Welcome back to the jungle

We generally like to stay current and local with our music reviews on this site.   Despite the fact that this review is a bit, um, dated, the band in question is about to return to town for the first time in 17 years (albeit not with the same lineup by a longshot), so it can be considered current.   Even though we’re talking about an international group out of Los Angeles, the show in question and what happened afterwards is part of Montreal history, so in that regard, it does count as local.

So, without further adieu, here’s my review of…

Guns n’ Roses, Metallica, Faith No More
Olympic Stadium, Montreal, Quebec
Saturday, August 8th, 1992

Axl Rose onstage in Montreal before the riot in 1992

I was 15 years old.   It was the first real concert I went to in my life (not counting school band shows).   People started packing into the Olympic Stadium by the thousands at around 5:30pm for a scheduled 7:30pm start time.   Considering there were three bands on the bill, two of which were bound to play long sets, the early start time made sense.

Faith No More started on time, with no light show or even dimmed stadium lights, clearly the opening act.   Considering how at the time I was only saturated with mainstream rock, I had no clue who they were.   I couldn’t hear the vocals all that clearly and was only thinking of the bands to come, so they didn’t really catch my attention all that much.

After 45 minutes, they left the stage and the excitement in the room (technically, it’s a room) grew.   Soon enough the lights dimmed and Metallica hit the stage.   They were in fine energetic form.

About 20 minutes into the set (I’ll say 20 minutes, but my recollection of time that evening has been a little skewed over the years), the lights turned out and the intro to Fade To Black started.   Then boom, the pyrotechnics explode.   Then nothing.

I wasn’t that familiar with Metallica’s older stuff (at the time older meant pre-Enter Sandman, hey I was fifteen, but I subsequently became acquainted with it), so this seemed like a rather long pause in the song.   Then people started clapping in unison and banging on random things.   Wow, what a pause for effect.

Then Lars Ulrich, surrounded by almost the whole band told the crowd “we’re canceling the show because you’ve been illegally taping us” kidding, this was pre-anti-downloading douchebag Metallica and he told the crowd that there had been an accident with the pyrotechnics and singer/guitarist James Hetfield had to be taken to the hospital.   They promised they’d come back and make it up to people fair play.

Too bad for James Hetfield, but now the band I had really come to see would be on stage soon enough.   The crew set the stage for Guns n’ Roses, then seemed to take parts of it down and set them back up again.   Two hours later the lights started to dim, anxious people started cheering.   Then they lit up again.   Then they dimmed.

After what seemed like an eternity, GnR finally hit the stage.   They had energy at first and plowed through songs like Nighttrain,   Mr. Brownstone and other songs from Appetite For Destruction.   Eventually, they got around to what were the newer songs at the time.

They started Civil War.   This was the Use Your Illusion tour and GnR had really been doing this one in a very theatrical manner.   Axl Rose even changed outfits three times in the song.   This time, he didn’t.   He started with his first verse Civil War outfit then sat down on stage for the second verse.   He almost mumbled the second chorus then his voice trailed off.

Thank you, your money will be refunded, we’re outa here!” (audio file, right-click, “save as”)

That was the last thing heard from the lead singer before he left the stage.   A Slash guitar solo later and the show was over…but for many, including the media, this is when the story starts.

As the lights flickered on, people made it clear that they weren’t leaving, possibly in disbelief as to what had just happened, following the disbelief of what had happened earlier.   Some PR flack came on stage and told everyone that the show was over and there would be a refund.

People started lighting their t-shirts and stadium seats on fire.   Others broke stadium windows and toppled a car that was in a display case.   Others got into scuffles with the police, even destroying police cars outside.   It was a full-blown riot, Montreal-style.

Not that I knew it, though.   Everything registered, the smashing, the fires, the people running, but I was so pissed that a show I had been cut short that I didn’t realize I was in the middle of a riot.   I thought this stuff was normal for concerts.   I only found out the next day when it was labeled as such in the media.

There were many explanations as to why GnR left the stage.   Maybe it was Axl’s psycic telling him to avoid cities beginning with an M, maybe it was a bad trip, who knows.   The official story is that the monitors on stage weren’t working and Axl didn’t want to strain his voice.   That’s a better one than Axl had a sore throat, considering he continued partying in Montreal after the show.   Not that any of them mattered to me at the time, or to me now, for that matter.

Metallica did return to play again, but Guns n’ Roses didn’t and I never got that refund that was promised to me.   Now, the “new Guns n’ Roses” which is basically Axl with an entirely new band is scheduled to play the Bell Center in Montreal January 27th, 2010.   No word on whether or not ticket holders from their last show will get to see it for free.

Even if there was a freebee option for me, I don’t know if I’d go.   I’m still a fan of a lot of GnR’s music, though I hardly listen to it.   My tastes have grown quite a bit.   I’m also a lot less accepting of the “it’s just a character” excuse for some of their more controversial material and find videos like Estranged to be, well, laughably over the top.   Still, they were a great band in their day, too bad I didn’t have a chance to experience that.

I’ve seen many concerts since and pretty much all of them were better than this clunker.   However, as the old saying goes, you always remember your first and in this case, it’s true.

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