In 1991, Guns N’ Roses played an infamous show at the Riverport Amphitheatre, just outside St. Louis. While the band was performing, Axl Rose noticed a fan in the audience taking pictures. He tried to send security out to kick the fan out or to confiscate the camera, but he kept seeing the guy taking pictures. So eventually, Rose jumped into the crowd to attack the fan, and he ended up fighting with both audience members and security guards. When he got back onstage, he promptly stormed off, and the rest of the band joined him. The crowd that night, in what’s been dubbed the Riverfront Riot, tore the arena to pieces, resulting in 60 injuries and hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage. Rose was later charged with inciting a riot, though the charges were dropped.
After that show, GN’R continued to blame the city and the security for the riot. Rose wore a “St. Louis Sucks” shirt onstage, and the band included “FUCK YOU, ST. LOUIS” in the Use Your Illusion liner notes. Last week, the band announced the dates for its quasi-reunion tour, with Slash and Duff McKagan back in the fold for the first time in decades. When the band first announced the cities they’d visit on this tour St. Louis was on the list. But when they announced the actual dates, there was no St. Louis stop.
When it looked like they were actually coming, the city’s Riverfront Times wrote, with mixed feelings, about the idea that the band might return to the city. It won’t happen. The Riverfront Times now reports that the band wasn’t able to find a suitable venue in or near St. Louis:
Most tours of this magnitude are planned well in advance, but we’re working on GN’R time. GN’R has every intention of coming back but can’t make it happen on this tour… When Guns N’ Roses teased the 2016 tour last Friday, the actual tour routing was still in development, and the expectations was that all 21 cities would be included. Over the subsequent days as the routing and logistics were being finalized it became evident the calendar would not allow for the tour to make a stop in St. Louis.
A quick personal story here: My first concert was a year after the Riverfront Riot, and it was Guns N’ Roses, Metallica, and Faith No More on the Washington, DC opening date of what would become a massive and ill-fated stadium tour. I don’t know how I convinced my dad to take me to that; it involved something like straight A’s on my seventh-grade report card. My dad basically hates all rock music. This was a major coup.
Guns N’ Roses came onstage an hour and a half late, which was a thing they always did at the time, though I didn’t know that when I was 12. My dad kept itching to leave, saying they weren’t coming and there was about to be another riot. When they did finally make it onstage, the last Metro trains were about to leave, and we only got to stay for four or five songs. (I heard the opening notes of “Welcome To The Jungle” as we were walking across the parking lot. It was heartbreaking.)
But three songs into the show, I did get to see one classic, vintage Axl Rose moment, one that’s deeply inscribed on my memory. “They told me not to say anything derogatory about St. Louis,” Rose said. “Well, St. Louis can suck my dick.” He then went off on a long rant about how the city doesn’t know how to host a rock concert. My dad happens to be from St. Louis. And I just sat there, on pins and needles, watching his blood boil. It’s amazing to think that, 25 years after that St. Louis show, those tensions might still remain.