Sunday, August 15, 2010

Axl Rose leaves crowd hanging before Sturgis appearance

Rapid City Journal
STURGIS -- The final hours of Friday the 13th seemed like bad luck for the Rock ‘N Rev crowd. The cool wind began to blow, Alice in Chains had just finished its set at 11 p.m., and Axl Rose was nowhere to be seen.

“Don’t worry about it,” Jeremy Stark, 33, of Independence, Mo., said. “This is what Axl does.”

Guns N’ Roses was set to play at 10:30, 11:30 or midnight, depending on which schedule you saw or rumor you heard. It was nothing new to Stark, who followed the band throughout its “Use Your Illusion” world tour in the early 1990s.

“He makes people wait,” Stark said. “The complainers leave early, and the rest of us get to see the show.”

Not everyone was happy with the wait.

Angry voices could be heard. Beer bottles and cans were tossed at the stage. Some people left, not wanting to wait until Saturday morning for Rose and his band to begin performing. Some of them had bought two-for-one tickets at the gate.

About 10 minutes after midnight, a helicopter flew over the Monkey Rock USA compound, giving fans hope that Rose might be on board.

“That’s him right there!” Stark said.

The pre-concert tension did not concern festival organizer Dan Catullo III, who said Guns N’ Roses had done a sound check early Friday morning in preparation for the show.

“I woke up this morning, and Guns N’ Roses was doing their sound check,” he said. “That’s when it sunk in for me: We got Guns N’ Roses.”

Catullo’s other job was just beginning as Friday night’s concerts began. He soon would be directing the cameras for the night. The plan is to release concert DVDs, as well as use the footage to show future acts just what Rock ‘N Rev has to offer.

When it comes to Axl Rose, that plan can get tricky.

“Axl’s never approved a live shoot before,” Catullo said. “Big-name directors like David Fincher and Wayne Isham have asked and never been approved. If I pull this off….”

Catullo trailed off into the land of dreaming big. Three $20-million video trucks captured the Rock ‘N Rev shows all week, but Friday night’s shoot would likely be the biggest moment of the crews’ careers.

Or it could be a total bust, if Rose did not show.

“People don’t understand. Axl builds anticipation, and when he comes on stage, it’s an explosion,” Stark said.

Stark has waited a long time to see him play. In 2006, the last year Guns N’ Roses performed in the United States, Stark waited four hours for a show to begin. It’s all worth it to him, however.

“We’d have driven to Canada to see Axl,” he said.

At 12:47 a.m. Saturday, the lights went out at the Rock ‘N Rev amphitheater.

At 12:51, what some consider the biggest concert in Sturgis motorcycle rally history began with “Chinese Democracy.”

Stark was right.

Those who remained -- about 75 percent of the original crowd -- exploded as the show began.

Almost two hours later, after an encore that included “Paradise City,” Axl Rose threw his red-capped microphone into the audience and said good night to Sturgis.

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