22 Years Ago: Guns N’ Roses’ Riverport Riot Rocks St. Louis
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Guns N’ Roses have a history of making a mess of things onstage. A long history. But one of their earliest and infamous run-ins occurred 22 years ago today (July 2, 1991), when the volatile band played the Riverport Amphitheater in St. Louis.
Things started out calmly enough, as they often do at Guns N’ Roses shows. But by the time the group launched into the 15th song of their set, ‘Rocket Queen,’ things turned bad. Axl Rose spotted someone taking pictures from the audience and instructed security to put a stop to it. “Get that guy!” he yelled in the middle of the song.
Apparently, security didn’t act quickly enough for Rose, who shouted, “I’ll take it, goddamn it!” before leaping into the audience and tackling the photographer. He then grabbed the camera, struck a few members of the audience and security team and was lifted back onstage by GNR’s crew.
That’s when the fun started. Rose picked up his microphone, yelled “Thanks to the lame-ass security, I’m going home,” dropped the microphone and walked offstage. The rest of the band followed, with Slash telling the audience, “He just smashed the microphone. We’re out of here.” The crowd then began to riot, leaving dozens of fans injured.
Rose was charged with inciting a riot, but because the band left the states for a European tour, he couldn’t be arrested. He finally was almost a year later, but a judge eventually declared that he was innocent.
The band later claimed that they asked security four times to remove the cameras they saw in the crowd. Group members also said they were hit by bottles, since the Riverport security was so lax. When Guns N’ Roses released their two ‘Use Your Illusion’ albums the following year, there was a hidden message in the artwork. Look closely, and you’ll spot “F— You, St. Louis!” in the albums’ list of thank-yous.