GNR Under The Gun

Guns N’ Roses has been the subject of some intense media scrutiny following a recent concert cancellation in Portland, Maine.

The band’s November 6th gig at the Cumberland County Civic Center was canceled hours before the show was to take place. Almost immediately, fan and gossip sites were awash with theories as to why GNR backed out, including poor ticket sales and the band not being allowed to drink on stage.

Steve Crane, GM of the Civic Center, said it was up to the band to explain the reasons for the cancellation.

“We were set up. We were ready to go. The stage was all set. All the technical and logistical requirements that we were asked to fulfill as an arena were fulfilled.” Crane told Pollstar. “I just received word from the band and the promoter that the show was canceled and they issued a press release.”

That press release, and various statements posted on numerous fan sites, revved up the rumor mill. Some blamed ticket sales, some blamed clashes with fire marshals over the band’s setup and pyrotechnics, and still others blamed the cancellation on an old state law that prohibits performers from drinking on stage.

A representative for the Maine Department of Public Safety said in a statement November 9th that the band was informed by fire marshal inspectors during a pre-show pyrotechnics test that it could not drink on stage, and the show was consequently canceled a few hours later.

“The band had wanted to drink beer, wine and Jagermeister while performing,” according to the statement.

But representatives for the band said it wasn’t all that simple.

“Axl doesn’t drink on stage,” said production manager Chris Gratton.

GNR manager Merck Mercuriadis told Pollstar that during the setup, he was informed by Gratton that the fire marshals were intent on harassing not only the band, but the audience as well.

“They made it clear they were going to harass the fans and that they were going to give $1,000 citations to every fan that was smoking cigarettes during the performance, that if anyone was caught drinking that they would be arrested on the spot,” Mercuriadis said. “That they were going to basically do everything that they possibly could do to make sure that this Guns N’ Roses performance was as compromised as possible.

“At the end of the day, this is a band that has had issues in the past, and we’re very, very careful not to put the band or put Axl in the situation where there’s going to be a problem.”

But Mercuriadis denied that the real problem had anything to do with ticket sales nor the band’s mercurial frontman, who’s had his share of last-minute no-shows in years past.

“Ticket sales didn’t come into it at all. We gave up $200,000 to do what we thought was the right thing here,” he said. “We went into Portland, Maine, knowing that it was a soft market, knowing that whether it was 3,500 people or whether it was 5,000 people that was what it was likely to be. And we would have played for those kids. You know, 3,500 kids are important to us.”

Fans were given the option to use tickets at a Worcester, Mass., concert two days later or receive refunds at point of purchase.

– Dana Parker-McClain