Subscribe to our newsletter

(Credit: Far Out / Press)

Music

Watch five of the most shocking onstage musician meltdowns

Meltdowns are part of the game in the music realm. The gruelling ordeals of life on the road mixed with a highwire lifestyle and the myriad things that can go wrong on the night, can all create a cocktail of potential cockups. And like witnessing road rage, they present the world with an ugliness that you can’t help but watch. 

Take, for instance, Oasis’ fabled Los Angeles performance whereby the band, already beset with bickering, thought they would ease tensions with the ever-unreliable aid of drugs. This was worsened because they thought they had bought cocaine but were handed the unknown entity of crystal meth. 

Thus, the sound man, also dabbling in the Meth, in a state of discombobulated delirium, wrote a different setlist for every band member, so as Noel Gallagher was playing one song, his brother Liam was singing another, all while Bonehead was simply struggling to stand up. These things can happen in a rock ‘n’ roll band, and sadly, with a camera rolling the world is technically watching. 

Below we’ve skirted around the nettlesome in an attempt to bring you some of the most comical examples. From Billy Joel tearing up Moscow to Nick Cave blasting a sound that seems like the devil has joined the band, enjoy these day-brightening disasters below. 

Five shocking music meltdowns:

Billy Joel

In this clip, Mr Joel really does start the fire. It’s a figurative one, granted, but the flame of something has certainly taken hold of him. His grievance is with the lighting engineer, but his rage makes it unclear exactly what that complaint entails, the depths of such fury has warped the problem into something abstract and unknowable like the concept of love. 

All the while, Joel beleaguered the mic stand with the same mistreatment as the top shelf of a dwarf’s fridge. And most peculiar of all is that the show seems to just go on around him. The lighting folks refuse to take heed, the audience lap it up, and the musicians, including Joel to some extent, simply play on. Fascinating stuff. 

Nick Cave

Nick Cave and Warren Ellis are currently on the road, as they have been since winter, blessing the world with a balm of exorcising transcendence. Anyone who has seen them knows they are as closely knit as artists as Bing Crosby and a sweater. However, the clip below is a lesson for life: Even the greats have an off day. 

In this 2009 clip, Cave upholds his usual standards as the sermonising frontman. Meanwhile, Warren Ellis seems to be defying Pythagoras’ arithmetic laws of music and inventing new key progressions. This harmonic hellscape continues to enrage Cave further as he almost pleads with the dogrel-hollering chorus coming from the back corner. Never has such a beautiful piece of music been met with such cruel hexing by one wizard straying to the dark side live on stage. 

Axl Rose

During their classic track ‘Rocket Queen’ from their 1987 debut studio record Appetite for Destruction, Rose was fired up with the visceral grotty sound of Slash’s distinctive guitar sound and took issue with a crowd member with a camera. Taking a break from his doggrel screaming he quite calmly, by contrast, repeatedly declares: “Take that! Take that!”

Then the carnage ensues as he finally yells, “I’ll take it God damn it” like a cat who hates getting its picture taken leaping for a mouse with a tiny Kodak. It left the St. Louis crowd stunned, and after Rose delivered a quick hook, he wrapped up what became known as the Riverport Riot by slamming: “Well, thanks to the lame-ass security, I’m going home.”

Fionna Apple

VMA Execs were set on edge as soon as Fiona Apple opened with, “I didn’t prepare a speech, and I’m sorry but I’m glad that I didn’t, because I’m not going to do this like everybody else does it.” She went on to call the world “bullshit” in a message that decreed the power of individualism… I think. 

Apple managed to get in a Maya Angelou quote to her credit, albeit it is not quite clear which Angelou quote she is referring to. It must be said that it is, indeed, noble to use a usually vapid platform to offer up a meaningful message, but there is simply something deeply unsettling about watching this particular ramble, and yet like presents under the bed to a child, you can’t help but take a look. It’s way tamer than the rest and it isn’t during a conventional performance, but there is something so baffling about it that it can cause a cringe that could snap a weak jaw. 

Billy Corgan

The Smashing Pumpkins 2016 nostalgia tour was an interesting debacle for a number of reasons, not least because frontman Billy Corgan made an appearance on Alex Jones’ berserk conspiracy podcast Infowars in the run-up. He used the platform to voice his hatred for “social justice warriors” and his love of “Jones Super Male Vitality” supplement in one of the most bizarre tour publicity interviews of all time. Following that sort of endorsement, a tour, for once, might have seemed like a safe refuge of relative normality, but things continued to venture towards the strange even during the shows themselves. 

At a show at the Orpheum in Memphis, Tennessee, the band regaled the crowd with a rendition of ‘Angie’ by The Rolling Stones, which is perhaps the least befitting song in either band’s back catalogue to prompt a stage invasion. Nevertheless, the mellowed out acoustic tune did not stop a hapless fan clambering on stage. The guys seemingly interrupted the droning ballad without a plan or a hope and proceeded to stand alongside Corgan simply shrugging as though awaiting a command from the audience. 

The only command forthcoming was from Corgan himself who interrupted the morose melody of ‘Angie’ to tell the shrugging goon, “Get the fuck off my stage before I punch you in the fucking face.” The aggression from Corgan seems wildly incongruous with the fans rather tame antics, despite the obvious potential dangers. The fan makes a hasty return to the crowd and Corgan paces for a while, as though indignantly seething with rage, before returning to the maudlin drawl of ‘Angie’ upon his acoustic guitar.

Follow Far Out Magazine across our social channels, on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.