By RUSTY PRAY

Go Correspondent

Chad Atkins was just a kid when he first came across Guns N’ Roses.

“The first time I was influenced by them,” he recalled, “I’d read an article in a skateboard magazine about them and I thought they were so cool, so rebellious.”

Many believe Guns N’ Roses rescued rock ‘n roll from the hair band era and restored the image of the bad boy rock ‘n roll band so carefully cultivated by predecessors like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Aerosmith.

This was in the mid-1980s, and it wasn’t long before Guns N’ Roses breathed new life into the hard rock seen with its first album, “Appetite for Destruction,” which spawned several huge singles and went on to sell in excess of 30 million copies worldwide.

Appetite for Destruction also happens to be the name of Atkins’ Guns N’ Roses tribute band. The Atlanta-based vocalist is the lead singer, portraying Axl Rose.

Appetite for Destruction will be offering its tribute to GNR at 7 p.m. June 29 at CoolToday Park in North Port. The performance is part of the park’s ongoing concert series. Tickets are $5.

After he read about GNR, a young Atkins didn’t think much more of it. Then he heard “Welcome to the Jungle and Sweet Child O’ Mine,” two of the three album singles that made the top 10. (The other was “Paradise City.”)

“We thought Axl Rose sang like a girl and danced like a girl,” Atkins laughed. “Keep in mind, we were still young kids at the time. But then somebody in the neighborhood got a bootleg copy of “Appetite for Destruction,” and I just fell in love with it.

“I’ve never looked back.”

The band, billed on its website as the ‘true blue road rashed mother of all tributes,” has been performing Guns N’ Roses’ music since 2001.

Atkins said that at first the idea of singing in a cover band did not interest him. But the more he thought of it, the more the part of Axl Rose intrigued him. Rose is a classic rock tenor with a huge octave range. On stage, he might not be Mick Jagger, but he has his own compelling stage presence and is fun to watch.

“I decided it would be fun to be Axl Rose,” Atkins said. “The vocal range is challenging but fun. Stepping out of myself to be someone else, well, with him there was certainly a character to imitate.”

Atkins said fans can expect the two-hour show to be “high energy. We’ll hit all the hits, but we’ll also dive into stuff like “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” – a Bob Dylan song covered by Guns and Roses.

The concert is part of a bases-loaded approach to keeping the ballpark active in the absence of the Atlanta Braves, who will make it their spring training home next season. They played their final exhibition game there in March, setting the stage for their full occupancy next spring.

Other events and activities include the Tomahawk Tiki Bar, which features a pub menu and is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week. Live entertainment is scheduled every Friday and Saturday.

Every second and fourth Thursday is summer movie night, when classic movies suitable for families are shown. The first Sunday of the month is play in the park day. That’s when kids and their families are invited to come to the park and play on the field — have a catch or play a little Whiffle ball. Children are permitted to run the bases. Concessions are open. Admission is free.

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