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Guns N' Roses Tour Canceled After Philadelphia Debacle

By RAY WADDELL
Publication: Billboard
Date: Saturday, December 21 2002
Guns N' Roses' (GN'R) first tour in nine years started off bad and ended worse, doing serious damage to the band's reputation in the process.

And in a chess game with ongoing financial and possibly legal implications, neither band, primary promoter Clear Channel Entertainment

(CCE), nor management company Sanctuary wanted to take the blame for pulling the plug, although a spokesperson at Interscope, the band's label, stressed that CCE was the canceling party for at least one show. CCE issued a statement late Dec. 11 that the tour was canceled.

Whatever the case, in the latest chapter of the infamous GN'R legacy, the Chinese Democracy tour is history. Set up as a 34-date arena trek that was to begin Nov. 7 at the GM Place in Vancouver, the tour—named for a long-touted but yet-to-be-realized album release—staggered out of the gate when the opening date was canceled because lead singer Axl Rose, the lone original GN'R member, never left Los Angeles.

Several shows did come off, albeit to mixed critical and commercial reception. Nine shows reported to Billboard Boxscores grossed $3,228,311 and sold 70,086 tickets out of a possible 118,611 capacity, topped by $733,525 from 13,639 at Allstate Arena near Chicago. But the tour seriously derailed when a Dec. 6 date at the First Union Center in Philadelphia ended in chaos when the show was canceled after 11 p.m., the band apparently unable to make the short jump from a Dec. 5 show at Madison Square Garden in New York.

According to Philadelphia news stations, the opening act at the First Union Center date performed for two hours before the show was called off. Described in some media reports as a "riot," it appears the reality of the Philadelphia situation was something less than that, with no arrests or major injuries reported. Still, the arena suffered damage and a major hassle in getting ready to open for a 1 p.m. hockey game the next day.

"We were informed around 8 p.m. or so [Friday night] that Axl Rose was still in Manhattan and a helicopter was being sent to get him," explains Peter Luukko, president of Comcast-Spectacor Ventures and chairman of Global Spectrum, management company for the First Union Center. "Basically we were in touch with band management as to what the progress was, and at 10:45 we were informed [Rose] wasn't coming.

"At that point a decision was made to make an announcement at 11:15, giving us a half-hour to get security in place and police backup from the city of Philadelphia," Luukko says. "We did have some chairs thrown and some damage in the building, but all in all, considering the difficulty of the situation, we were able to get people out with no major injuries."

Following that debacle, a second Philly show at the adjacent First Union

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