25 Years Ago: Guns N’ Roses Concert Sparks St. Louis ‘Riverfront Riot’
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“Thanks to the lame-ass security, I’m going home!”
Guns N’ Roses were arguably the biggest rock band on the planet in 1991, and their summer tour hit fans during a period of peak anticipation for their long-awaited Use Your Illusion double LP. Unfortunately, it also arrived during a particularly turbulent time for the ever-unpredictable group.
The pressures of fame and following up a huge hit record, the annoyances of life on the road, dissension in the ranks — they all boiled over during Guns N’ Roses’ 1991-92 tour, and fans got a major taste of the increasingly ugly atmosphere surrounding the band when they pulled into St. Louis for their July 2, 1991, show at the city’s brand new Riverfront Amphitheater.
As previously reported, the show got off to a relatively smooth start — GNR made it through roughly 90 minutes of their set before things went awry. But once they went off the rails, partway through the evening’s performance of “Rocket Queen,” things really got ugly; when the dust settled, St. Louis had an aborted concert and a trashed venue to repair.
The trouble started when frontman Axl Rose spotted an audience member taking pictures and took exception. After shouting for security to take the man’s camera, he shouted, “I’ll take it, goddamn it!,” and jumped into the audience, where he got into a brief scuffle with the photographer before being pulled away. Telling the audience he was “going home” thanks to the Amphitheater’s “lame-ass security,” Rose took a hike — followed by the rest of the band.
The crowd, enraged by the concert’s sudden conclusion, reacted by laying siege to Riverfront — a melee recently revisited through an in-depth oral history conducted by Christian Schaeffer at the Riverfront Times, and published just in time for the riot’s 25th anniversary.
From the promoters and security personnel to concertgoers who witnessed it all go down in person — including Bill “Stump” Stephenson, the man whose camera triggered Rose’s outburst — it offers a fascinating recount of an unfortunate chapter in Guns N’ Roses history. Whether you’re a fan of the group or are just interested in seeing how easily a concert can go to hell, it’s well worth a read.
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