Guns N' Roses' Reunion Tour: 8 Surprise Highlights, From Angus Young to Skrillex

Guns N’ Roses Not In This Lifetime Tour live at Soldier Field in Chicago on July 1, 2016.
Katarina Benzova

Guns N’ Roses photographed during the Not In This Lifetime Tour live at Soldier Field in Chicago on July 1, 2016.

Guns N’ Roses’ long-awaited reunion tour brought American fans to their na-na-na-na-knees, knees in 2016.

The rock band’s classic lineup -- including long-feuding singer Axl Rose and guitarist Slash, along with bassist Duff McKagan -- is back together for the first time in 23 years, and wallets and purses opened to pave their tour route in gold. Over nine weeks and 25 shows this summer, the North American leg of GN'R’s Not in This Lifetime… Tour has earned an incredible $132 million (as of Sept. 8). And that’s just the beginning: The tour continues in South America this fall, before hitting Asia and Australia next year. In short: The band members will each need to hire a small army of accountants to tidy up next year’s tax returns.

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So far, more than 1 million fans have been welcomed back to GN'R’s jungle, and the band didn’t disappoint. From the bone-breaking kickoff to its cash-stacking closure, revisit the best moments of GN'R’s U.S. summer tour.

1. The Band Members Actually Like Each Other

First thing’s first: Since 1993, the members of GN'R -- especially Axl and Slash -- have trashed each other in the press. This feud is among the most venomous (and long-lasting) in music. These two straight up hated each other. Booze, cocaine, women and a tireless touring schedule soured many other inter-band relations. But onstage this spring and summer, the original members were all smiles: "Everybody's getting along, everybody's playing great,” Slash said on former Aerosmith drummer Joey Kramer's radio show. “It seems so surreal to me, but everybody's really getting along great and I think everybody's come a long way and it’s all cool… We were all pretty positive that that would never happen, so it's still sort of blowing our minds." Ours too!

2. They’re On Time!

Rose is renowned for several things: That high-pitched wail. The side-to-side, hands-out/palms-down, slither-shuffle dance. The bandanas (and, in the early-‘00s, the regrettable white dreadlocks). And, of course, being late to take the stage. After the band’s implosion, Rose continued with hired guns behind him, and the Legend of the Late Axl only grew. Sometimes, he’d arrive onstage two, three, even four hours late. Seriously. But not this time. The band has even been starting early. This is Guns N’ Roses adulting.

3. Dave Grohl’s Rock Throne

How does Rose kick off the most anticipated tour in rock music? By breaking his foot at the surprise warm-up gig in early April in Los Angeles. Luckily for Rose, Dave Grohl recently suffered a similar mishap mid-tour and had a Game of Thrones-style chair crafted -- complete with “FF” lights and guitar necks aplenty -- so he could rock in place. “I wanna thank Dave Grohl for this,” Rose said at the official tour opener days later in Las Vegas. “It was very nice of him.” A friend in need is a friend indeed.

4. AC/DC’s Angus Young

Just before Guns N’ Roses’ much-anticipated headlining set at Coachella, news arrived that Rose would pull double-duty and join AC/DC to help the Aussie rockers wrap their world tour, following the sudden exit of singer Brian Johnson due to risk of permanently losing his hearing. Hours later, fans got a taste of just how AC/DC and Rose would sound. "Since I can't run around for you, we're gonna bring out a friend to put a little life into things for us," Rose, still confined to Grohl's throne with a bum foot, told the Coachella audience. Then the iconic, schoolboy-uniformed axeman joined Guns N' Roses for "Whole Lotta Rosie" and "Riff Raff," two AC/DC cuts that were once live staples for GN'R.

5. Guns. Real, Actual Guns.

Apparently a member of GN'R’s entourage took the band’s name a little too literally. When traveling from Philadelphia to Toronto, the group was stopped at the border by Canadian customs, who discovered a firearm. "You know, it happens: You can forget you have a f---ing gun," Rose joked onstage in Toronto. “They were very nice,” he said of the agents, “they were very understanding…” Then he added: “Wasn’t my gun.” Good to hear.

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6. Chinese Democracy Songs

You’d expect a reunion of the “classic” GN'R lineup to focus only on the “classic” tracks -- and totally avoid tunes from Rose’s 15-year-in-the-making, money-hemorrhaging mess of a 2008 release, Chinese Democracy. Somehow, someway, Rose (or his lawyer) convinced Slash and McKagan that the whole band should play those tunes live on tour. Imagine the look on Slash’s face in that meeting. But now the top-hat-wearing guitar god, not a stand-in like Bumblefoot or Buckethead, is slaying those big, arena-filling riffs himself. Guns has played four Democracy cuts so far, including the title track, “Better,” “This I Love” and the slow-burner “Sorry.”  The world is at peace.

7. Steven Adler Guest Spots

The warm fuzziness of the reunion even extends to former drummer Steven Adler, whose last set with GN'R, back at 1990's Farm Aid, was such a drug-addled disaster that it resulted in his ouster. Adler -- who played with GN'R, sans Rose, at their Rock Hall induction in 2012, but was unable to join the reunion tour full-time due to a spinal injury -- performed onstage in Cincinnati, Nashville and Los Angeles on "Out Ta Get Me" and "My Michelle." With Adler onstage, GN'R comes closest to reuniting the entire Appetite for Destruction lineup, minus guitarist Izzy Stradlin, who has publicly dissed the reunion.

8. The Opening Acts

GN'R recruited an impressive collection of opening acts for the tour, including fitting rockers like Alice in Chains, Lenny Kravitz, The Cult, Billy Talent, Zakk Wylde, and Wolfmother. But the gems were a bit unexpected. Country star Chris Stapleton wowed in Nashville with a set featuring his smooth, 80-proof hit “Tennessee Whiskey.” And in Houston, amid much online controversy, electronic dance music DJ-producer Skrillex warmed up the crowd at NRG Stadium. The odd pairing worked: Instead of playing his usual, sharp-edged dubstep beats, the man born Sonny Moore -- who started his music career as singer for metalcore outfit From First to Last -- flaunted his love of classic heavy metal. He remixed dance beats to tracks by Iron Maiden, Metallica, Pantera, and Motörhead. Devil horns up!