Fans were overjoyed when Billboard broke the news that a reunited Guns N’ Roses -- with original members Axl Rose, Slash, and Duff McKagan on board -- will headline the Coachella Music & Arts Festival on April 16 and April 23 and follow with a major stadium tour. Given Rose’s tumultuous history of egregiously late or canceled performances, this reunion tour is more fraught with risk than most, but GNR's reputation as a top-shelf touring act in terms of both business and performances -- and their relative reliability in recent years -- has promoters eager to be involved.
Although the singer has been touring semiregularly with different musicians under the Guns N' Roses name, the Coachella shows are expected to be the first time the Rose-Slash-McKagan trio will perform together since July 17, 1993, in Buenos Aires -- “expected” because sources tell Billboard that GNR is scheduled to be one of the first acts to play the new T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, set to open April 6. Beyond that, the reunited band -- the full lineup and the status of the other two founding members, guitarist Izzy Stradlin and drummer Steven Adler, remain unclear -- is also negotiating with promoters to play as many as 25 stadiums in North America this summer. For the tour, GNR is said to be asking as much as $3 million per show (the Coachella payday is likely significantly higher), with tickets topping out in the $250 to $275 range.
Axl Rose, Slash & Duff McKagan Confirmed for Guns N' Roses Coachella Lineup
In an era when most top artists tour regularly, promoters love reunions. The Police revival of 2007 and 2008 remains the gold standard, taking in $362 million from 151 concerts around the world. Of course, GNR is more combustible than the British trio, and the financial prospects of a tour are far less certain.
When a band, or a specific lineup of a band, has been absent from the marketplace for some time, fans can turn to YouTube to at least get a taste of past magic or madness. That’s where “history can haunt you,” as one promoter puts it. And while the classic GNR lineup was a ferocious live act, the band needs to convince fans they’re up to doing it again. As one promoter puts it, “It’s incumbent on the artist to convey the message to the fan base, ‘We’re back, we’re taking this seriously, we’re in shape, I can sing these songs, and we’re going to create the magic we once had.’ ” This does not sound like something Rose would do (a Jan. 5 appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! was cancelled), and artists are rarely contractually obligated to promote a tour. “As the promoter, you’ve got what you’re buying,” the promoter tells Billboard. “You just hope they take it as seriously as you do.”
Unlike most successful reunion tours, a Rose-led incarnation of GNR has been in the marketplace since 2001. In 2012, band agent Ken Fermaglich (who declined to comment for this story) negotiated a well-received residency at The Joint in Las Vegas to mark the 25th anniversary of GNR’s landmark debut, Appetite for Destruction, and since then GNR has been fairly active at large clubs, arenas and festivals -- to generally positive response -- on a global basis. A review of a March, 2012, show at the Wiltern in Los Angeles in The Hollywood Reporter stated that Rose “sang the bejesus out of all the hits,” adding that he “was an entertainer so charming, you’d never know he had the reputation of an asshole.”
Indeed, it’s GNR’s reputation as a great live act that promoters bidding to produce a 2016 tour on GNR hope fans remember -- and that GNR can deliver. While the band's first album, Appetite for Destruction moved 18 million copies (the biggest-selling debut in U.S. history) and GNR has sold 44.5 million albums total in the U.S., according to the RIAA, the band’s unpredictable live shows, especially with its founding members, played a huge role in the band's surge to superstardom.
Guns N' Roses to Reunite for Coachella, Possible Stadium Tour: Sources
Yet the prospects of a classic GNR tour are decidedly mixed. “It might very well be a home run,” says Washington, D.C.-based indie promoter Seth Hurwitz. “It might very well be that it’s not. I prefer not to take part in these kind of all-or-nothing bets myself.”
But veteran manager Doc McGhee (Kiss, Darius Rucker), who handled GNR from 2010 to 2012, maintains, “If it’s done right, it should do amazing [business]. If they have their shit together and go out there to kill, I think everybody comes to see them. If not, they’ll have a tough time selling it.”