The 30 Wildest Moments From Guns N’ Roses’ Use Your Illusion Tour
By 1991, the former Los Angeles gutter rats had become the biggest rock band in the world, riding high on the success of their multiplatinum debut album Appetite for Destruction and its stopgap follow-up G N' R Lies. Guns N' Roses had captivated audiences over the past several years opening for acts like Aerosmith, the Rolling Stones and Iron Maiden, quickly eclipsing the headliners in popularity and volatility.
On the Use Your Illusion Tour, Guns N' Roses finally got to prove their mettle as arena- and stadium-filling superstars. After a year off the road, they shook off the rust during two headlining performances at Rock in Rio II in January 1991, debuting a slew of new songs off the yet-unreleased Use Your Illusion albums and a new lineup that included drummer Matt Sorum and keyboardist Dizzy Reed.
From there, they zigzagged across the globe for more than two years, playing 194 shows in 27 countries, making the Use Your Illusion Tour one of the longest treks in rock history. It's a testament to GNR's popularity and stubbornness that they stuffed sets with new songs that didn't get released until several months into the tour — and that these unknown tunes received rapturous feedback from audiences nonetheless.
More than its incendiary live performances, though, the Use Your Illusion Tour lives in infamy for its myriad controversies, both onstage and off. Mercurial singer Axl Rose habitually showed up to venues several hours late and was prone to onstage tantrums. He stormed offstage and cut shows short several times, in some instances causing audiences to riot and rack up hundreds of thousands of dollars in property damage.
These onstage antics hinted at a band that was teetering on the brink of destruction behind the scenes. Rose's megalomaniacal outbursts aside, the other members of Guns N' Roses were caught in the throes of addiction. Bassist Duff McKagan was guzzling vodka by the quart, while Slash's heart stopped for eight minutes after he overdosed on heroin in a San Francisco hotel room.
Guns N' Roses' appetite for dysfunction made them punching bags in the press and enemies of their tour mates, such as their stadium co-headliners Metallica and opening act Faith No More. It also prompted guitarist Izzy Stradlin to quit the band in 1991 after getting sober and realizing he could no longer stomach their hedonistic lifestyle and the glacial pace at which they got things done.
Miraculously, though, on July 17, 1993, Guns N’ Roses played their final show of the Use Your Illusion Tour in Buenos Aires, Argentina. They had all survived the grueling, calamitous trek with their bodies — if not their wits — intact, delivering some of the most exhilarating performances of their career along the way. Fans didn't know it at the time, but the two-and-a-half-year voyage marked the last time Rose, Slash and McKagan would play onstage together for more than two decades.
From historic headlining gigs to riotous outbursts, below are the 30 wildest moments from Guns N' Roses' Use Your Illusion Tour.
The 30 Wildest Moments From Guns N' Roses' Use Your Illusion Tour
Gallery Credit: Bryan Rolli