In the early Nineties, Guns N’ Roses agreed to perform a concert in France to be broadcast live around the world. John Scher, the New York promoter who’d worked with the band several times, was responsible for convincing notoriously late Axl Rose to appear on time. “Here’s the thing,” Scher lectured him, “if you’re not on the stage within 10 minutes, 10 countries are probably playing Abbott and Costello reruns. They’re not playing dead air.” But by the scheduled start time, Rose hadn’t shown up. Scher went to his dressing trailer. Rose was silent for precisely 10 minutes, then quipped, “Where’s the fuckin’ Abbott and Costello movie?” He quickly strode onstage and put on a fantastic show.
Now that GNR’s classic lineup, starring Rose, Slash and Duff McKagan, has agreed to perform a reunion show at Coachella and possibly other tour dates, all the old Axl-is-late stories are popping up again among promoters and fans. Joe Litvag, an AEG senior vice president who produces Rocklahoma and other summer hard-rock festivals, believes those days are long gone. “I’ve had Guns N’ Roses with Axl at a couple of our festivals in the last few years and he’s been great,” he says. “Our hope is they’re going to do more than a single festival appearance. If they do [a tour], it’s going to be big venues and big production.”
Billboard reported the band is negotiating to play up to 25 North American football-stadium dates, but top promoters and reps for several stadiums, including Boston’s Fenway Park and Atlanta’s Georgia Dome, wouldn’t comment. “I have nothing confirmed, that’s all I can say. Would I love to see a Guns N’ Roses reunion? Yes,” says John Meglen, a top AEG executive. “But a lot of what is being said out there is very, very speculative.”
Some in the concert business speculate the band is trying to provoke a bidding war among top promoters to get the highest possible guaranteed salary. But GN’R’s reputation, which includes riot-provoking walk-offs during the band’s early-Nineties prime, could hamper its potential. “I wouldn’t touch this thing. The only person I’ve ever seen keep Axl Rose in line is [the late rock promoter] Bill Graham, and he’s not around,” says a concert-business source. “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me; fool me 77 times, what the hell.” (Reps for GN’R wouldn’t comment.)
Still, this source predicts that if GN’R reunite without any serious issues, the band could easily play at least 17 or 18 stadiums in Toronto, Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., and other major markets. Scher adds that ticket prices could be as high as $350 to $500 for the best seats, not counting industry-standard VIP packages that could make even more money. “Can they do stadiums? Probably,” he says. “If I was representing them, I’d do a round of arenas first and see how fast they sell out.”
Those economics seem reasonable to Jerry Tarrants, program director of Detroit’s WCSX, which plays classic GN’R hits. “If Guns N’ Roses get their shit together, they could make a shitload of money,” he says. “I think they’re going to do fine, but it’s kind of fun wondering, ‘Will it implode three shows into the tour?’ That’s going to be part of the mystique.”