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Guns N' Roses returns to Pittsburgh after almost a quarter century

Madasyn Czebiniak
| Monday, July 11, 2016, 6:18 p.m.
Production manager Dale 'Opie' Skjerseth addresses the media during the stage setup at Heinz Field ahead of the Guns 'N Roses concert, Monday July 11.
Jack Fordyce
Production manager Dale 'Opie' Skjerseth addresses the media during the stage setup at Heinz Field ahead of the Guns 'N Roses concert, Monday July 11.
The rigging crew set up the stage for Guns 'N Roses, Monday, July 11 at Heinz Field.
Jack Fordyce
The rigging crew set up the stage for Guns 'N Roses, Monday, July 11 at Heinz Field.
Jace Becker secures the rigging in preparation of the Guns 'N Roses concert Monday,  July 11 at Heinz Field.
Jack Fordyce
Jace Becker secures the rigging in preparation of the Guns 'N Roses concert Monday, July 11 at Heinz Field.
The rigging crew set up the stage equpment in preparation of the Guns 'N Roses concert, Monday, July 11, 2016, at Heinz Field.
Jack Fordyce
The rigging crew set up the stage equpment in preparation of the Guns 'N Roses concert, Monday, July 11, 2016, at Heinz Field.
A merchandise trailer is set up ahead of the Guns 'N Roses concert outside of Heinz Hall, Monday, July 11, 2016
Jack Fordyce
A merchandise trailer is set up ahead of the Guns 'N Roses concert outside of Heinz Hall, Monday, July 11, 2016
Equipment and flight cases sit in preparation of the Guns 'N Roses concert, Monday July 11 at Heinz Field.
Jack Fordyce
Equipment and flight cases sit in preparation of the Guns 'N Roses concert, Monday July 11 at Heinz Field.

A crew of about 250 set the stage at Heinz Field on Monday afternoon for a concert 24 years in the making.

“It's been exciting,” said Dale “Opie” Skjerseth, the production manager for Guns N' Roses, which will perform at the football stadium as part of their “Not in This Lifetime” tour Tuesday night. “Everybody's having a good time. The band's enjoying it, and so are we.”

A small yellow forklift zipped across grey turf that covered the field as several people milled about on the stage looming nearby. Set-up for the show began Friday with 16 trucks loading the stage, decking and flooring into the stadium. Seventeen production trucks arrived Monday, and crews that began working the stadium at noon were set to finish by 7 or 8 p.m.

“It's very simple,” Skjerseth said during a media tour of the stadium. “Eight hours, and we're done. Ready to go. Ready for the band.”

This will be the first time Guns N' Roses has performed at Heinz Field, although it is not the band's first trip to Pittsburgh. In 1992, the band played at Three Rivers Stadium as part of its “Use Your Illusion Tour.” Skjerseth was with them then, too.

They're not much different to work with now than they were then, he said. They're professionals.

“We've all grown in time, and we know what really needs to be done,” he said. “Everybody's very involved in the show, and that's what the importance is with this.”

The tour was planned long in advance. “We plan so far ahead, we're planning into next year,” Skjerseth said, which gave the crews time to run things by the performers so they're “not wasting their time or their money on building something that they don't like.” The band members “look at everything” from the flooring to how they come on and off the stage, and how the stage is set.

About 45,000 people are expected to attend the show, which, while not skimping on the pyrotechnics or fireworks, will be streamlined to showcase the band, Skjerseth said. The stage will have a big center thrust with video screens positioned to the left, right and in the center.

“They don't need frills or thrills; it's them,” Skjerseth said. “That's what people want to see: Guns N' Roses. They want to see the band on stage: Axl, Duff and Slash and the rest of them doing their thing.”

Skjerseth watches the beginning, middle and end of each show, but said his team is not satisfied with a performance until the very end “when we're done getting out of the venue and everybody's safe.”

Heinz Field will be just like it was before the band's arrival by 5 p.m. Wednesday, Skjerseth said. The tour is set to hit Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia on Thursday and Rogers Centre in Toronto on Saturday.

Madasyn Czebiniak is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412320-7822 or mczebiniak@tribweb.com.

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