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1992.08.09 - Rock's Dream Team (GnR-Metallica tour) - L.A. Times

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1992.08.09 - Rock's Dream Team (GnR-Metallica tour) - L.A. Times

Post by Blackstar on Sun Apr 15, 2018 8:25 am

POP MUSIC : Rock's Dream Team : They said the Guns N' Roses/Metallica tour could never happen, but the bands worked it out over dinner at Le Dome

August 09, 1992|ROBERT HILBURN|

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The 48,000 rock fans at Giants Stadium are impatient as the clock moves past the midnight hour. It has been almost 90 minutes since Metallica ended its blistering set, yet there is still no sign of Guns N' Roses.

"Where the hell is Axl?" shouts a young man wearing a bright new Guns N' Roses T-shirt.
Other fans near him raise their fists as if also demanding an answer.

"Yeah," screams another youth. "Maybe he's in jail in St. Louis."

The fans nearby howl with laughter.

The truth is most Guns N' Roses concerts have proceeded without incident since the "Use Your Illusion" tour began more than a year ago, but a few highly publicized accounts of lead singer Axl Rose's going on stage late--or leaving it early--have made fans of the Los Angeles-based hard-rock band ready for anything.

It was, in fact, an early exit during a St. Louis-area concert last summer that contributed to a riot that resulted in misdemeanor assault charges being filed against Rose. An Oct. 13 court date has been scheduled.

But tonight's delay has nothing to do with Rose, a fact that contributes greatly to the backstage calm of Guns N' Roses' manager Doug Goldstein.

The reason for the long time between acts, he says, is the unusual nature of this historic tour featuring America's two leading hard-rock bands, the '60s equivalent of a Rolling Stones/Who package.

Because each group could headline stadium tours on its own, rock insiders and fans were surprised last spring when they announced they would tour together this summer--a journey that includes stops Friday at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego and Aug. 22 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.

Because it is such a rare pairing, the tour--like the current "Lollapalooza" traveling festival concept--is being watched closely in a concert industry that has found in the '90s that it is not recession-proof after all.

"I think this tour will have a huge effect," said Gregg Perloff, president of Bill Graham Presents, the San Francisco-based concert production firm. "You have two major headliners playing together in a historic package. Other acts who normally tour alone are going to look at what is happening here and think it makes sense for them, too.

"This tour is a return to the spirit of the '60s and '70s, when you had lots of bands playing together . . . a time when you could see the Who and the Grateful Dead together.

"I'm also excited about the 'Lollapalooza' concept, which mixes music with other elements, from performance art to crafts, and allows greater socialization . . . something you can do every year, like going to the state fair."

As he sits in a production office at Giants Stadium, Goldstein explains the delay in Guns N' Roses' taking the stage: "The wait isn't because anybody is late. It is because each band is doing a full show, which means we have to take down all the Metallica equipment, which is three truckloads of gear, before ours goes up.

"We could have cut a lot of corners--and saved a lot of money--if each band did shorter sets and used the same (staging), but the whole idea was to make this tour unique. The only reason it's happening at all is that the bands wanted to put on the kind of show that they loved when they were teen-agers themselves."

And why haven't we seen more dual headline tours in recent years?

Goldstein smiles.

"I could probably give you a hundred reasons," he says. "But it really boils down to two: ego and greed."


They said it would never happen.


That's the provocative line used in some ads for the 24-date Guns N' Roses/Metallica package--provocative because it is true on many levels.

First, there's the matter of ego.

Regardless of how you try to neutralize the issue by advertising the tour as a "co-headlining" affair, the closing act is invariably looked upon by most fans as the real headliner--therefore the more important or popular band.

So, the first question to be resolved on a dual headline tour is: Who agrees to go on first?

Then there's the money.

The rule of thumb in rock is that a headliner receives about 60% of the gate at a stadium show. If you figure a gross of $1.2 million for a stadium date, Guns N' Roses or Metallica would walk away with about $720,000 if they headlined their own shows.

But production costs escalate on a twin-headline event, so the headliners on a Guns/Metallica-type bill will walk away with $500,000--or about $250,000 each, according to one insider's estimate. That's a handsome $6 million when multiplied by 24, but far less than the potential $17.2 million from a solo stadium tour.

On that basis, Guns N' Roses and Metallica are doing the stadium shows for about the same money each receives for a successful show in a much smaller arena.

Other questions raised by the tour:

- Were the bands compatible? Metallica's mostly male heavy-metal fans may get into a turf war with Guns N' Roses' more mainstream (and co-ed) hard-rock fans. That could lead city officials around the country to worry about crowd control.


- If both bands played headline-length sets, the shows could run well past midnight. What about curfew laws in some cities?

Each of those issues is a potential deal-killer, but it only took two hours last February at Le Dome restaurant in West Hollywood for the bands and their managers to resolve the key ones.

The lineup at the dinner meeting: Guns N' Roses lead singer Rose, guitarist Slash and manager Goldstein on one side and Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich, singer James Hetfield and the management team of Cliff Burnstein and Peter Mensch.

"We were so in sync on everything down to the point that I was wearing a Naughty by Nature T-shirt and Axl was wearing a Naughty by Nature cap," Burnstein says now, describing the smoothness of the dinner session.

The reason things went so well was that various members of the bands had been friends for years.

"Peter Paterno (now president of Hollywood Records) was our lawyer (in the mid-'80s) and he mentioned one day that he was working with some really cool guys who had a lot of the same ideas that we had," said Ulrich in a separate interview at his New York hotel the week of the Giants Stadium show.

"Their music was a lot more American maybe and a lot more blues-based, where ours was more European and more sort of hard-rock based, but we had the same uncompromising attitude--and we struck up an incredible relationship. I remember late-night conversations years ago with Axl about someday doing stadium shows.

"So, it was great after the (Le Dome) meeting . . . me and Axl were standing outside the restaurant, talking about how surprised people were going to be once the tour was announced . . . and how everyone would be saying, 'I can't believe it . . . it'll never happen.' "

Mensch felt so optimistic after the Le Dome meeting that he figured setting up the tour would be a snap. But after four hectic months of maneuvering, he calls the actual degree of difficulty a near-maximum.
The problem was never one of ego and money.

The bands agreed to split the receipts evenly and Metallica volunteered to go on first. Because Axl Rose feels most comfortable on stage around midnight, the joke in the industry was that Metallica agreed to go on first because it didn't want to take a chance on having to begin its set at 3 a.m.

The problem areas were logistics, including tour routing, and, most of all, the nature of the show itself. Lots of stadium managers and city officials were nervous about hosting a 7 1/2-hour hard-rock festival (the bill also includes Faith No More).

In putting the tour together, organizers assembled a list of every stadium manager in the United States, realizing they had to persuade the venues to accept not only the lineup, but also a late curfew.
Since both headliners were planning to perform at least two hours and Metallica preferred starting after dark, the concert would often run until 2 a.m. or later.

Among the cities that refused to accept the terms: Chicago, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Cleveland. After being turned down by Arizona State University, the tour settled on a neighboring racetrack.

In some cases, the bands wanted to play a specific city or stadium so badly that they agreed to an early starting time to avoid curfew problems.

At the Rose Bowl, for instance, the show will start at 5 p.m. instead of the usual 7, so that it can end by midnight. Even with that compromise, however, Guns/Metallica representatives couldn't persuade the Rose Bowl officials to allow a second show Aug. 23.

To motivate the bands to finish by midnight, the Rose Bowl warned that the fine for violating the curfew would be $4,000 a minute.

Looming over everything was the Axl factor.

Axl Rose, the charismatic and controversial singer who has been called the Jim Morrison of contemporary rock, made headlines around the country July 2, 1991, after a melee at the Riverport Amphitheatre near St. Louis that caused an estimated $200,000 in damages and injured more than 60 people.

The flare-up came after Rose left the stage after 90 minutes, complaining about lax security in the facility. Earlier in the show, he had leaped into the audience to try to confiscate a camera that was being used without authorization by a concert-goer.

St. Louis authorities subsequently issued a warrant charging Rose with four counts of misdemeanor assault and one count of damage to property. The maximum sentence, for conviction on all counts, would be four years in jail.

Because the warrant still hadn't been served by the time Guns N' Roses ended a spring tour in Europe, many stadium managers were nervous because it was possible Rose could be arrested the night of their show, leaving security guards to deal with thousands of disappointed fans.

"Promoters were calling us all the time asking about the Axl and St. Louis matter," Mensch says. "And we kept saying, 'Don't worry. We'll sort it out before the tour starts.' Doug had been assuring us that things would be OK and he delivered."

Rose was finally arrested July 12 in New York after arriving on a flight from Paris. It was five days before the tour was scheduled to start at RFK Stadium in Washington.

"It looked in the press reports that it was all a big surprise . . . AXL ROSE ARRESTED IN NEW YORK," Goldstein said during the backstage interview. "But he knew he was going to be arrested. That's why I was there. I called him in Paris and said, 'Do you want to sneak back into the country? We've done it before . . . or do you want to put this behind you?' and he said, 'Let's get it over with.' "

This brought considerable relief to business managers and tour organizers. Even so, managers of almost a dozen stadiums on the tour showed up at the opening show to check out security and other elements of the production.

"Everyone is very, very aware of their responsibilities," said Alex Kochan, Guns' agent. "It's not that they want to be (negative) or anti-Guns or anti-Metallica. They just want to prepared and I think that's good."

For all the declarations that Guns N' Roses and Metallica are doing the show to fulfill a longtime dream and how they are, in effect, taking a cut in pay to do it, some industry insiders believe the tour is also good business.

Though the concert business was once considered recession-proof, gross ticket sales fell nearly 25%, last year--from $1.1 billion in 1990 to $830 million, according to Pollstar magazine, an industry trade publication. Equally startling news: Only 37 concerts grossed more than $1 million, down almost two-thirds from 1990.

Some analysts blamed the poor showing last year on the absence from the road of superstar rock acts. They expected things to improve this year because of tours by several proven draws. Among them: U2, Bruce Springsteen, the Guns/Metallica package, Genesis, the second edition of "Lollapalooza," a few Elton John/Eric Clapton pairings and Garth Brooks.

And many of these tours did generate encouraging news by registering instant stadium or arena sellouts in most markets. There were, however, isolated slow spots for many of the bands, including Genesis, Springsteen, U2 and the Guns/Metallica package.

In its mid-year assessment of the tour picture, Pollstar again expressed a warning. "The forecast is for intense competition for scarce ticket dollars, which will once again lead to far too many box-office casualties."

Rather than take a chance on damaging their image by trying to battle the recession in weaker markets, Guns and Metallica both come out big winners by pooling their drawing power.

Even if they make less money under the deal, they are establishing themselves as superstar draws and increasing their fan base. Since both are excellent acts, they will probably on future tours be able to draw those fans back, and more through word-of-mouth.

Guns, in fact, is talking about following up the Rose Bowl show with a possible September date on its own at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Guns N' Roses finally takes the stage at Giants Stadium at 12:20 a.m. and the group seems inspired from the start. The musicians, especially Slash, play with increased subtlety and character, while Rose is evolving into one of the most captivating singers in American rock since John Fogerty.

Despite his confrontational image, Rose concentrates mainly on the music--though he does cause the show to end about 10 minutes early.

Rose, who has frequently warned hard-rock crowds against throwing objects onto the stage, leaves the stage about 2:30 a.m. after being hit in the groin by a cigarette lighter. There is some scattered booing, but mostly the crowd simply goes home.

Backstage, the mood is upbeat. Despite the abrupt ending of the show and the fact that he is suffering from a sore throat that causes the next three shows to be postponed, Rose is in good spirits at a lavish, casino-themed party hosted by Guns for friends and the other bands.

True to its goal, the tour seems to be bringing out the best in both bands and is giving rock fans a rare chance to see two great bands in one setting.

Agent Kochan hopes the results may inspire other acts to team up.

"In this day and age, everybody gets used to making a certain level of money, and, frankly, the idea of putting more shows together for the audience and taking home less money is not the way the world is moving," he said backstage. "But I hope other groups are watching this and decide to try it, too. The concert business needs to start thinking more about the fans than the bottom line."
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