Guns N' Roses bring Leeds to its knees!

24 August 2002

Despite a line-up that would rank as exceptional, without their presence (Incubus, Slipknot, Puddle of Mud, The Offspring - The Prodigy's first English appearance since 1998!), there was but one band dominating the proceedings at the first day of the Carling Weekend: Leeds Festival 2002. From the t-shirts, to the campsite stereos, to the abundance of bandanas and top hats in the crowd, to the backstage gossip to the comedy tent banter, the entire site was overshadowed by a heavy fog of anticipaction.

Indeed, this marked the first UK appearance by Guns n' Roses for nine years, and represented the unveiling of an all-new line-up. The Leeds site was packed to bursting point with people of all ages wanting to be a part of this momentous event - from the die hard nostalgia junkies to the new metal kids (who pilfered their big brothers' record collections to hear this stuff, in the same way that their big brothers nicked their dad's Led Zeppelin), to the plain curious who simply wished to see if there is life after Slash.

From the moment the band arrived, the show effectively began, as the cavalcade of no less than eight police-escorted black stretch limosines cruised onto the site, disappearing into the expansive sealed-off 'GNR only' area occupying half of the backstage compound.

Due to 'technical difficulties' they took the stage an hour and a half later than schedule, kicking off with a short film intro at 11.30pm (the normal curfew time for the event!). The set was virtually identical to that of the recent Hong Kong shows, relying heavily on material from the Appetite for Destruction, with the inclusion of 2 new songs, 'Madagascar' and 'Chinese Democracy', title track from the forthcoming album. Rose was notable for his lack of costume changes (he donned black leather trousers and an American football top throughout) and his voice which was more consistent and controlled than ever. The new band added a slick new sheen and professional tightness to the older songs.

The controversy kicked off mid-way through the set, when Rose announced, "Looks like this is going to be an interesting night. I have just been informed by Leeds city council and the promotors [Mean Fiddler] that they want me to end the show [due to the time constraints resulting from the earlier delays]. Now, I don't want to be accused of inciting a riot, but I didn't come all the way to England to be told to go home again! I've had nothing but shit from the press here. Axl this, Axl that. Anyway, if you stay here, we'll keep playing and we'll see what happens".

With the festival's future at this venue already in jeopardy, due to local campaigns that nearly prevented its licence this year, the promotors were instantly thrust into a very difficult position. In 1992, riots broke out in St. Louis (Rose was charged with incitement) and Montreal after GNR cut their sets short.

Obviously, it was decided that pulling the power just wasn't worth the risk, and Axl subsequently announced, "They're going to let us carry on. I want to thank whoever was responsible for that".

Rose reacted to a Virtual Festivals crew member's chants of "We want Slash" by quipping, "Up my arse, that's where Slash is. Fuck off, go home". The band eventually left the stage after 1am - unheard of for a British Festival.

Click here for a full review of the show.

The full set list was:

'Welcome To The Jungle'
'It's So Easy'
'Mr. Brownstone'
'Live And Let Die'
'Think About You'
'You Could Be Mine'
'Sweet Child O' Mine'
'Knockin' On Heaven's Door'
'November Rain'
'Out Ta Get Me'
'Rocket Queen'
'Chinese Democracy'
'Paradise City'

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