It’s (Not) So Easy: How Guns N’ Roses’ Stage Is Built Each Night
As you might imagine, bringing together everything needed to mount a show of this scale on an island 2,390 miles off the California coast can be a challenge. The band's longtime production director, Dale “Opie” Skjerseth -- who has been with Guns N' Roses since 1990, and worked with groups like AC/DC, Black Sabbath and the Rolling Stones -- explains the work that goes into each of the approximately 160 shows the band has played over the past two and a half years.
Skjerseth handles everything from conception to execution, putting the stage design together with the band and designers, hiring production crew to make it happen and then making sure the show fits everywhere the band is going -- from festival appearances, stadiums and arenas to venues as small as New York City's Apollo Theater. He then gets it all to each city safely night after night.
"It was an honor to be asked to come back to do this tour," he tells UCR. "I was looking forward to getting the phone call. It’s been great and exciting from the very start. The stage design came together pretty quickly, over the course of a couple months. Axl [Rose] was on tour with AC/DC at the time, so it took a bit of back and forth to nail it down, but even with that, we got it going pretty quickly."
Part of that advance design planning included coming up with a stage set that could be used in venues of varying sizes. "The production can be adjusted and used in many different settings, and can be modified to work in all of the places Guns N’ Roses play," he says. "In stadiums, we can wind it all the way up, and in arenas, we are able to make it a more intimate experience for the audience."
Regardless of the venue, Skjerseth says it takes a small army to get things ready for Guns N' Roses every night. "It varies based on the size of the show, but it could be upwards of 75 trucks and 200 crew members for a stadium show during this run, and then shrunk down for arenas and such," he notes.
"Then it’s an eight-to-10-hour day for the crew to set up the production of this tour, including line checks, focus, soundchecks and so on, once everything is set up to make sure it is running smoothly and there are no issues."
For the year-ending Honolulu stop, all those truckloads of equipment will be shipped by plane, followed by more than 50 crew members. "One thing I wish concertgoers knew about handling production on a tour like Guns N’ Roses is the amount of time and crew members it really takes to make this show happen," Skjerseth says.
"It’s a massive group effort from the band down to every person on the crew. It’s been an incredible run and honestly we haven’t had any Spinal Tap moments or mishaps. Everyone has been on board with the production, from the crew to the band."
The extra work Skjerseth and his crew will put into setting up Guns N' Roses' Hawaiian show will be for a particularly good cause. The band will donate a portion of the proceeds from the concert to the Andy Irons Foundation, which works to raise awareness and institute programs for young people pertaining to mental health, drug recovery and learning disabilities. Tickets are available now from Live Nation.
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Watch Guns N' Roses Stage Get Set Up