This week the nominations for the 2017 Billboard Music Awards were announced, and somewhat surprisingly, Guns N’ Roses is up for three awards. Following a year’s worth of reunion activity surrounding Axl Rose, Slash, and Duff McKagan, the iconic rock group will be in the mix for Top Duo/Group, Top Touring Artist, and Top Rock Tour. GNR isn’t alone as a sort of Billboard throwback this year either, as Metallica was nominated for Top Rock Artist and Top Rock Album as well. But where GNR is concerned, it’s pretty remarkable to look back at just how deliberate and successful this comeback has been.
It all got started back in December of 2015, when a mysterious teaser trailer playing ahead of showings of Star Wars: The Force Awakens seemed to promise new Guns N’ Roses activity. The teaser was less than 30 seconds long and featured mostly black-and-white footage from crowded rock shows, while bits of “Welcome To The Jungle” played in the background. It made a “coming soon” promise without really explaining just what was coming soon, and naturally speculation about new music and a fresh tour began circulating on the internet.
As all of this was happening, Guns N’ Roses (or at least the band’s representation) was also doing some creative marketing with potentially new demographics. It has become somewhat common of late for rock groups and other artists to lend their licenses to online game developers in order to form valuable partnerships. As one site put it, characters and stories from pop culture now make frequent appearances on slot games, as online casinos look to provide different fans with things to get excited about. Guns N’ Roses has taken advantage of this trend with its own branded slot reel, which uses actual music from the band. It’s meant to appeal to existing fans of the group, but it’s almost certainly been making new fans of some wandering gamers as well.
In the spring of 2016, however, the marketing stopped and the actual comeback began. Teaser trailers and gaming-based outreach aside, GNR finally announced that it would play a reunion show at Coachella, and then launch a new tour immediately afterward. Titling the venture the “Not In This Lifetime” tour, the band was once again playing to huge crowds in major venues all over the U.S. and the rest of the world, ultimately totaling 100 shows. One review of a show at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta called the performance “brawny” and seemed to suggest that the group has hardly missed a beat from its heyday to now. By all accounts, it was one of the most impressive and successful reunion tours we’ve seen from a classic group or artist in quite some time.
Given all of this, the Billboard nominations shouldn’t really be all that surprising – particularly the Top Rock Tour one. But it’s all made even more impressive when you look back at how carefully the band appears to have orchestrated its comeback.
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