Are Guns Done?

With a busted tour, future of "Chinese Democracy" is in doubt

January 6, 2003 12:00 AM ET

When Axl Rose failed to appear at his band's December 6th show in Philadelphia, he may have ended any chances of a Guns n' Roses comeback. A riot ensued that night, the tour was cancelled and serious questions were raised about the group's future. After nine years of near-seclusion, no new album and an aborted concert trek, is this the end of Gn'R?

A source close to the tour said the decision to pull the plug was made primarily by the promoter, Clear Channel, who stood to lose millions, given that Philadelphia was Rose's second no-show (Gn'R also canceled the tour's first date, November 7th, in Vancouver) and the tour suffered from soft ticket sales. Gn'R were selling an average of 7,500 seats in 15,000- to 20,000-capacity arenas.

After the tour was shuttered, Rose sent musicians and crew packing, with no plans to reschedule the remaining sixteen dates. The band's label, Interscope, continues to maintain that Gn'R will soon put the "finishing touches" on the infamously delayed Chinese Democracy CD, though no release date is set. "There's every chance that he'll be so pissed by what's happened that he'll finish the album immediately," says one source familiar with the band. Insiders concede that it's also possible the tour's public meltdown will drive Rose back into hiding.

As always, Gn'R remain shrouded in mystery. Everyone who works with the group -- from roadies to band members -- have signed confidentiality agreements and would not talk for this story. Still, some disgruntled crew members have come forward. According to one source, Rose kept to himself most of the tour, traveling in limos and in a private jet. He was repeatedly late to shows, and his tardiness often forced crew members to work up to twenty-one hours a day. "Axl's not a demonic bad guy," says a source. "He just does things his way, and that doesn't work for the rest of us."

The Philly debacle ended with a few fans in the hospital and thousands of dollars in damage. Can Gn'R mount another tour despite this track record? Surprisingly most insiders say yes. Jess Margera of opening band CKY became a supporter of the troubled singer during the tour, especially after Rose went with CKY to a strip club in Toronto.

"Axl was really cool to us," Margera says. "I'm sorry everybody else didn't get treated as well by him." Legendary rock manager Irving Azoff also remains optimistic. "In Axl's case, anything's possible," Azoff says. "If this guy has a hit record, he's back. Rock & roll has always been anti-establishment. Part of Axl's anti-establishment is pulling this shit.

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