First Union Center, Philadelphia, PA
December 6th 2002

David's Review

Tuesday, December 10, 2002


Last Friday, my friends Will, Diane and I went to Philadelphia to see Guns 'N' Roses in concert. Those of you who read entertainment news already know what happened. Those of you who don't, buckle up...


We get to the First Union Center (colloquially known as the “F.U. Center”) in Philadelphia about an hour after the show is slated to start. Will’s heard rumors that they don’t go on until 10pm anyway, so no damage done. (In retrospect we may have missed the earliest opening act, but I'm not sad). I’ve never seen this many tailgate parties in my life. Just about one for every row. And it’s cold out. People who look like they’ve never listened to GNR in their life (black men and women in their 30’s) are walking around trying to sell t-shirts. (Then again, I’m black and almost thirty and I own three of their CDs. But I still don’t LOOK like I listen to them).

After the now-routine patting down by the guards we enter and are given passes that allow us to buy tix for the Sunday night GNR show for only ten dollars more. Will is very tempted.

The crowd inside is a surprisingly eclectic mix. There’s a fair number of teenage girls. Plenty of biker-looking types (but a lamentable dearth of leather pants). Plenty of yuppies. Plenty of trailer folk. (You’d think rednecks and frat boys wouldn’t have any common ground. You’d be wrong.) And the age range is pretty wide. I’d say teens to early forties. I’m reminded at this point that this year marks roughly the 15th anniversary of Guns ‘N’ Roses. I’m less surprised by the older crowd.

We also see some people wearing buckets on their head.

An important thing to keep in mind at this point is that GNR isn’t really GNR anymore. Now it’s “Axl and a Bunch of Guys Who Were Never In GNR.” Not unlike the “The Rhythm Section of CCR and Some Other Guys” band I saw at the Harley Davidson Festival. Still, one band member has been added who’s a cut above the rest mostly because he has a funny name and wears a bucket on his head. I am speaking, of course, about Buckethead.

Buckethead is a sort of guitar virtuoso who wears a kind of sad-clown mask and a (presumably empty) Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket on his head. He doesn’t speak. He has a handler who speaks for him. He had a chicken coop built to record in for GNR’s new album - which hasn’t come out yet. There are Buckethead t-shirts for sale. Will passes up this opportunity in order to buy a GNR belt buckle for a friend of his who couldn’t make it.

Buckethead has his own fans. Unfortunately, their presence as individuals who love people who wear containers will not be a sufficiently calming influence on tonight’s proceedings.


I’d been pretty psyched when I’d heard that Mixmaster Mike might be opening for GNR. I didn’t take the audience into account when I got psyched. Mixmaster Mike is the DJ for The Beastie Boys and he’s a motherfucker. Even from the nosebleeds, watching him onstage (when the cheesy graphics don’t get in the way) is amazing. He’s able to play the turntables the way Steve Vai is able to tickle a guitar. He masters it in ways I can’t imagine pulling off myself. And for a while, this works. He has some fans in the audience. And he mixes in some hard metal to please the crowd.

And then there’s the guy two rows up wearing the Confederate flag bandana - Confederatehead. He and his friends are the first in our section to start the chant: “GUNS…AND…ROSES!!! GUNS…AND…ROSES!!!” (Anyone who’s heard their anti-press rant “Get in the Ring” will recognize the mantra). A few people join in and then it fades out. Fists in the air, he tries to rally more support. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. But as the show wears on and Mixmaster Mike does less mixing and more just putting records on (he starts to sound like someone indecisively flipping through a car radio, Will observes) the rest of the crowd begins to see Confederatehead’s point. By the last third of Mixmaster Mike’s set, just about the whole crowd is booing. And no amount of remixing “Immigrant Song” can assuage them.

Still, trooper that he is, Mike appears to finish out his set, his shouts of “What up, Philly!?” every third or fourth song having gone largely unanswered. He’s able to get cheers throughout the set by yelling out “Y’all ready for Guns ‘N’ Roses?” and I’m thinking to myself “Dude! You’re just making them angrier!”

I think the only reason he’s still alive is his Sixers jersey.

10pm - AXL, WAKE UP!

Mixmaster Mike finishes his set around 9:45pm to the delight of the audience. They start piping in recorded music again. By 10pm, the crowd has entered the “let’s cheer everytime a song ends cos’ that means the bands about to go on, right?” phase of the evening. These are Guns ‘N’ Roses fans. Don’t they know that the band is notoriously late? I don’t actually expect them until 11pm. I say to Will, “It’s 10pm - you know that means? That’s right, one hour until they wake Axl!” Much of the next thirty minutes is spent fabricating the wake-up routine of everyone’s favorite middle-aged bad boy.

10:15pm - Axl hits “snooze” for the third time.
10:20pm - Buckethead sits next to the bed quietly whispering “Aaax-uuuuhl” over and over again.
10:25pm - Buckethead grabs Axl’s nose, shutting his nasal passages and forcing him to wake up.

By 10:30pm it becomes clear that none of this has happened. However, we’ve had plenty to entertain us in the interim.

- The largest sign in the arena reads “Welcome to Comcast Country”. I spend a moment wondering what “flavor” is located in Comcast Country.

- Someone had the foresight to wear a Giants jersey in the middle of a sports arena in Philadelphia. A whole section yells “ASSHOLE” at him for about five minutes.

- Confederatehead divides his time between yelling and raising his fists in the air and chatting casually with the guy in the EVENT STAFF t-shirt. When he does sit down, it’s on the stairs next to his friend (well, I hope it’s a friend). I begin to wonder if Confederatehead actually has a ticket. I also flirt with the notion of changing my band’s name to EVENT STAFF in order to save money on promotional t-shirts.

- Of the numerous yuppie/fratboys seated in front of us, one is clearly more enthusiastic about this show than the others. This is evidenced by the fact that every time he comes back from getting a beer (which is often) he yells very loudly to his friends. This isn’t just “Hello!” or “Hey!” or “Rock On!” This is more like “AAAAAAAAAAAAIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHH!” every five minutes for no reason whatsoever. I keep wondering if I should change him. It seems like he’s trying to be ironic, cheering mindlessly to mock fans who cheer mindlessly, but I’m beginning to think even he isn’t sure if he’s being ironic anymore. To his credit, Yellhead maintains his enthusiasm through the next phase of the night.


So, remember how after every song the audience would cheer? Now they’re booing. This is a bad sign.

The Rob Zombie song that we heard playing at the top of the hour is playing again - for the third time. This is also a bad sign. I offer to run out to the car and get some mix tapes for the people in the sound booth. I don’t think they hear me.

Of the myriad things the audience yells (besides “Booo!” and “Aaaasssshooole!” which sounds remarkably like “Axxxx-uuuuuhl”) is the chant “Sell some beer! Sell some beer!” which I’m assuming is because it’s after last call. Someone else yells “Sell some pot! Sell some pot!” I think this is a much better idea, as the crowd could use a “time out”.

As the hour grinds to a close, things begin to, uh, trickle from above. Pieces of paper. Cups. Little things. Like drops of rain before a storm. But I keep thinking that at 11pm the lights will go down and all will be forgiven.


11:05 rolls around and I’m starting to get a bad feeling about this. I remember that GNR cancelled a show in Vancouver and the crowd rioted. I know that in previous tours GNR failed to show up or left early and there were riots. This wasn’t every show, though. The chances of actually attending a riot show are pretty slim. I then realize I beat the odds in Fantasy Football, too.

At this point, the sound guys in the open mixing booth in the middle of the floor (and crowd) below us do something that sound guys don’t usually do before a show. They cover up the equipment. Then they do something else a little out of the ordinary. They get into a huddle and make a run for it.

Then the ushers on the floor do something similar. They get into a little huddle. And then they run for their lives.

Hmmm. I think to myself. That’s strange.

Then all hell breaks loose.

As if on cue, the whole crowd roars and people start throwing everything available from the balcony onto the floor below. We get doused with what we hope is coke and I cover my head with my jacket as people around us start kicking their chairs. It’s pandemonium on the floor below and already many people have left. On the floor chairs are being kicked over a bit more easily (they’re not bolted down). Up where we are, the bolts don’t last long (what did the chairs ever do to anybody?) and up they come and down they go.

Someone on a cell phone in front of us says that there are about 50 cops parked outside.

Strangely, I’m not panicked. It’s a weirder feeling than that. It’s a feeling of “If I stick around here, something bad will happen. But I honestly don’t know how long I have to stick around before that something bad happens. And I’m a little curious.” Fortunately, we all come to our senses and decide to at least see what’s going on in the hallway. I figure things might be worse out there since there’s food and beer there for the looting, but when I peek I see that people are actually leaving in a pretty orderly manner.

We make a break for it.

In another strange turn of events, this is the easiest it’s ever been to leave a venue after (or I guess, technically in this case, before) a show. We’re out of the arena in under three minutes and out of the parking lot in about ten or fifteen. I went to see the Wizards play a few weeks ago and nobody rioted (or did much of anything, actually) and it took us a freakin’ hour to get out of the garage.

On our way out of the parking lot, I see two people each carrying pieces of chair to their car. I’m sure that will fill out that dinette set nicely.

And those same people from before are still trying to sell GNR tees in the parking lot. God bless ‘em.

Our half of the parking lot doesn’t really have any cops but the “front” of the building has many sirens. Not so much cop cars as trucks and a fire engine. When I left I didn’t see anything on fire but, y’know, better safe than sorry.

Diane points out that tonight “it really was the F.U. Center.”

As we get back on the freeway, she calls her cousin, a Philly local, who says that about ten minutes ago they announced that the show had been cancelled due to “inclement weather.” Funny, that weather didn’t stop Mixmaster Mike from making it to the show from the same location. (Later they report than an undisclosed member of the band was “ill”) Just say it: Axl had a hangover/overdose/litigation/hangnail and was unable to perform. We’ll understand.

If there’s one thing us Guns and Roses fans are, it’s patient and understanding.

“Said woman, take it slow
And things will be just fine
You and I just need a little patience.”

Too true, Axl. Too true.

Brian Sharma's Review

Hey all,

After 5 shows with no problems, we had a small riot here in Philly. The official word is that the show was cancelled for "health reasons" and that the show would be made up at a later date. There was no announcement about Sunday's show. Stay tuned . . .

Here's a brief look at what happened:

Mix Master Mike went on longer than normal . . . until about 9:50. People started getting restless. Around 10:30, people started to boo loudly after a song over the PA would end. Around 10:45, people in the upper level (where I was) started throwing cups down to the lower bowl. It was sparse at first, but people started copycatting. Soon, people were ripping up seats (or trying to). They then covered up the soundboard and the cameras on the lower level. However, it seemed as if the show was still going to go on b/c they were still testing out the lighting and the smoke machines.

Around 11:05 things started to get out of control when people on the floor began throwing chairs . . . first at each other, then at the stage. Around 11:10 the official announcement that the show had been postponed due to health reasons came out over the PA. After that, people threw more chairs, ripped up more seats, and knocked down one of the cameras. On the way out, people were ripping down lightposts. Outside there were several police copters flying overhead and a strong police presence on the ground. Several arrests were made, according to 93.3 WMMR.

That's the gist of what happened. Funny, they go on "early" the night before, and then this took place. I think that the show would have gone on if not for the drunken idiots who started this mess. As far as things go, this was pretty "tame" for a GN'R riot (no glass broken--that I saw--no fights, etc.). If you have any questions, please ask.

Hoping that Sunday is a go,


If Sunday is a go, it is going to be a can't miss show, simply b/c the band will be in front of the same people who rioted just 2 days before. We'll see how many people show up, if the concert does go on.

Sean Mulloy's Review

I don't mean to sound rude or out of line, but if you weren't there, you really can't speak to this feeling right now.

Yes, I live in Philly as you all know. I was there. 20,000 other folks were there. You know who WASN'T fucking there? You know, I just want to head off all the folks who will try to defend him here. Even if this is legit, this is the biggest case of "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" there ever was. People just didn't want to hear it. I was one of them.

I also want to give a first hand account. People took it better then you'd think, and this is Philly. As you all know, we threw snowballs at Santa, we cheered Michael Irvin's apparent paralysis. We are miserable fucking people. Sure some drinks got airborne, sure a few chairs were up rooted. Most people just walked out in disgust.

I talked to an Event Staff member. According to him, Axl Rose's next step into the First Union Center will be his first. Never...even...showed. You know what? If this was legit, and Axl walked out and made the announcement himself, hell, even if he came on the screen from backstage, people would have bought it. Yet to hear some schmo come on at 11pm and hand us "health problems" No, sorry.

I am at the end of the line with this fucking band. Who are we kidding, with this fucking guy. I need you all to talk me off of this ledge, because after keeping the fire burning for a decade, I feel like a grade one sucker. I was even calming down my section right up to the very end. "He'll be here". "He's been in good moods." "He passed out donuts last night." Yet one by one they all said "He ain't showing." Now who looks like an idiot?

Fuck you Axl Rose.'s Review

ok, this was suppossed to be my fourth show of 6. albany, hartford, and the garden were outstanding. Went to philly yesterday from nyc via amtrak. i knew something wasnt right when i got there. first of all, security was NON-EXISTENT! Quick pat downs, no metal wand detectors. I get there at 9 because i know from past shows mmm done by 9 or so. he must have played 20-25 minutes longer, so i thought that was strange, but i thought guns needed some more time after the garden the night before. get to my seat at say 9:45 or so...2nd row dead center and right away i was pissed off. There was no security there, so it was freakin packed up near the all the other shows, security clears the rows and walk ways....i asked 1 worker there about this and she said, "what can i do, i m the only one here.!!!!!" people were smoking like smoking allowed in side, but security did nothing. so after a while, people were beginning to incite a riot on their own...they were ! saying, "let's riot, let's break soemthing...." i couldnt believe how angry and aggresive this crowd was, not to mention stupid. at 11 or so, chairs, bottles, etc being hurled in every direction. i got hit in the head....i knew this was bad, so before they make an announcement, i head for the hills.....lucky to get off the floor was very scary, believe me, im used to gnr shows and craziness, but this was a totally different level...i literally feared for my personal safety. i have no answers about where axl was, but what i can definitely tell you was that there was little security there and they didnt do a frakin' thing and people just took over the was surreal...just made it back to nyc and im drained. got tix for florida and vegas left....i hope it happens...this band means the world to me...i just dont understand it most of the time. so, in case you read any FUCKIN'BULL SHIT from the F.U center saying security was good and they had it under control, they're fuckin lying in your face. Im an attorney and considering legal action against First Union Center, NOT Guns N' Roses....sorry for the long post...peace