Revisiting Guns N’ Roses’ Warm-Up Shows for ‘Use Your Illusion’ Tour
When Guns N' Roses started their Use Your Illusion Tour in May of 1991, they were still months away from delivering their two new albums to fans — but that didn't keep crowds from turning out for arguably the most heavily anticipated concerts of the year.
A handful of lucky GNR die-hards had a chance to get an early taste of the tour — and some of the group's new material — when the band booked a trio of warm-up dates that kicked off May 9, 1991, at the Warfield in San Francisco. Although they'd performed a few months earlier during Rock in Rio II, the Warfield date represented their first U.S. show of the year — and according to RIP, the pent-up demand for their return manifested itself when the show sold out roughly an hour after Slash and Duff McKagan announced it with a call to a local radio station.
Those who managed to score tickets were treated to a 20-song set that sprinkled hits like "Patience" and "Sweet Child O' Mine" in between a heavy helping of songs from the forthcoming Use Your Illusion double LP. For fans in the crowd at the Warfield, the night's performance — which started with a salvo of Illusion cuts that included "Pretty Tied Up," "Bad Obsession" and "Double Talkin' Jive" — was full of the unexpected. Yet as RIP noted, many of them "were singing their lungs out by the second chorus."
The Warfield show got the tour off to a promising start, but trouble was on the horizon. Rose would injure his foot during the final warm-up date, in New York on May 16, foreshadowing a grueling, lengthy run that would prove a financial burden as well as an emotionally draining experience that included riots and medical emergencies. By the time the band played the final date on its Use Your Illusion trek, their classic lineup had started to splinter, and GNR would never be the same.