“Rock and roll: it’s more than music. It’s a legendary lifestyle and no one’s living it to the hilt like Guns N’ Roses, the most intense, insolent and original new musical arrivals in much too long with their debut album, Appetite for Destruction.”
One of my favourite bands, Guns N’ Roses, is headed back on the road this summer with a global tour through the Middle East, Europe, and North America, with a stop at Toronto’s Rogers Centre on September 3.
An audio bootleg recording of the band's one and only Waterloo show -- back on August 18, 1987 at Super Skate 7 -- recently surfaced on Youtube, and I shared it with Gary Stewart, a veteran of the local live music scene who booked the show.
“It was a legendary rock and roll concert here in Waterloo," said Stewart. "Lots of people still talk about that show."
Stewart and his wife Sue owned and operated the Super Skate 7 roller skating rink, The Vid and The Twist dance clubs, The Flying Dog restaurant, and Revolution nightclub in Waterloo.
I was thrilled when Stewart, who I worked for back in the early ‘90s at The Twist, recently gave me the Geffen Records press kit for Guns N’ Roses when they opened for The Cult in the summer of 1987.
The press release reads: “Rock and roll: it’s more than music. It’s a legendary lifestyle and no one’s living it to the hilt like Guns N’ Roses, the most intense, insolent and original new musical arrivals in much too long with their debut album, Appetite for Destruction.”
And though I was too young to attend the licensed show in Waterloo where Guns N’ Roses opened for The Cult, I like to imagine what it would have been like to see the band perform songs like Welcome to the Jungle, Nightrain, and Paradise City just weeks after the release of Appetite for Destruction.
“Back then, with agents out of New York you could pick up a phone and call and if you had somewhat of a reputation for doing shows and being a reputable promoter, they would give you opportunities,” said Stewart.
“So we did a few smaller acts, and then we did The Cult on the Love tour. When they came back a year later, the agent threw us a bone and we got another Cult show with Guns N’ Roses opening up, nobody had heard of G N’ R, and $2,000 is what we paid for G N’ R. Axl Rose stole the show and G N’ R were massive worldwide stars shortly after that.”
Stewart laughed when he told me about catering for The Cult and Guns N’ Roses: “When you do a show like that one, you’re usually serving breakfast, lunch and dinner for the crew and band – beef, chicken, prime rib – and we got Sue’s mom involved in doing the rider for The Cult and Guns ‘N Roses, and she wasn’t very impressed with G N’ R and didn’t like their manners too much.”
I told Stewart that I had heard Super Skate 7 lost all power during The Cult’s performance that night.
“About three songs in they hit their big aircraft landing lights and boom, the power went out,” he said.
“The building is black, we’ve got 2,000 people in the place, it’s a jam-packed show, so in a panic I’m making calls and we go into the power room and hit the breakers – it was a rock and roll moment!”
It was a rock and roll moment I wish I had experienced firsthand, but I was too young at the time.
Maybe it's ironic that, with Guns N' Roses touring again, I now feel a little old for rock and roll moments. My concertgoing days are mostly behind me, though I do find the prospect of seeing G N' R in Toronto this September tempting.
There really is nothing quite like a rock concert. As Stewart can attest, some of them get talked about for decades.
Check out Episode #32 of Bonn Park Podcast with our guest Gary Stewart.