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2002.12.15 - The Philadelphia Inquirer - Guns N' Roses Cancellation Truly Hit The Fans

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2002.12.15 - The Philadelphia Inquirer - Guns N' Roses Cancellation Truly Hit The Fans Empty 2002.12.15 - The Philadelphia Inquirer - Guns N' Roses Cancellation Truly Hit The Fans

Post by Blackstar on Fri May 22, 2020 7:18 pm

2002.12.15 - The Philadelphia Inquirer - Guns N' Roses Cancellation Truly Hit The Fans 2002_195

Guns N’ Roses cancellation truly hit the fans

By Tom Moon

Could there be a better recipe for destruction?

Take 14,000 Guns N’ Roses fans who bought tickets for the band’s first tour in nine years. Put them in Philadelphia, where wearing the wrong color green at an Eagles game can get you roughed up. Let them simmer through long opening sets (including a hip-hop DJ, always a winner with a rock crowd) and then
more than 90 minutes of nothing happening onstage.

Then pour cold water on them with an announcement that, due to the “health issues” of an unidentified band member, the show has been canceled.

That’s what happened Dec. 6 at the First Union Center, sparking an outbreak of beer-tossing and chair-throwing that’s been called a “riot” or a “melee” that left at least 15 injured and did damage to the center. The fracas might be better described as the predictable venting of some hooligans who found themselves victims of what was apparently another spinout by front man Axl Rose. (We say “apparently” because almost a week after the event, as other shows on the band’s Chinese Democracy tour were either canceled or in trouble, GNR had yet to explain the cancellation.)

One off-duty city police officer who attended as a fan wondered what took the facility and the promoter, Clear Channel Entertainment, so long to make an announcement. “An announcement earlier would have made it better,” says the officer, who asked not to be identified. “That was way too long — I’m not sure they had the best interests of people at heart.”

And a tour-industry safety consultant who’s not aligned with Clear Channel, the nation’s leading live-music presenter, had the same concern when he heard about the cancellation.

“The worst thing you can do in an adverse situation is not communicate with your audience,” says Paul Wertheimer, president of Crowd Management Strategies and former general manager of the Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky. “You have to tell people what they’re up against, and prepare them, and show that you’re going to take care of them.”

But industry insiders caution that what looks from one perspective like a long, unexplained delay can be viewed as rock-and-roll business as usual.

For one thing, Guns N’ Roses didn’t take the stage on any date of this troubled tour — which began with a Nov. 7 cancellation in Vancouver — before 10 p.m., and sometimes didn’t start until nearly 11. Many fans here were aware of Rose’s volatility.

Few involved with the show here are willing to talk publicly, as there’s likely to be a hailstorm of lawsuits between the band and presenters of each of the tour’s derailed shows.

In a statement, Clear Channel said: “It is our policy, as soon as we have notification from the artist’s management that an event is postponed or canceled, to let the audience know as quickly as possible.”

Those familiar with the situation backstage at the First Union Center say that when it came time to let patrons in, nobody — not the artist’s representative, the facility, or the promoter — had reason to think the show wouldn’t go on.

When it became clear that Rose was not in the house (he was in New York), some back-stage were only mildly concerned, because lots of artists make the 90-mile trek from New York while fans are being entertained by opening acts.

Shortly after 9 p.m., though, serious contingency planning began. A helicopter was dispatched at Rose’s request; he apparently didn’t get aboard. A deadline for the singer’s arrival was set, though accounts differ on what that time was. When the deadline passed with no blooming Rose, says Peter Luukko, president of center operator Comcast-Spectacor Ventures, the parties worked as quickly as possible to defuse the situation and safely empty the building.

“About 10:45, when we [confirmed] he wasn’t coming, we sat down with the promoter, Clear Channel, and the touring company [another Clear Channel division], and the tour manager,” Luukko says, adding that the first calls were for police reinforcements and additional security from the then-dispersing Phantoms hockey game at the nearby Spectrum. Less than 15 minutes later, police officers had assembled and were ready to enter at several points around the arena.

Capt. Joseph Marker of the police Traffic Unit says his understanding is that the center waited until the additional police were ready to respond before announcing the cancellation. “If there was a delay [in making an announcement], it would have been a matter of minutes so that we could form up and issue some response.”

When the announcement came, it was from a disembodied official voice over the public-address system. Wertheimer says that was a bad decision: shouldn’t be a prerecorded message, it shouldn’t be the voice of Oz behind large curtains. You want somebody with credibility to get the crowd on your side. Luukko says he has seen this strategy work in the past, but thinks it would have inflamed the crowd. “Every situation is different. To get a [radio personality] up there and try and make light of it would have been absolutely counterproductive.”

As of Thursday night, there was still no apology from the arrogant former rock king who caused all the fuss, put the safety of thousands in jeopardy and displayed remarkable disregard for what ought to be a dwindling fan base. Wertheimer isn’t surprised.

“This is another example what I call mayhem marketing," he says. “This is a band that has [disappointed] fans in the past and when these things happen it gets them international publicity — which, it should be noted, the tour was not getting on its own."

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