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15 Years Ago: Guns N’ Roses Debut New Lineup at Rock in Rio 3

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Guns N’ Roses‘ 2016 Coachella reunion with Duff McKagan and Slash isn’t the first time Axl Rose has made headlines with a new lineup at a giant music festival.

On Jan. 14, 2001, Guns N’ Roses created a ruckus with the debut of enigmatic guitar wizard Buckethead, Replacements bassist Tommy Stinson and former Primus drummer Bryan “Brain” Mantia at Rock in Rio 3, the giant Brazilian music festival.

The concert followed a lengthy period in which Guns N’ Roses had all but disappeared from the public eye. In fact, between 1991’s Use Your Illusion I & II and Rock in Rio 3, there had been just one song – “Oh My God,” from the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie End of Days. Along the way, Guns N’ Roses suffered more than a few setbacks. Band members came and went, and eventually Rose found himself as the only one left from the Appetite for Destruction days.

It got to the point that Rolling Stone actually asked Rose if he’d considered dropping the Guns N’ Roses moniker all together. “I contemplated letting go of that, but it doesn’t feel right in any way,” Rose replied. “I am not the person who chose to try to kill it and walked away.”

Certainly, interest remained. Tickets for a warm-up show at the House of Blues in Las Vegas disappeared almost as soon as they went on sale. The stage was set for Guns N’ Roses triumphant return at Rock in Rio 3. A familiar, high-pitched voice opened the show (“Do you know where the f–k you are?”), then the crowd went nuts as GNR launched into “Welcome to the Jungle.”

The two-hour show was off to a good start. From there, Guns N’ Roses mainly focused on familiar favorites; the set also included three songs from the forthcoming Chinese Democracy – though that long-delayed project ultimately wouldn’t arrive for another seven years.

A European tour was planned after this well-received performance, but was ultimately cancelled. The newly reformulated Guns N’ Roses wouldn’t play again until much later at 2001, when they returned to Vegas, this time at the Joint.

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