Somebody once said (maybe) that show business is 10 percent insanity and 90 percent waiting around. That’s what the Guns N’ Roses media day felt like Thursday afternoon. Tours roll through Houston all the time, and reporters have to ask (nicely) to cover them, but once in a while one of them – usually a stadium-level production – will invite whatever local media happens to be interested in for a look around. It’s a lot like the new Showtime series Roadies without the romantic angst – hard hats, forklifts, cigarette smoke, stagehands laying cable, graphics checks on the video screen. Gripping stuff.
Taking the bait were us, the Chronicle, Culturemap, 106.9 The Eagle, and the TV folks from Newsfix, Channel 11 and Fox 26. NRG Stadium was as quiet as the fourth quarter of a Texans loss, and hot, because the loading-dock doors on the north end of the stadium were open. The stage, located in the north end zone, had mostly been built.
Eventually the tour’s production manager, Dale Skjerseth, walked out to answer some questions and break down a few facts and figures about the tour, the mostly reunited band’s "Not In This Lifetime" tour, its biggest in almost 25 years. Skjerseth said the tour has been crossing North America in a fleet of 20 trucks and 16 more “steel trucks” (which haul heavy equipment like light towers), and will mount tonight’s show with a stage crew numbering around 250 – half permanent tour staff and half local crew. Those folks will work 36 hours over three 12-hour shifts, and lay more than 1 million feet of cable, he added.
NRG is a “fantastic venue,” Skjerseth said, because it’s climate-controlled and the floor is concrete; other places on the tour have been open-air with turf or grass. Compared to previous tours, Skjerseth said, this one is designed to “present the band,” meaning lots of video closeups and whatnot, and uses a lot of pyro – “more than normal,” he said. Grab those earplugs.
Skjerseth has worked for Guns N’ Roses once before, he said, on the Use Your Illusion tour in 1991-92. Compared to back then, he said he thinks the band’s energy is higher this time. “They’re more focused on the show,” Skjerseth said. “Everything’s gotten better with age...we all have.”
The set is two hours and 45 minutes long, and Skjerseth said the band was “pretty attentive” in its planning stages, which began in January. His favorite song, he added, is “the last song.” To his knowledge, Skjerseth said the band has not been rehearsing any new material, the subject of many rumors surrounding the reunion. But, he added, their sound checks can last up to two hours.
“They enjoy playing with each other,” he said. “That’s why they got back together.”
Here’s the important stuff: More than 40,000 tickets have been sold, according to Live Nation’s Brian Birr, making Houston one of the top-selling markets on the tour; a couple of thousand tickets do remain in the upper levels, though. The parking lots at NRG will open at 4:30. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., and opener Skrillex is scheduled to go on at 8. It’s gonna be a long night.