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2003.02.DD - Classic Rock - Appetite for Self-Destruction

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Transcript:
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Appetite for self-destruction

Today W Axl Rose stands alone. After the debacle that was Guns N’ Roses’ return to the road in the US, it seems the day of reckoning has come. As his current bandmates desert him, Classic Rock asks: What the hell is going on in the mind of this eccentric recluse? And what will he do next - if anything?
Using his illusion: Dave Ling


FOR A GROUP THAT MADE ITS REPUTATION THROUGH ITS 'unpredictability', the latest US tour by Guns N' Roses came to an all too predictable end on December 11, when the promoters issued the following terse press statement: “The remainder of the Guns N' Roses concert dates promoted by Clear Channel Entertainment have been cancelled,” it read simply, while only hinting at the reasons for the cancellation when it added: “Refunds will be available at point of purchase. Clear Channel Entertainment takes pride in bringing live entertainment to the public. We apologize for any inconvenience to all the fans who purchased tickets.”

Inflicting further - this time possibly irreparable - damage to the singer’s already tattered professional reputation, it now looks likely, according to sources close to the band, that those carefully chosen words effectively mark the end of the current line-up of Guns N’ Roses, all of whom are said to be disenchanted by their leader’s latest apparently wanton act of self-destruction.

Given his band’s astonishing rebirth at 2001’s Rock In Rio III festival and the success of last summer’s UK concerts, it seems barely credible that Axl could have shot himself in the foot quite so badly. However, the unfortunate events of last November and December have, yet again, allowed Axl to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

With the tour barely two weeks old, there had already been a catalogue of disasters, many of them depressingly familiar, including riots, no-shows, delayed appearances, cancellations, tantrums, “health problems”, even reports of a ‘tour psychiatrist’ being hired to coax the singer onto the stage each night - a bigger problem than one might imagine, with the singer not even being in the same city, let alone the same dressing room, as the rest of the band at one show. This has caused understandable friction among the vast organisation behind such a tour, and a great deal of dismay for fans who have not had the chance to see the band play regularly in the US since the ill-fated ‘Use Your Illusion’ tour back in 1992.

While official sources insist the band are fine and have already gone back to adding the so-called finishing touches to ‘Chinese Democracy’, the album Axl has been tinkering with for more than seven years now, word around the campfire is that bassist (and musical director) Tommy Stinson and guitarist Robin Finck have both tendered their resignations; guitarist Buckethead is also rumoured to be considering his options. Even old friends who have seen it all before are said to be shaking their heads in dismay and this latest downturn in events. According to one source in America, who did not wish to be named: "Axl has never been so totally alone before.” And as the last surviving member of the original line-up, this time he has nobody to blame but himself.

As regular Classic Rock readers know, some of us have seen it coming for some time. The tale of the band’s return to the road - and the scale of their ensuing topple from grace - is an all too familiar one. The signs were there for all to see when the band famously failed to show up for two consecutive British tours in 2001 - to add insult to injury, the second time after manager Doug Goldstein claimed, farcically, that he “forgot” to pass the news of the 14-date tour on to, uh, the band. Which is the most ridiculous excuse since Motley Crüe blamed "too much snow on the roof" for the cancellation of a show at Wembley in 1988. Were we really expected to believe, as Goldstein suggested, that Axl only found out about the tour via the internet once it had been cancelled? Apparently yes.

However, once Axl and his new-look GN’R did finally make it over here to play, at the Leeds Festival and London Docklands Arena last summer, the music was often so good that many were prepared to forgive - if not entirely forget. If we weren't quite witnessing the rebirth of a legend - only a re-formation of the classic line-up would actually give us that tantalising prospect - it was certainly fascinating to watch Axl struggle to rewrite history. “Where’s Slash?” cried someone at Leeds whose memory was obviously now longer than their hair. “Up my ass,” Axl snarled. One wondered how that made Buckethead feel as he prepared to replicate yet another of Slash’s glorious solos...

But then Axl’s take on the past has never been wholly convincing: “I wasn’t gonna get in a one-on-one war with the old guys, because I thought all that would do was bring attention to their albums,” he told Michigan radio station WRIF when quizzed about the original band’s demise. “I didn’t want that at all. The reality was that I was going to do most of Slash’s songs, in particular, but every time we got halfway near something that [could] be successful it was backed away from. There was a lot of stress.

“Izzy and those guys... none of them wanted to do the big shows. From day one, Izzy wanted to be the size of The Ramones, doing like 2,000-seaters, so there was always a little battle there, and the other guys had to be on so many substances to be able to deal with that,” Axl said, omitting to mention his own weird on-tour proclivities, like the time in 1991 he kept an audience in New Jersey waiting for more than four hours while he “took a shower”. To his credit, he did add: “Slash could play great guitar [while] on a lot of drugs.”

However, his arrogance was channelled in more positive directions when the question of the band overrunning their allotted stage time in Leeds came up just before the start of‘November Rain’. Having delayed his entrance on stage by over an hour while he got himself mentally “ready”, it was feared the midnight curfew imposed by the local council might be the spark that sent the singer into psychotic overdrive. But as he took his seat at the grand piano Axl made the following announcement: “The council and the promoters say that we’ve got to get off,” he casually informed the crowd. Cue loud boos. But he added that he still had "seven or eight more songs” he wanted to play. Cue hoots of delight. “I didn’t come all the way to Leeds to be told to go fucking home!” he complained, and began playing. Cue rapturous applause.

Fortunately the organisers had agreed to allow the show to overrun. Otherwise, what happened on the recent US dates might have occurred. Even being relatively good boys and actually showing up, albeit late, their appearance still managed to inspire 500 overwrought fans to gang together to fight police, knocking down and setting fire to 71 toilet blocks and a Portacabin along the way.

None of which the band can be blamed for. In fact, Axl appeared to be in extraordinary form that night. Clearly his anti-authoritarian streak was still as strong as ever, as was his legendary messiah-complex, yet he appeared focused on his music, and the results were sometimes spine-tingling.

When word got back to the US, tickets for an upcoming show at Madison Square Garden in New York sold out in under an hour. As a result, it looked like the band’s first US tour for 10 years would be one of the end-of-year highlights of 2002. It’s now believed that despite Axl’s public protestations to the contrary, there were even hush-hush talks behind the scenes to try to get ‘Chinese Democracy’ released at some point during the tour - possibly February or March.

And then just as it looked like they were actually back in business, it all started to go wrong - again. Things started to happen to Axl and... well...

AS EVERYBODY KNOWS, AXL ROSE IS ONE OF THOSE people things have always happened to. Where do you start?

His chequered career on the road with GN'R has been defined by its calamities and disasters. One of the biggest occurred in October 1991, when 60 people were seriously injured in St Louis after Axl started a riot when he jumped into the crowd to attack a fan who was holding a video camera, then stormed off stage and refused to come back on. Riots, cancellations, ridiculous delays and all-out madness characterised the entire two-year ‘Use Your Illusion’ tour. At one show in Dallas, Axl decided he’d had enough, and when he left his hotel that night he instructed his driver to take him to the airport rather than to the local concert hall where the band were waiting to go on. It took literally hours for Axl’s entourage to persuade him to return to the venue, by which time the promoters were desperately showing footage of topless female fans on the venue’s video screens to try to prevent fans from tearing the place apart. The superstar attitude wasn’t merely reserved for underlings and fans, though; while opening for the Rolling Stones in 1989, Axl famously kept the headliners waiting for three hours to rehearse a duet with Mick Jagger.

Back on tour in America last year for the first time in a decade, it was hoped Axl had left such problems far behind him, that the new, more eager to just get out and play figure he’d presented in the UK would be the one who showed up in the US.

Fat chance. According to insiders, Axl had started to unravel before the 2002 tour had even begun. Despite telling a website beforehand that the US tour was “our tour -that I have personally authorized," and that “for better or worse, we’ll be there”, on the opening night at the 10,000-seater General Motors Place in Vancouver, rioting fans caused damage estimated at several hundred thousands of dollars when the band failed to perform.

The reason? Having left it to the last minute to set off for the show, a delay in his flight from Los Angeles meant the singer was still in the air when the band should have been on stage. Organisers waited over two hours then cancelled the show, they said, “when it was recognised that the band could not take the stage at a reasonable time”. Incensed concert-goers used steel barricades to break windows, and police were forced to use pepper-spray to disperse thousands of irate fans.

Unusually keen to give his version of events, Axl spoke to Seattle radio station KISW the following day. As usual, it was anybody’s fault but his: “We were going to play, and the plug got pulled on us," he insisted. “Basically, the building manager just decided - in all of our opinion, prematurely - that the show was just cancelled. He didn’t discuss it with anyone. [The road crew] found out over the public address system. We have a legal team looking into it.”

Demonstrating at least that he does still have a sense of humour, Axl brought the 10-minute interview to an end by saying he had to “get down to soundcheck before they cancel the show”.

Other radio stations were contacted in the days that followed, but now a series of conditions had to be agreed to first before Axl would speak. Namely, that the interview be taped in advance, so that Axl could hear and approve it first, and that it adhere strictly to an agreed list of questions that could - and couldn’t - be asked. According to one DJ who wished to remain anonymous, off-limits topics included Slash or any ex-GN’R members, rival bands or other music in general, the Vancouver riot, and any other facet of his seemingly chronic inability to start a show on time. Interviewers were encouraged to ask instead about the tour and the ‘Chinese Democracy’ album - specifically, and most laughably, what it was like to have spent some time in China and written songs there. The station would also be barred from previewing the interview until Axl had done it and approved it. That way, if he deemed its contents unsuitable, no one would even know it existed.

Over the next few days the band played shows in out of the way places like Boise, Idaho, and Fargo, North Dakota, before arriving at the first major stop on he tour: New York. The Madison Square Garden show, which had allegedly sold out in 15 minutes flat, was the highlight of the band’s all too brief tour. From the stage a relieved Axl told the crowd: "I managed to get enough of myself together to do this.” Afterwards he reportedly told everyone he thought that it was as good as the band could get” and that it was “time to cut their losses” and get on with things again - specifically, the US tour and the release of the new album.

Backstage, however, the circus carried on. An MTV representative allegedly heard Axl brawling with one of his managers; Buckethead’s freakish refusal to remove his trademark headgear after the show also resulted in tense scenes; even the guitarist’s girlfriend was unable to persuade him to unmask during the postshow revelry. According to one onlooker: “He was literally hiding behind some lockers. His girlfriend came and... I wouldn’t say they were having a fight, I think she was trying to coax him into taking off that mask.”

The next stop should have been the First Union Center arena in Philadelphia, on December 6. However, police were called to the 14,000-capacity venue when fans began to become “unruly” after the show was cancelled at the last minute due this time to the whole band failing to show up. Chairs and bottles were thrown during the resulting melee, though police reported no arrests. A spokesman for First Union Center later said that they had received a phone call “shortly after 11 pm" on the night of the show telling them that an unspecified band member had been "taken ill” and that the group would not be able to perform.

A Virginia-based long-time GN’R fan called Bob who’d been following the tour later emailed the Metal Sludge website to voice his disgruntlement - and add some information of his own. According to Bob, who had been waiting for autographs outside the group’s hotel in New York, all of the group - except Axl - left for Philadelphia (a two-hour drive away) at 2.30pm that day. By the time of Bob’s own departure at 7.30pm, however, Axl still hadn’t left the hotel in New York.

"Talk about unprofessional. What the hell was Axl thinking in leaving that late?” Bob asks, not unreasonably. "We arrived in Philly around 10pm, thinking that Axl would hit the stage by 10.30 or 11pm, which is usual. Anyway, when we got there it was a war zone. People were leaving and the [venue] was about half full. People were booing, chanting ‘Axl sucks!’ When the cancellation announcement was made around 11pm, people on the floor started destroying chairs. That’s kinda late to cancel a show. Security were getting bombarded by [beer] cups and trash.”

The venue halted the sale of alcohol once they realised what was happening, but there were nearly more serious consequences when several female ushers later claimed to have been threatened with rape by "half-crazed” fans. Around half of the Union Center's women employees stood their ground; the rest were ushered to a safe area, where male colleagues guarded them as all around them thousands of fans chanted: “Axhole! Axhole! ” Fifteen people were injured, the mixing desk was destroyed, a ceiling from a private box torn down, and obscene graffiti scrawled on the walls.

Two days later, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the singer never even checked into the city’s Ritz Carlton Hotel, having remained in his New York suite to watch a basketball game. As a consequence of Axl’s no-show, Philadelphia radio station 93.3 WMMR announced they were boycotting Guns N’ Roses music for three weeks. They have since pledged not to play any material from ‘Chinese Democracy’ - if and when it is ever released - until Axl calls and apologises on air. The suspicion is that they’ve got a long wait ahead of them.

"My friend and I are both hardcore Axl fans,” continues Bob from Virginia, sadly. “He’s great musically and we’ll continue to be fans, but as a person he has no consideration. [He] doesn’t give a fuck about people. What an asshole."

Within days of the Philadelphia debacle, the plug was pulled on shows in Washington DC, Albuquerque, Phoenix, Sacramento and San Jose; fans were warned to expect more cancellations. After that it was only a matter of time before the announcement was made that the whole tour was pulled - which it finally was on December 11.

Since the cancellation, Axl has remained ominously silent. According to an unnamed official source quoted in the New York Post, the band had been “getting along better than ever because something was finally happening”, before the tour started to fall apart. “They had been previously frustrated by the delays and Axl’s pathological perfectionism, tardiness and general insanity. Now they’re back in the same boat, and they'll probably split.”

So what now for the volcano-tempered singer? Well, there’s still no release date scheduled for ‘Chinese Democracy’. According to some of the gloomier sources, there never will be now, and it will go down as one of the great ‘lost’ albums, alongside Prince’s ‘Black’ and the Beach Boys’ ‘Pet Sounds’ - though whether it would be anything like as good as either of those epoch-defining masterpieces remains to be seen.

According to more informed sources, however, after all the time and - most importantly - the money that has been spent on ‘Chinese Democracy’, neither Axl nor his record company can afford not to release it. And the suggestion in some quarters now is that Axl may even be persuaded to bring in a professional songwriting team - as do groups like Def Leppard, Bon Jovi and Aerosmith - in order to at least pepper up the new album with a few identifiable hits. But then who in their right mind would want to be the bloke who went to tell Axl he needed help writing a few catchy tunes?

Could it be, in that case, that the key to Axl’s future now lies in the past? With Slash, Duff and Izzy (along with drummer Matt Sorum) coincidentally now back together in LA making music, the irony is that they are a band in search of a singer just at the moment when Axl has again become a singer in need of a band -perhaps even a friend. And who really knows him better, at this point, than the guys with whom he first made it all happen?

Well, it’s an idea. According to some sources, it may even be more than that, with suggestions that negotiations between the two sides are going on even as you read this. It’s even been suggested by some that the same therapist who helped to mend the rift between Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora (and before that Steven Tyler and Joe Perry) will be brought in to help ‘reconcile’ their problems.

How much of this is true remains to be seen. The immediate aftermath of the tour fiasco is that Axl will now have to stave off a messy lawsuit from his promoters, Clear Channel. Gary Bongiovanni, editor of the concert industry publication Pollstar, believes that even if Axl wins the battle, which seems unlikely, it may already be too late to salvage his reputation in the business.

“Rose has damaged his career,” Bongiovanni told Entertainment Weekly. “This makes the band a riskier situation for promoters in the future." To prove his point he cites the fact that the tour hadn’t been performing as well as expected. According to Pollstar, the initial 10 shows sold an average of only 7,344 tickets each night, often in venues that could hold more than double that number of fans. Bongiovanni concluded: “The 2002 Guns N’ Roses is [no longer] an arena act.” According to rumours, with the band selling less than 3,000 tickets in advance for their Washington show (in a venue that holds 18,000), the rest of the band had suggested that perhaps it would be better to scale-down the tour and revert to smaller theatres. But Axl was having none of it. Axl scale down? You can imagine Slash or Izzy chuckling ruefully when they heard that one.

Meanwhile, with Axl apparently withdrawing into his shell again the rumour mill has been churning away. ‘Sources say that Rose is very close to checking himself into a psychiatric clinic to deal with "exhaustion” and a number of other emotional problems,’ reported the Chicago Sun-Times in January. ’Famous for his outrageousness, the aging rocker lately has been “even more whacked than usual.” The singer himself has openly admitted he's battling inner demons.’ According to former GN’R manager Alan Niven, maybe it’s because “Axl requires hate to drive his muse. David Bowie once told him that this drove his creativity, and the comment made a big impression on Axl.” Niven recalls how Axl was late for "everything”, even when he first met him in the mid-80s. "His failure to show up for the very first gig after signing a management contract [with me] rather set the tone,” he says. Referring to Axl’s later claim to have been abused as a child by his stepfather, he adds: "There were aspects to Axl’s behaviour that I found excessively abusive of others, even considering the difficulties of whatever might have occurred in his childhood.”

“He would leave the stage in the middle of every single show we played,” said original GN'R drummer Steven Adler. "Or he wouldn’t get there on time. I’d say: ‘What are you doing?’ and he would kick me in the balls.”

“I don’t have much positive to say [about him], and Axl has enough complications without me adding fuel to the fire,” said an email sent by an acquaintance of the singer to the Dallas Observer as the paper investigated the tour’s cancellation. Another ‘old friend’ of Axl's told the paper: "He teeters on the brink of sanity.”

It should be interesting to see what he does - or doesn’t do - next. Meanwhile, now that he’s back in LA with lots of time on his hands again suddenly, hopefully he will take the time to at least talk to Slash, Duff and Izzy. It could well be that they are the only people left who can understand a word Axl says.

***

ALL THE WORLD'S A STAGE

And Rush have been selling more tickets than Axl!

ACCORDING TO US TRADE TITLE Pollstar, Guns N' Roses' abandoned tour scaped in at No.75 in American's top-grossing tours of 2002, which was topped by Paul McCartney. The 16 dates that Axl and co actually managed to turn up for generated some $6.5 million, averaging 8,660 tickets sold per show.

So if Guns N' Roses weren't exactly taking the box offices by storm the way they used to, which rock bands were doing the business? Well, Aerosmith and Rush featured both prominently in Pollstar's Top 20, with Tyler and company rated seventh, grossing $41.4 million over 55 shows; post-grungers Creed came eighth ($39.2 million in 83 shows); and Rush were 16th ($27 million in 63 shows).

Elsewhere, the Ozzfest was placed 17th ($26.3 million in 29 shows), with art-rockers Tool coming 18th ($23.1 million in 86 shows). The co-headline jaunt between former Van Halen frontmen Sammy Hagar and David Lee Roth came 50th. Just behind them - and ahead of Axl! - Poison's string of 59 summer gigs racked up gross profits of $6.7 million, earning them 72nd position.

***

WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE
A timeline of Axl's return to the road.


June 2000

Just 250 lucky punters are on hand to witness Axl Rose unexpectedly jamming at the Cat Club with former Guns guitarist Gilby Clarke’s band The Starfuckers. Rose’s first live appearance since 1993 sees him guesting on two Rolling Stones songs, ’Wild Horses’ and ‘Dead Flowers’, with The Starfuckers, the house band at the West Hollywood venue.

At around the same time, Rose grants Rolling Stone magazine a rare interview. Besides discussing the state of‘Chinese Democracy’ - at this point reported to have cost an estimated six million dollars - the singer also reveals that his new-look Gunners have also re-recorded their 1987 debut album ‘Appetite For Destruction’, minus the songs ’You Could Be Mine' and ‘Patience’.

"Why did we do that?" Axl said. “Well, we had to rehearse them anyway to be able to perform them live again, and there were a lot of recording techniques that subtly could use a little sprucing up.”

December 2000

The first Guns N’ Roses concert in seven years is confirmed, apparently to be followed by a full-length tour. Rose is to unveil his new line-up on January 14 at the Rock In Rio III festival in Brazil, as part of a diverse bill that also includes Iron Maiden, Halford, Queens Of The Stone Age, Sepultura, Sting, Foo Fighters, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Oasis, Neil Young, Deftones, Britney Spears, Papa Roach, 5ive and REM.
This being GN’R, nobody so much as bats an eyelid when we learn that the new band will feature an individual who plays with an upside-down Kentucky Fried Chicken container of on his head. Oooh, the suspense!

December 2000

Rose breaks in his new grouping - the aforementioned Buckethead, plus ex-Nine Inch Nails guitarist Robin Finck, guitarist Paul Tobias, former Replacements bassist Tommy Stinson, keyboard players Dizzy Reed and Chris Pittman and ex-Primus drummer Brian Mantia - with a pair of New Year shows in Las Vegas. A full house of 1,800 fans pay a whopping $180 per head to watch the band at the House Of Blues.

January 2001

Despite intense speculation that they will not turn up to fulfill their obligations at the three-day show. Guns N’ Roses do appear at Rock In Rio.

An estimated 200,000 fans watch a two-and-a-half-hour set that comprises ‘Welcome To The Jungle’, ‘It’s So Easy’, ‘Mr Brownstone’, ‘Live And Let Die’, ‘Oh My God', 'Think About You’, ‘You Could Be Mine’, ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine', ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’, ‘Madagascar’, 'November Rain', ’Outta Get Me’, ‘Rocket Queen’, ‘Chinese Democracy’, "The Blues', ‘Patience’, 'Nightrain', ’My Michelle’, ‘Silkworms’, ‘Paradise City’. These set is also peppered with various lengthy and furious rants from Rose. At one point he tells the crowd: "I know that many of you are disappointed that some of the people you know and love could not be with us here today. Regardless of what you have learned or read, my former friends [have] worked very hard to do everything they could so I wouldn’t be here today. I say fuck that."

The verdict of Classic Rock's on-the-spot live reviewer is: "As Axl had promised, the new band can 'play the fuck out of these songs’... This isn’t over quite yet”.

March 2001

In the wake of their success of Rock In Rio, shows in London, Glasgow, Manchester and Birmingham in June are announced.

May 2001

On the eve of the European tour, there are widespread rumours that the shows will not take place. One US report states that Rose’s refusal to perform is due to a secret batch of hair transplants leaving him with "big, scarred patches on the back of his head”; another report insists he’s been undergoing liposuction.

Other mooted reasons for the trek’s postponement - which is finally confirmed just as Classic Rock 29 goes to press - include a mystery stomach illness being suffered by Buckethead (strange, considering the enigmatic guitarist had played a solo show weeks earlier), and even that Queen producer Roy Thomas Baker has been brought on board to help the band add the finishing touches to ‘Chinese Democracy’. Official sources remain tight-lipped, except to reveal that the four UK shows will now take place between December 13 and 19.

November 2001

Ticket sales are frozen when the tour's fate once again plunges into uncertainty. Buckethead is now rumoured to have left the band. As Issue 34 is closing, GN’R’s UK publicist acknowledges the enormous levels of conjecture, but claims to be awaiting an official update concerning the fate of the shows. Tipped off by various US sources, Classic Rock expresses its scepticism that the band will even board a plane. The abuse we receive in return comes from all sides.

In related news, Slash puts his Snakepit project on hold. The guitarist also informs a Canadian magazine that he and other members of GN’R’s classic line-up are seeking ways to regain part control of the Guns N’ Roses name. He says: "Now that I know a little bit more about that stuff, I'm trying to look for a loophole."

December 2001

We told you so. All 14 of the band's European shows fail to take place - once again. This time manager Doug Goldstein shoulders the blame. Ludicrously, Axl later claims to have found out about his touring commitments via a spell on his PC. He says: "I was sitting at home on the internet and I found out the tour was cancelled. I had no idea that I [even] had a tour.”

A statement from Goldstein says: “Following the euphoria of Rock In Rio, I jumped the gun and arranged a European tour, as our plan was to have the new album out this year. I’m very sorry to disappoint our fans. I made a plan, and unfortunately it did not work out.”

Goldstein adds that Rose has spent "every waking hour of every day during the last five years” working on ‘Chinese Democracy’. As Classic Rock points out, it’s a shame that the frontman’s manager didn’t find the time to bring up the small matter of a UK tour. The GN’R fansite My Guns N’ Roses (www.mygnr.com) even apologises to Classic Rock for our no-nonsense coverage of this farcical situation. “We’ll take out any negative references to you guys,” they tell us. "You were right all along."

December 2001

Perhaps in a bid to prove that the band do still actually exist, Guns N’ Roses return to Las Vegas to play two further end of year shows, this time at The Joint and the Hard Rock Cafe. During the former show, Rose storms from the stage twice. Slash -who has just announced the demise of Snakepit -attempts to attend the second gig, but at Axl's insistence the former GN'R guitarist is turned away at the door.

“I was trying to be discreet, but apparently Guns N’ Roses’ management found out and it was major pandemonium,” Slash later comments. “It was like they sent out an all-points bulletin.”

February 2002

Rose dismisses Roy Thomas Baker from the ‘Chinese Democracy’ project, just as his former bandmates move to block the inclusion of the new band’s version of 'Welcome To The Jungle’ from the Black Hawk Down soundtrack.

Slash and bassist Duff McKagan are also linked with guest spots on a new solo album by former GN’R guitarist Izzy Stradlin.

May 2002

The Gunners announce an appearance at the Leeds Festival on August 23, though they decline the Carling Weekend’s invitation to headline sister event the Reading Festival due to prior commitments at the Pukkelpop Festival in Belgium.

July 2002

It’s reported that the band will also play London's Docklands Arena on August 26 and 27. When Classic Rock calls the Arena's box office to determine whether these extra shows are actually taking place, we are told: “Allegedly those dates are happening. They are pencilled in. but the contract has yet to be signed.” To further confuse matters, the Leeds Festival is also rumoured to have had its licence turned down after the organisers failed to make improvements to the site.

August 2002

Guns N' Roses promoters Clear Channel confirm the band's Docklands Arena appearance, a single show on August 26. Before the group fly to the Far East and then Europe, an interview with Rose is posted at the band’s official website, www.gnronline.com (at press time the site still hasn't been updated since September). In it, Axl admits to feeling "misty-eyed” at the thought of disproving the sceptics, also expressing his desire to “wrap up the baby", a reference to the recording of ‘Chinese Democracy', now estimated to have cost a whopping $8 million. But he also has a word of advice for those holding their breath during the wait: “Don't. Live your life. That’s your responsibility, not mine."

The Gunners also find time for a surprise guest spot at the MTV Video Music Awards. They are critically mauled for their performances of ‘Welcome To The Jungle’, ‘Madagascar’ and ‘Paradise City’, and Axl later admits: "We didn’t have what we were doing onstage worked out till the day of the show.

It wasn't even for sure that we were playing till the day." Astonishingly, the Leeds and Docklands gigs both take place. At the latter they are described in Classic Rock as: "The greatest Guns N’ Roses tribute band in the whole wide world."

Meanwhile, Duff McKagan informs Classic Rock that he is working with Slash and former Guns drummer Matt Sorum on a new project. Duff reveals that the trio arc seeking a suitable frontman. Former Skid Row singer Sebastian Bach and Travis Meeks of Days Of The New have both cut demos with the band, which McKagan says “doesn’t sound like Guns N’ Roses". But the bassist does add: “We're not going to pretend we weren't there."

Intriguingly, McKagan adds that while there are no plans for a GN'R reunion, he wouldn’t rule out the possibility "in a year, or in three years”.

November 2002

Guns N’ Roses’ first North American tour in nine years begins on November 7 at the General Motors Place in Vancouver. The very first show is cancelled by the promoter, causing a riot. The next few shows pass without incident, but police are called once again when GN’R fail to appear in Philadelphia on December 6. As stage time approaches, it's alleged that Axl is still in his New York City hotel room watching a basketball game on television. After just a month, the tour is unceremoniously cancelled.
Blackstar
Blackstar
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