On 17th July, 1992 two of America’s biggest rock bands, Metallica and Guns N’ Roses, set out on an iconic co-headlining stadium tour. Halfway through the promising tour things went awry. The most notorious show being the one played in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium on 8th August, 1992, 25 years ago today. The night ended with one burnt frontman, one frontman with damaged vocals, infuriated audience members who began a riot, overturned cars, smashed windows, looted local stores, set fires, cost hundreds of dollars in damage and led to Guns N’ Roses being banned from the Olympic Stadium for life.
So what exactly led to the usually-well-mannered Canadians going ballistic on that fateful day? To do a quick recap: Guns N’ Roses were in the middle of their “Use Your Illusion Tour,” promoting their ‘Use Your Illusion I & II’ albums and Metallica were in the middle of their “Wherever We May Roam Tour,” promoting their eponymous fifth studio album, ‘Metallica (The Black Album)’. Not only were the two bands big in America, they were amongst the biggest, most successful bands in the world. Hence, to have the two headlining a tour together was an absolute dream. Who wouldn’t want to go to such an iconic gig?
Ironically, the show was advertised as “The Concert They Said Would Never Happen!”. As the highly anticipated concert day finally rolled around on 8th August, with opening act Faith No More in tow, that tagline proved to be true as the concert didn’t really…happen.
The show started out promising. However, early into Metallica’s set a piece of pyrotechnics malfunctioned. During the opening of ‘Fade To Black’, frontman James Hetfield mistakenly stood upon a pyrotechnics blast causing him to suffer from second and third degree burns. He was rushed to emergency and Metallica was forced to come off stage.
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Metallica’s impromptu exit meant that Guns N’ Roses had to take the stage earlier than expected. At this point Axl Rose could either save the entire concert or throw it all away. He chose the latter. Not only did the band take the stage two hours after Metallica’s departure, they barely played 55 minutes. During previous shows of the tour, Rose had damaged his vocals and was advised by doctors not to sing for at least a week, causing three tour dates to be rescheduled. In addition to this, a couple of nights prior to the Montreal show he was hit in the genitals by a lighter thrown from the audience, causing him to retreat backstage to compose himself.
According to fans Axl Rose delivered a bleak performance and obviously did not want to be there. After believing that his voice could take no more, Rose left the stage with his band in tow. Shortly after, the stadium screens flashed the following statement: “The show has been cancelled. Please check the media for news.”
In this moment, the crowd absolutely lost it and the stadium descended into chaos. Beer bottles were thrown, stadium seats were shredded and merch was destroyed. The angry mob of fans took to the streets, over turning cars, starting fires, looting and colliding with the authorities. However, out of the 53,000 or so in attendance, only 2,000 were involved in the riot. The chaos ended around 1 am with 12 arrests.
Six of the tour shows had to be rescheduled due to Hetfield’s injury. However, after the debacle Metallica charitably held a make-up concert at the Montreal Forum to appease their disgruntled fans. Guns N’ Roses however did not visit the city ever again.
Funnily enough both bands came back to Montreal this year. Metallica recently wrapped up a show at Parc-Jean Drapeau on 19 July, 2017 and Guns N’ Roses will be back – 25 years after that fateful incident- on 19 August, 2017 at Parc-Jean Drapeau as well.
It will be interesting to see how things play out for Guns N’ Roses 25 years after the “the mess-up”, as they say in Quebecoise english. If there’s one thing the band should’ve learned from the ordeal is that even the nicest people have their limits and it would be absolutely wrong to overstep those.