everybody apart."
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