Drummer Matt Sorum and keyboardist Dizzy Reed both debuted onstage with Guns N' Roses on Jan. 20, 1991 — the first concert of the band's Use Your Illusion Tour.

And the pressure was high.

The massive festival gig, headlining Rock in Rio II, took place at Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, drawing an estimated audience of at least 100,000. These guys weren't rookies — they'd both played on the band's two-part 1991 blockbuster, Use Your Illusion, prior to the trek. But neither had experienced a live crowd of this magnitude.

For Sorum, who replaced drummer Steven Adler in 1990, it didn't help that he'd never rehearsed with singer Axl Rose before the show.

Judas Priest was opening for us, Megadeth one night,” Sorum told Gretsch Generations in 2020. “The bill was crazy, but we were headliners. … Two nights sold out for Guns N’ Roses." Noting that he was "freaking out before the show," he continued, "I was, like, ‘Hey, does anybody know what the set list is?’ … Slash goes, ‘We don’t use a set list.’ And I’m like, ‘What?’ So I got no information about what’s gonna go down!”

Guns N' Roses didn't use set lists throughout that tour. "We figured out how to give each other eye signals, or someone took a riff, but we figured it out," he recalled.

Watch Guns N' Roses' 1991 Rock in Rio Performance

Reed, in an interview with The Flash List, recalled Rock in Rio as a "whirlwind." And the show was instantly eye-opening for the keyboardist: "Literally one day I was playing clubs in L.A. and then the next day, it seemed like, I was onstage with Guns N' Roses in front of 100,000 people," he said. "The band was pretty much at the top of the world at that point."

According to Setlist.fm, that 16-song concert — the first of their two Rock in Rio shows — marked the live debut of several cuts, including "Pretty Tied Up (The Perils of Rock n' Roll Decadence)," "Double Talkin' Jive," "You Could Be Mine," "Dead Horse" and "Estranged." Naturally, they also played the hits, including "Welcome to the Jungle," "Sweet Child O' Mine" and closer "Paradise City."

The band opened with "Pretty Tied Up" — a definitive stage moment for Sorum, whose simmering hi-hat launches the tune.

"I just remember looking out, and the crowd was already bouncing," the drummer said. "I was like, ‘I’m only playing the hi-hat!’ ... It was intense, and I was like, ‘Fasten your seat belt, man. This shit’s gonna get crazy.’ And it did. But that was probably one of the highlights — just the beginning of it.”

 

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