Sunday, October 25, 2009
Is Montreal Ready to Welcome GN'R Back to the Jungle?
National Post (Canada)
Tour announcement brings back memories of 1992
By Justin Go
"Thank you, your money will be refunded."
These were the parting words from Axl Rose to a crowd of 53,000 Guns N' Roses fans at Montreal's Olympic Stadium on August 8, 1992, delivered right before leaving the stage.
As the evening's co-headliners, Metallica had been forced to cut their performance short after singer James Hetfield was rushed to a hospital following a pyrotechnics accident; the crowd had been hoping that Guns N' Roses would salvage the night. With a set cut short at 55 minutes, Rose's performance didn't cut it.
Thousands of angry fans proceeded to go on a rampage, setting fires and breaking windows and concession stands in the stadium, eventually spilling out onto streets. It took 300 riot police to keep the violence contained. At the end of the night, 12 people were arrested and 20, including three police officers, were sent to the hospital. The total damage to Olympic Stadium was estimated at $300,000.
Reflecting on it later in an interview with MTV, Rose was far from apologetic. "There were technical difficulties in Montreal, and we had to leave and the crowd was very upset about that," he explained. "They didn't really take the time to think about what went on for us. Now that's kinda hard to take, and I don't feel responsible for that."
Maybe the fans should've seen it coming. A year earlier, Rose had been accused of instigating a riot in St. Louis, Mo., after he ended the concert early due to being unimpressed with the venue's security. It took third-degree burns for Metallica to cut their Montreal show short, but all it took for Rose to decide he'd had enough was the Big O's PA system. (Fan speculation ranges from Rose having vocal problems to his personal fortune teller advising him earlier to avoid all things with the letter "m.") And while Metallica made good on their promise to finish the concert at a later date, there would be no refund from Rose, nor would he play the city again.
That's all set to change after this week's announcement that Guns N' Roses will tour 13 cities in Canada next year, with the Bell Centre in Montreal scheduled for Jan. 27.
"I've been waiting for this a long, long time," says an elated Laurent Lépine. Now 36, Lépine was a teenager when he saw Guns N' Roses on that infamous night. Lépine felt so strongly about it that he started an online petition and MySpace page called GNR Fans Around the World, trying to rally together like-minded devotees to the cause.
"They came to Quebec City in 2006, but that's not the same. We want to see them here."
Philippe Renaud, music critic for La Presse, is a bit more skeptical about the event. "I doubt it's going to be a good show," he says, siding with the many detractors who believe Guns N' Roses in its current incarnation - without co-founding guitarist, Slash - isn't the real thing. "But Axl Rose will make sure to be there. He's getting old, and he needs the money."
And it shouldn't be surprising if, this time around, there's some resentment among those who were treated to half a concert and then put in harm's way.
"It was terrible and I cried all the way home," Lépine admits, adding that his contribution to the mayhem involved throwing a hot dog stand down the stairs of Olympic Stadium. "I watched the news all night, I couldn't sleep. ‘But it's rock 'n' roll,' I thought."
That's a sentiment amplified by Metal Mike, host of the radio program The Metal File on Montreal's CHOM-FM.
"It was the most fun rock 'n' roll night ever!" he says. "It was the best summer to be a teenager. I was 17, and we had the Habs riot and Guns riot within a few months of each other!"
Metal Mike also claims that many who attended the concert wear the experience as a badge of honour. "It was just a bunch of metalheads running around breaking things. We knew it was the last hurrah for metal," he says. With this new date, he's wary of bandwagon jumpers. "All of a sudden every Montrealer acts as if they were there."
Rose's most recent Canadian fanbase altercation came in 2002. After years of hiding, he honoured Vancouver as the city to open the Guns N' Roses comeback tour, and then proceeded not to show up. But even then, there was something affirming in the singer's disrespect of his fans. "When I saw the Vancouver stories about a riot, I knew Guns N' Roses were back," Metal Mike recalls.
Calls to the Montreal police could not confirm if there would be more security than usual for the event. But it is worth noting that while every other show on the upcoming Canadian tour is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m., the Bell Centre lists a start time of 6:45 p.m.
Ever the true believer, Lépine, who named his youngest of four children Axl in honour of his musical hero, believes the early start time might mean Rose and company will play an extended show to make up for the last one. And while he admits apologies aren't in the front man's nature, he's convinced a solid performance will clear the air.
"Twenty years after, if he gives a good show and kicks ass, it will be fine," Lépine says. "But I'll believe it when they're here. You never know if he cancels," he says, only half-joking.
© 2009 The National Post Company. All rights reserved. Unauthorized distribution, transmission or republication strictly prohibited.
posted 8:06 AM