“Not in this life,” singer Axl Rose told the press one night in 2012, when asked about the possibility of reuniting with the original members of Guns N’ Roses. By this time, almost ten years had passed since the last time they all played together. However, and contrary to Axl’s predictions, Bogotá awaits them this October 11 and 12 for their two sold-out dates at the Nemesio Camacho ‘El Campín’ Stadium.
But, there was a moment when the world thought it would never see all the members of Guns N’ Roses together on the same stage again. The fights that divided the group and that ended with its absolute dissolution in 1996 seemed irreversible, especially on the part of Slash and Axl.
Knocking on the doors of heaven
Guns N’ Roses was the band that was on top of the world and they were skinny
Los Angeles was the birthplace of Guns N’ Roses in the mid-1980s. At that time, the band consisted of Axl Rose, as lead vocalist; Slash, as guitarist; Izzy Stradlin, as second guitar; Duff McKagan on bass, and Steve Adler on drums. They were the band called to meet the need for hard rock that the audience had at that time and very soon they became one of the most important bands in the world. “Guns N’ Roses was the band that was on top of the world and they were skinny,” as Julio César Escovar, director of Radioacktiva, says.
Since his wonderful debut with ‘Appetite for Destruction’, album that sold around 30 million copies globally, their career seemed only to be on the rise and from all over the world they were waiting for them to play. Colombia was no exception. “(Duff) Mckagan said: ‘if we are going to be the number one band in the world, we have to play all over the world,’ and that is why they came here,” says Julio Correal, one of the organizers of the band’s first concert in Bogota.
The story of the night of November 29, 1992 in which Guns N’ Roses played in El Campín has already become a legend among the city’s rockers. ‘November Rain’ played on Axl Rose’s piano while the rain poured down on the euphoric audience that didn’t stop singing, despite the deluge. It was a night that ended with rampages outside the stadium, a police general at the hospital and a search for suspected drug possession at El Dorado Airport, just before the gang left the country.
Little did fans know that Guns N’ Roses’ decline had already begun at that point.
(Keep reading: Guns N’ Roses in Colombia: the story of the perfect tragedy)
The beginning of the end
The separation of the band was not due to a particular episode, but due to an accumulation of things that ended up fracturing the relationship between them. Axl’s tardiness was one of those problems. A couple of months earlier, that same year, 1992, Guns N’ Roses had toured the United States with Metallica. It was, at that time, the meeting of two of the most desirable bands in the world and promised to be an extraordinary show for fans of ‘hard rock’ and ‘heavy metal’.
The problem was that the band had become famous for their late appearances on stage. James Hetfield, guitarist and lead vocalist for Metallica, knew Axl’s routine very well and, since he didn’t want it to interfere with his concert, he made a deal with the band and told them that Metallica would play first every night. But, according to Slash in his autobiography ‘Slash: From Guns N’ Roses to Velvet Revolver’, this did not end the problem, as Axl organized theme parties behind the scenes every night, which, inevitably, delayed the concert of ‘the Guns N’ Roses ‘.
“Metallica made the same as us every night, but while they ‘pocketed’ everything, we lost 80% both in overtime fines that we were charged for being late on stage and for stupid theme parties,” says Slash in his book.
Another of the biggest fights there was over a Slash collaboration with Michael Jackson for his ‘Dangerous’ album. As former band manager Doug Goldstein told the press at the time, Slash’s decision affected Axl because he had been abused by his father as a child and believed the accusations against Jackson. All this and more was creating a tense environment within the group that led to its inevitable dissolution. “It was a rock and roll novel in which everyone was partly right and partly to blame,” concludes Escovar. Slash was the last to leave, in 1996, but many fans did not lose hope that one day they would meet again.
(You’re interested: Doesn’t Slash collect copies of Guns N’ Roses records?)
‘The Guns’ at the Jaime Duque
It was a total failure, no one went and the show was decadent
Axl Rose tried to continue with the project alone and in 2008 he released the album Chinese Democracy, his first without the rest of the band, but its commercial success, especially compared to that of the band’s previous albums, was quite precarious. Even so, that did not stop him and he made a new tour of the album that also stopped in 2010 in Colombia, at Jaime Duque Park, on the outskirts of Bogotá.
For many, that concert was a great disappointment. “People left very dissatisfied,” says Fernando Pava, another of the organizers of the concert in 1992 and one of the promoters of the band in the city. Julio Correal agrees with Pava: “It was a total failure, no one went and the show was decadent,” he said after saying that that time he had brought Guns N’ Roses t-shirts to sell outside the concert and they all returned them.
It was a difficult time in which no one had faith that the band would come back. Especially since a year before that concert, in 2009, Axl Rose gave one of the harshest statements to the press about Slash: “Simply put, I personally consider it a cancer and it’s best to remove it, avoid it, and the less anyone hears from him or his fans, the better,” the singer said. At the time, many fans buried any chance of ever seeing them again.
(Also read: Guns N’ Roses made their fans vibrate in Chile before arriving in Colombia)
the mythical comeback
Interestingly, a call from Axl Rose to Slash was enough for everything to be in the past. In 2015, the two sat down to talk about the possibility of getting the band back together, and the following year they made it happen. The legendary return of the band occurred on April 1, 2016, in a bar in Los Angeles called Troubadour, the same place where they played live for the first time in 1985.
With access to only 500 people and without tickets for the press, the group that was a sensation during the 80s and early 90s announced its return to the stage. From there, the world heard all of his hits again on the ‘Not in This Lifetime Tour’, in honor of that Axl episode with the press. The tour even had a stop in Colombia at the Atanasio Girardot Stadium in Medellín on November 23, 2016.
The pandemic did not allow them to perform at the Festival Estéreo Picnic in 2020, as planned, but this time the return that the people of Bogota deserved is coming. For Julio Correal, seeing them here again is the culmination of a story that the band began to write 30 years ago. “I think that when we hear Sweet Child O’ Mine and Knocking on Heaven’s Door at the ‘El Campín’ Stadium, that cycle is finally over for us,” he said.
SANTIAGO GOMEZ CUBILLOS
School of multimedia journalism EL TIEMPO
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Guns N’ Roses: The story of a comeback that seemed impossible
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