After nearly two decades of whispers, hopes and rumors it really is true, Guns N’Roses are getting back together again for a reunion tour. Right now it looks like we’re only going to get 3 of the original 5 members. But that still means that Axl Rose, Slash and Duff McKagan will share the same stage together for the first time since July 17th, 1993. That date over 22 years ago was the final show on the band’s 2 year Use Your Illusion tour that ended triumphantly in Argentina.
Since then, Axl and Slash had a falling out of epic proportions, and Slash left the band in 1996. Duff followed a year later, and Guns N’ Roses’ only original member was Axl. Throughout the 2000’s and as recently as 2014, Axl had been touring with various different members on the Chinese Democracy tours. Duff filled in for some special guest appearances, and helped the band out almost full time on their 2014 South American tour. Original guitarist Izzy Stradlin even appeared from time to time, but there was no sign of Slash being asked back.
Last summer that all changed when Axl and Slash finally broke the ice and started talking again for the first time in 19 years. The reunion tour is due to kick off with a headlining slot at the Coachella Festival on April 16th. However what is the betting that the band play some low key warm up shows beforehand? It’s happened in the past most famously when they played two small club shows in 1989 before supporting The Rolling Stones. And then of course their 3 warm up shows in Los Angeles, San Francisco and The Ritz club in New York before the start of the Use Your Illusion tour. Patrons in LA keep an eye out for possible shows in the coming months.
To celebrate the return of the core of the most familiar Guns N’ Roses line up, we are taking a look back at some of the band’s all time greatest gigs. These shows are from the band’s formation in 1985 up until 1993.
10. RIVERPOINT AMPHITHEATRE, ST LOUIS, July 2nd, 1991
This show will inevitably always be remembered as the infamous riot show, as Axl dived into the crowd and grabbed a video camera from a ‘fan’ who was bootlegging the show. An outraged Axl stormed off the stage and a riot ensued that caused millions of dollars of damage to the bands equipment. But there was so much more to this show than actually meets the eye. Up until that incident which took place almost 90 minutes into the set, we were witnessing one of the great Guns shows. It was intense, mean, and Guns N’ Roses were living up to their old tag of ‘the most dangerous band in the world’. Sure, right from the start Axl looked in a bad mood, but he put that negative energy into the show and it worked for the most part before exploding. If one show summarized the Use Your Illusion tour, it was this one. It literally had everything.
9. PERKINS PALACE, PASADENA, December 26th-30th, 1987
Four shows were played over 5 nights at the Perkins Palace as part of Guns N’Roses holiday season homecoming shows. These shows have reached legendary status with Guns N’ Roses fans. Because of an injured hand, Steven Adler did not play at any of these shows, and instead Fred Coury of Cinderella filled in. During the four shows, 10 different songs from Appetite For Destruction are played, and staple covers such as “Knockin’ On Heavens Door” and “Mama Kin” are also belted out.
8. JACK MURPHY STADIUM, SAN DIEGO, September 30th 1992
This show was part of the infamous Guns N’ Roses/Metallica co-headlining tour of summer/fall 1992. Whilst the tour had its ups and downs, which included a 2nd Guns N’ Roses riot in Montreal after Axl walked off stage after hurting his vocal chords, it was nights like this that made it all worthwhile. Unlike regular set lists at this time, the band started the night off with its first four songs from Appetite For Destruction. The band were in a good mood, especially Slash who had become an United States citizen that day. Earlier in the day the crowd were treated to Bodycount and Motorhead.
7. GIANTS STADIUM, NEW JERSEY, August 16th, 1988
This show is most famous for fans as being part of the video for “Paradise City.” The rest of the footage would be coupled from the bands Donington Monsters of Rock show in England which took place just four days after this one. This may have been the first show where Axl wore his infamous white leather coat, a coat that would usually be worn during “Paradise City.” The band opened up for Aerosmith and Deep Purple and finished the set calmly with “Used To Love Her”.
6. THE MARQUEE, LONDON, June 28th, 1987
Guns N’ Roses’ first ever European shows were in London, England and they played 3 nights at the infamous Marquee Club in Soho. The shows were a sell out, and over those 3 nights 1,500 fans got to see them in the tiny sweatbox. However, it is their 3rd and last show which is remembered the fondest. The bulk of the material was from the upcoming Appetite For Destruction, but covers such as “Nice Boys” and AC/DC’s “Whole Lotta Rosie” were thrown in for good measure. This show completed the band’s 10 day stay in London.
5. WEMBLEY STADIUM, LONDON, June 13th, 1992
Most reviewers agreed at the time that this was one of the hottest gigs on the Use Your Illusion tour. Just before the band took to the stage the Sid Vicious cover classic “My Way” roared from the PA and they kicked off with staple set opener “It’s So Easy”. During the show Axl has a troublemaker ejected from the venue and screams at him “Wanker”. Somehow a stage invader makes it on stage and hugs Slash, Axl teases the crowd that he may be married (this was to then girlfriend Stephanie Seymour), and Brian May of Queen joins the band for two classic Queen tracks. Whilst a backing band of several may have bloated the tour, by this time there were still evidently nights where it all clicked. Faith No More and Soundgarden opened the show.
4. BUDOKAN HALL, TOKYO, December 10th, 1988
Ever since Axl Rose knew that The Beatles had played in this infamous venue, he wanted to play here. It finally happened 3 years after the band’s formation. The crowd were really into the show, which was a surprise given how conservative Japanese crowds were back in the 80’s and early 1990’s. The band play 17 songs, including 10 from their debut album.
3. THE RITZ, NEW YORK, February 2nd, 1988
This show, at the now sadly defunct Ritz, is the most accessible for any fan wanting to see what ‘old’ Guns N’ Roses shows were all about. That’s because this show was professionally filmed by MTV and the band didn’t let anyone down. Axl, Duff, and Slash stagedived during the gig and played a no holds barred 60 minute set to a frenzied crowd. You can tell this is a rock band in the absolute prime of their careers, and they were loving every minute of it. Steven Adler spends the show with a constant smile on his face without missing a beat. For most fans back in the day, The Ritz show was their official introduction to the band from LA.
2. THE ROXY, LOS ANGELES, March 28th, 1986
Complete sleaze, Axl backcombed hair, Duff the punk rocker, Izzy cool as shit, Slash (probably drunk) but on cue, and Steven Adler smashing those snares like its his final show- this was Guns N’ Roses on top of the world. What made this show extra special is that two sets were played. One at 10PM, and then another at midnight. The shows almost didn’t happen when the band were stopped and searched by police for drugs outside the venue. During the show a stripper dances around the stage and the band play 16 different songs over the 2 sets. This was a night of celebration so to speak as the band had signed with Geffen Records just two days prior. The ads for these shows said ‘why are we playing? Because we need the money’.
1. GREAT WESTERN FORUM, INGLEWOOD, August 3rd, 1991
Whilst the small club shows will forever be remembered for Guns N’ Roses in perhaps their purest form, the band proved that they could still bring it live to arenas and stadiums throughout the world. But on the night of August 3rd, 1991 something unique happened. Guns N’ Roses, in their farewell to LA as they departed for their European leg of the Use Your Illusion tour, played for almost 4 hours. It remains the longest Guns N’ Roses concert ever. However, as startling that fact is, this isn’t why this show is at No. 1 of all time. The band simply put on an awesome performance that called back to their glorious club days, but also brought with it things to come from this tour. 18 of the 31 tracks came from Use Your Illusion I and II, still by far the most tracks played from that record in one show. “You Ain’t the First”, “Dead Horse” and “Yesterdays” were given their live debuts and “Locomotive” a song rarely played live was also unleashed. Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon, a close friend of Axl, did back up vocals on “Don’t Cry”, and Sebastian Bach of Skid Row sang along on “You’re Crazy”. Unbelievably, the show finished at 3:30AM and unfortunately some of the crowd had to leave, as the band would simply not leave the stage. Certainly a rock n’ roll show that went down in history.