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From Kurt Cobain to Kanye West: 10 infamous on-stage meltdowns

A famous musician who spends night after night on a stage in front of thousands of people has, quite typically, developed a propensity for the dramatic, the attention-seeking, and the ego-boosting moment of triumph. 

While successful performers are often shy in person, there has to be some desire to want to have countless eyes cast upon them, as eager fans watch their favourite performers exude charisma, talent and skill and if we’re really lucky, a nervous breakdown.

It’s not great to see an on-stage performer have a meltdown because they were triggered by an insensitive fan. But when that performer (Axl Rose comes to mind) has a breakdown because an audience member is trying to take a picture of him or because they look at him in this way or that – then it becomes somewhat melodramatic and self-indulgent and ruins the show for everyone. 

We took a look at the 10 best (or worst, depending on how you look at it) on-stage meltdowns that have happened over the years.

10 infamous on-stage meltdowns:

Axl Rose 

Probably the undisputed champion of on-stage meltdowns and the king of the drama queens, the singer of Guns ‘n’ Roses, Axl Rose, once decided that he did not like a member of the audience taking his picture. While he does have one of the greatest voices in the history of rock, he has a penchant to lose his cool too quickly, turn up for gigs two hours late, and then even dares to stop them early, 30 minutes into the concert.

This is precisely what happened in St Louis, Missouri in 1990. When he saw an audience member holding a camcorder up at him near the front of the stage, Axl lept like gazelle from the stage at the guy, landed on top of him and threw a punch. When he got back on the stage he proceeded to blame security, saying: “Lame-Ass Security!” He then stormed off the stage while saying, “I’m going home!”

Scott Weiland

This incident that happened in California drew a very distinct line between what a man who means business does and what a showman with mental illness does instead. The ’90s alternative rock band The Stone Temple Pilots were performing when a guy from the crowd threw beer at the band. 

Guitar player Dean DeLeo jumps off the stage to go fight the dissenter while singer Scott Weiland wiggles around on the front of the stage and thrusts his crotch towards the audience. “You know what this is! This is foreplay, motherf*cker!” Weiland begins. 

While DiLeo is busy busting the audience member up, Weiland seems to be completely in awe of himself, and then says: “I’ve been to jail motherf*cker! Let’s go have sex in the dressing room!” I believe the man left in complete fear of Weiland.

Joshe Homme

Josh Homme, who fronts his own band Queens of the Stone Age and also plays in Eagles of Death Metal, has acted a little unhinged in the past. He may or may not have some anger management issues. While he may have been drinking too much on one day in particular, it is never ok for a man to assault a woman, especially when that woman is taking pictures of you.

Queens of the Stone Age were performing at the Norwegian Wood Festival in Los Angeles when Homme appeared to be having a good time while playing his guitar. He strolled down the stage to his right, and when on his way back to the centre, he decided to kick Chelsea Lauren’s camera, which then flung back and smacked her in the face, leaving her some serious bruises.

Courtney Love 

Courtney Love, unfairly so, is known for her past relationship with Kurt Cobain but her real fans know her because of her punk and grunge project Hole. Her on-stage meltdown is probably the most justified one on this list, as it came when she saw a fan continuously hold up a picture of Kurt Cobain.

“I don’t need to see a picture of Kurt, asshole!” Courtney said after stopping the show. Calling it a meltdown may be somewhat of an unfair exaggeration as there is a lot of pain and loss surrounding her’s and Kurt’s relationship. “I’m not Kurt. I have to live with this shit, his ghost, his kid every day. Throwing that sign up is stupid and rude,” Love said extremely agitatedly. “I’m going to beat the f*ck out of you if you do it again.” Perhaps that last part was a little unnecessary – but it’s showbiz.

Billie Joe Armstrong 

Greenday were playing at the iHeart Radio Festival in Las Vegas when punk legend, Billie Joe Armstrong delivered his impassioned rant. The band were performing midway through a song when their set got cut from 45 minutes to 25, so Usher could have more time for his performance, allegedly. 

They were performing their first hit, ‘Basket Case’ when a sign popped up in front of the singer that read, ‘one minute’. Armstrong then stopped playing and went on his tirade. “one fucking minute? Give me a break. Let me tell you something. I’ve been around since 1988. And you’re going to give me one fucking minute?!”

In true punk fashion, Armstrong then proceeds to smash his guitar on stage. 

Kanye West 

If there is anyone else on this list that can trump Axl Roses’ antics then it has to be Kanye West. At a concert in Sacramento, after only three songs into his set, Kanye West forced the show to a skidding halt and then proceeded into a 17-minute long tirade.

He affirmed Donald Trump, the Black Lives Matter movement, and Women’s rights. Nothing was off-limits during this moment which, to Kanye, probably felt like a moment of inspiration, but to the rest of the world, looked like an emotional and psychological breakdown. “A lot of people here felt like they lost. You know why? Because y’all been lied to. Google lied to you. Facebook lied to you. Radio lied to you.” This was only part of it.

Shirley Manson

The singer from the band Garbage had to stop the concert because some man in the crowd was throwing various things onto her stage. What makes pausing the show and telling someone off a meltdown? It is when the performer not only stops the show but then proceeds to go on a speech for longer than three minutes while mentioning that she is on her period.

“I’m on my period, I could eat meat,” Manson threateningly said. Considering the fact that she’s a vegetarian, it might be a good idea to listen to her. “You fucking listen to me boy.” There is something more menacing when that sentence is said in a Scottish accent.

Dave Grohl

The multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Dave Grohl rose to fame with the ’90s grunge band Nirvana, for who he played the drums. After backing up the enigmatic frontman, Kurt Cobain for so many years, it is quite impressive to see the musician then front his own group years later, and do it in a way that probably would have made Cobain smile. 

During a Foo Fighters concert in London, at the iTunes Festival, Grohl abruptly stopped the show when he witnessed a fight break loose in the already tightly packed audience. What made this incident a meltdown, was the sheer ferociousness and anger that Grohl proceeded to emanate. “You don’t fucking fight at my show, you asshole.” Needless to say, he stopped the fight pretty quickly.

Kurt Cobain

Continuing with Nirvana, Kurt Cobain had his own breakdown in 1993 in San Paolo, Brazil. Nirvana were delivering a pretty OK show, but they had done much better in the past. It was clear that something was definitely amiss with the troubled singer. This would be the same year that he suffered an overdose, a few months prior to his fatal one.

It was only just over 30 minutes into the show when Cobain stopped playing the song entirely and began walking clumsily around and almost falling over a few times. He then proceeds to damage all the instruments on the stage, including Grohl’s drums. Novoselic and Grohl seem like they want to support him but also seem slightly bewildered by his antics.

Billy Corgan

This meltdown was probably the most civilised one of them all if there is such a thing. The show took place at the United Palace in New York City in 2008. Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins stopped the show after an audience member wouldn’t quit heckling the band. Unlike the others on this list, Corgan invited the heckler onto the stage.

“Last night’s performance sucked!” The heckler kept saying. Corgan then cordially asked him, “would you like your money back?” In a cowardly fashion, the heckler replied, “no, that’s ok. I was lying.” The man began to walk off the stage at which point Corgan sarcastically said, “I liked that song you wrote!”

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