Classic Rock Corner

Lose Your Illusion: 5 Lowlights of the Tour That Tore Guns N' Roses Apart

On May 24, 1991, Guns N' Roses embarked on its Use Your Illusion Tour, a massive 192-date concert spectacular that took the band to every place on the planet with electricity.

The string of shows marked the very height of Guns' popularity, with more than seven million people in 27 countries plunking down money to see the world's biggest rock band. It was a wild, titanic, unpredictable trek matched by few in the annals of stadium rock, and the group played damn near every song they ever wrote (and a few they didn't).

It was also the beginning of the end -- at least for G N' R's classic incarnation. From almost the very start, the tour was marred by late start times, rioting, cancellations, drug abuse and outrageous behavior from a Mr. Axl Rose.

It all seemed deliciously decadent at the time. In reality, though, the band members were becoming so deeply isolated by fame, addiction and paranoia that a descent into complete dysfunction was inevitable.

Still, when the tour finally wrapped up in Buenos Aires in July 1993, who knew that Slash, Duff and Izzy had each played his final show with Guns N' Roses? How did things get so fucked up that the original lineup never recovered? With all the children conceived in the parking lot after that GN'R gig in East Troy, Wisconsin, having now reached legal drinking age, we feel it's an appropriate time to take a look back at a few of the signposts leading to the end of the road for the Use Your Illusion lineup.

Here are five mistakes that you'll want to avoid repeating, should you ever find yourself traveling the globe in the world's most dangerous band:

5. Rioting Bums People Out: Axl Rose goes onstage when he's ready -- not before. That was the message received loud and clear by promoters and fans all over the country as the wait times between the opening bands' set and Guns' arrival grew unconscionable very early on in the tour. Sometimes the band would appear 40 minutes late; sometimes it would be hours. The long waits caused crowds to grow restless and drunk, and if the shows didn't go as planned, things got ugly.

Axl was deeply paranoid about security on the tour. When venue security goons ignored his commands to confiscate a camera from the crowd at St. Louis's Riverfront Amphitheater, he tried taking matters into his own hands, jumping into the audience to chase down the photographer. When Rose returned to the stage, he told the crowd he was going home. The band left the stage, touching off a riot that injured 90 people and led to 16 arrests.

It wasn't the last riot of the tour -- fans went berserk when the band left the stage early again in Montreal in 1992 -- but it was the most crushing. The threat of violence lingered over every gig afterwards, with Slash, Duff and drummer Matt Sorum hitting the bottle (and bindle) hard as Axl continued to make everyone wait.

4. Where's Izzy? Guns N' Roses guitarist and songwriter Izzy Stradlin accomplished a feat even more impressive than releasing a platinum double-album in 1991: He got sober. And as he looked around at the Use Your Illusion Tour with clear eyes, he didn't like what he saw.

Fed up with stress caused by the St. Louis riot, Axl's chronic lateness and his bandmates' debilitating drug abuse, Izzy quit the band after the European dates of the tour's first leg.

It may not have been fully appreciated at the time, but Stradlin's departure was a major blow to the band. He'd been Axl's childhood pal from Indiana and co-written most of the songs on Appetite for Destruction, and now he'd dumped the band and its baggage for good. Original drummer Steven Adler had already been replaced, but it wasn't until Izzy left that Guns N' Roses began to feel like a band in which no one was irreplaceable.

Except, of course, for Axl Rose.

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Nathan Smith
Contact: Nathan Smith