The Rolling Stones and Guns N' Roses squared off Wednesday in a battle of rock 'n' roll generations that proved to be explosive and surprising.
"I like the Stones, but I kind of figure Guns N' Roses will take it," said Johnny Perale, 20, of East Los Angeles. "They are newer and more hip. The Stones are the legend, but Guns N' Roses are the legend in the making."
By the time the Stones took the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum stage just before 10 p.m., many in the audience of 72,000 had been wowed--and perhaps stunned--by some of the comments and antics of Guns N' Roses lead singer Axel Rose.
Before the Los Angeles-based quintet struck a note, Rose--who has been accused of racism and bigotry over the lyrics of one of his songs--grabbed the microphone to heatedly defend himself.
"I'm sick and tired of all this publicity," said Rose, referring to recurring media debates over his use of certain offensive racial terms and insulting slang references to homosexuality in the group's song "One in a Million."
After the band's first number, Rose again took the microphone and seemed to warn that internal friction might cause the band's demise.
"Unless certain people in this band start getting their act together, this is going to be the last Guns N' Roses show," he said. "I'm sick and tired of too many people in this organization dancing with Mr. Brownstone," a reference to an anti-drug song on the group's hit album "Appetite for Destruction."
Despite the quixotic commentary, the audience responded enthusiastically to the band's 80-minute show. Before and during the show, the audience browsed through stands selling souvenirs that ranged from the normal concert tour T-shirts to $190 Rolling Stones flight jackets and $450 leather jackets that seemed aimed at the older, and more affluent, Stones fans rather than the younger Guns N' Roses fans.
Fireworks were set off when Stones' lead singer Mick Jagger leaped on stage at 9:45 p.m. wearing a flashy blue and aqua waistcoat and singing the group's trademark song, "Start Me Up."
Not even an earthquake could stop 50-year-old Norm Swenson from flying in from San Francisco to see the Stones. "I'm slowin' down, but I still go to the big ones," he said.
More than 280,000 fans are expected to see the four concerts featuring the Stones that began Wednesday. The concerts are part of a 3 1/2-month tour expected to earn $90 million and to draw 3 million fans.