"The World's Most Dangerous Band." That was the tag applied to Guns N' Roses in their late '80s heyday, and though the smacked-out bad boys of Appetite for Destruction have largely mellowed into comfortable, safe middle age, Axl's crew can still lay a claim as legit as any to the title. Not for their most recent music, mind you -- although Chinese Democracy is banned in the People's Republic. The Gunners retain the top spot on the danger scale thanks to their ongoing legacy of inspiring spontaneous mayhem and destruction wherever they play (or don't play, as it happens).
In an effort to prepare H-Town for the worst when Axl and, uh, the other guys shimmy into Toyota Center on November 4, Rocks Off has compiled a list of GNR's most memorable civil disturbances. If you dare attend, be aware of your surroundings: When seats start raining down from the Lexus Lounge, do yourself a favor and grab the first pedicab back to the 'burbs.
5. No Photos, Please
Guns N' Roses' first riot also happens to be one of the band's most memorable. The concert took place at St. Louis' Riverport Amphitheatre during Guns' marathon Use Your Illusion tour. A bit of a control freak at the best of times, Axl made little secret that he was unimpressed by the venue's security. By some accounts, the band had to contend with fans grabbing their ankles and throwing bottles at the stage. Already on edge, when Rose spotted an amateur photographer snapping away at him from the front row during "Rocket Queen," the singer snapped, too.
After his commands to security that the camera be confiscated were ignored, he dove into the crowd to take matters into his own hands. After landing a few blows, the singer stormed back on stage and told the crowd, "Thanks for the lame-ass security! I'm going home," and disappeared. When it became apparent that the show wouldn't continue, the amphitheater crowd went ballistic, tearing seats out of the floor and destroying the band's gear. Pretty much everything that wasn't welded down was hurled at the stage while the rest of the band, unsure what had happened, hid in the wings.
Chaos reigned in the venue for nearly an hour before police in riot gear finally got the situation under control. When all was said and done, 90 people were injured and 16 were arrested. The incident made world news and solidified the band's reputation for danger. To this day, more than a few St. Louis residents still have the wreckage they took home as a souvenir of one of GNR's most infamous concerts.
4. The Lingerie Model Riot
It isn't just the punters in the cheap seats with an appetite for destruction. International A-listers sometimes show up at GNR shows ready to kick the windows out of cop cars, too. Just last March, during the band's tour of South America, the Gunners were booked to play an exclusive nightclub gig in Sao Paulo, Brazil, that turned into a violent melee resulting in $60,000 worth of damage.
The band was apparently scheduled to play a "secret" show at a local club hosted by lingerie model Ana Beatriz Barros and friends, but word of the gig quickly spread via Facebook and Twitter, leading to a mass of party crashers showing up. It's not clear if Guns ever actually intended to play the gig, but by the time 3 a.m. rolled around with no sign of the band, the billionaires and celebrities in attendance got a little antsy. When it was finally announced that Guns N' Roses wouldn't be playing, the rich and beautiful folks in the crowd erupted, charging the stage, destroying furniture and equipment, and swinging bottles and fists at anything that moved. Possibly GNR's most bizarre civil incident, the "Lingerie Model Riot" proved conclusively that pretty people like to smash shit, too.
3. Argentine Aggression
Not all Guns N' Roses riots are perpetrated by the fans inside the venue. At least 12 people were arrested on March 22, 2010, after legions of metal heads without tickets tried to bum rush the band's concert at Velez Stadium in Buenos Aires, Argentina. According to media reports, many of the pissed-off headbangers had purchased counterfeit tickets on the Internet.
The mayhem began when fans left stuck outside the stadium started getting rowdy and hurling bottles. A tad spooked, perhaps, by the throng of angry rock fans, members of Argentina's federal police infantry opened fire, using gas and rubber bullets to disperse the unruly crowd before it could tear down the gates. By all accounts, this action was unappreciated by the rioters. How bad did things get before the throng was put down? Firefighters were called to the scene after a tree was set ablaze. Not even plant life is safe from Guns N' Roses!
2. The Return of the Riot
Nov. 7, 2002, was supposed to be a big night for Axl Rose. After a decade of changing trends, ugly rumors and zero music out of Guns N' Roses, there were serious questions about whether Rose would or even could perform again. Still, a surprise tour announcement that summer had fans salivating. He was bringing his band of ringers to Vancouver to prove that GNR was alive and well.
Rose, as it turns out, was not. In an incredible-yet-predictable move, the band actually no-showed their own triumphant return gig. By 9:30, the time GNR was scheduled to go on, Rose wasn't even in Canada. According to Guns' management, his flight's departure from L.A. had been delayed by mechanical troubles. The concert was canceled before the doors even opened, and as if on cue, a riot broke out.
Following the announcement of the cancellation, angry fans convened at the gates of the venue and started ramming long, metal security barriers through the glass entry doors. As the air filled with bottles and rocks, riot cops arrived wielding the traditional batons and pepper spray. Before the melee ground to a bloody halt, the rioters had caused $350,000 in damages and destroyed 65 plate glass windows.
If Guns N' Roses weren't quite back yet, they were certainly still dangerous.
1. Mayhem in Montreal
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In 1992, there was one rock concert circled on the calendar of every headbanger in North America: Guns N' Roses and Metallica, the two biggest, baddest bands in the world at the time, joined forces to annihilate the eardrums of the entire Western Hemisphere. With GNR's Use Your Illusion and Metallica's black album blowing up MTV and the charts, this tour was the very definition of "can't-miss." When the heaviest show on earth rolled into Montreal on August 8, les Québécois were ready to bang hard. As you may have guessed, things didn't quite go according to plan.
Things began unraveling during Metallica's set, when singer James Hetfield was caught in one of the band's 12-foot-high pyrotechnic flame effects. The group was forced to cut their set short as Hetfield was rushed to the hospital with second- and third-degree burns.
Guns N' Roses could have swooped in and saved the day with a transcendent performance, assuming the band hadn't been in rough shape themselves. Drugs, alcohol and the road were taking a serious toll on the group, and they'd postponed their previous three shows due to problems with Rose's voice.
The band gamely took the stage two hours later, but called it quits after just 55 minutes, citing a faulty sound system. (The same sound system that Metallica had used, mind you.) Feeling cheated out of the concert of the year, the crowd began to riot, overturning concession stands inside the stadium venue and setting cars ablaze outside. 300 club-wielding police officers chased rioters through the city streets and fired tear gas to regain control. The cops even shut down four nearby subway stations to prevent the riot from spreading to the transit system. All told, the incensed concert-goers caused $400,000 in damage to Montreal's Olympic Stadium, earning Guns N' Roses a lifetime ban from the venue and forever cementing their status as the world's most dangerous band.