By: Brian Pierce
Illustrations by: Brett Affrunti
There’s nothing on Earth like a live event: the excitement of the crowd, the energy of the performers, and the interplay between the two can be absolutely incredible. However, things don’t always go as planned.
When pigs fly…and keep flying
The audience at Coachella in 2008 was awestruck as Rogers Waters of Pink Floyd performed his song “Pigs” – especially when a two-story, inflatable pig took to the sky. Unfortunately, the swine slipped its moorings and sailed off into the night. It was later found in tatters a few miles from the festival grounds. That’ll do, pig.
Poop, there it is!
Some concerts are for the birds. That’s what the Kings of Leon must have been thinking at a 2010 St. Louis show. As the band played, pigeons in the rafters let loose with some well-aimed droppings. The band flew from the stage, and the audience got a full refund.
An unruly fan
Beyoncé is known for her powerful voice, hot dance moves, and devoted fans. One night, while moving downstage to get close to the audience, her hair got caught in another kind of fan: one with spinning blades. As two security guards worked to free her long locks, Beyoncé just kept singing. It goes without saying that the audience was blown away.
Can I get a lift?
During a London performance of the musical Charlie and the Chocolate Factory a few years ago, the impressive glass elevator suddenly broke down, leaving the actors suspended above the audience. The show stopped, too – for six whole minutes – while technicians fixed the problem. Going down?
Sync or swim
Ashlee Simpson, sister of Britney, was one of the most popular performers in America when she appeared on Saturday Night Live in 2004. Musical guests on the show were supposed to perform, as the name says, live. As Ashlee danced onstage, her vocals began – but the microphone was still at her side. Obviously embarrassed and confused, she did some bizarre dance steps before slinking offstage. Later, it was revealed that the drummer hit the wrong vocal guide track by mistake. Oops.
Diddy really do that?
While performing at a trendy nightclub in Ibiza, P. Diddy thought it would be a great idea to do some crowd surfing. Thinking that the audience members would catch him, he did a stage dive into his fans – who quickly moved out of the way. Ouch.
When life gives you lemons…
For a worldwide stadium tour, U2 had a really sweet idea: before their first encore, they would emerge from a giant, 40-foot, mirror-ball lemon – based, no doubt, on the song of the same name. In Oslo, the lemon’s inner workings went sour, trapping the band inside. In a true Spinal Tap moment, Bono and company were forced to climb out the back of the lemon. It wasn’t exactly the grand entrance they were planning on.
They melt in your mouth, not on your stage
During a run of Les Miserables on Broadway, actress Andrea McArdle, playing Fantine, sometimes kept quarter-pound bags of M&Ms hidden in the pockets of her costume. When she went offstage, she’d stand in the wings and munch on the sweets. One night during her big death scene, she got a little carried away – and so did the M&Ms. The pieces of candy tumbled out of her pocket, down the barricade, across the stage, and into the orchestra pit. There were probably some happy trombone players that night.
Do the rattlesnake boogie
Is there any band more “Texas” than ZZ Top? In 1976, the band proved it during the Worldwide Texas Tour, which featured an outrageous, 75-ton set that included a giant stage in the shape of Texas and live animals native to the state, including a longhorn steer, a black buffalo, vultures, and rattlesnakes. One night, the buffalo decided he had heard “La Grange” one too many times and knocked over the rattlesnake tanks, sending both serpents and musicians wriggling across the stage.
Bad Moon rising
In their early days, The Who featured a show-stopping gimmick: at the end of every performance, the legendary British rock band would smash their instruments to bits as the crowd went wild. To intensify the effect, drummer Keith Moon often put a small amount of explosives in his drum kit. On a 1967 national TV appearance on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, Moon decided to add more explosives than usual. At the climax of the performance, the huge blast from the drum kit singed guitarist Pete Townshend’s hair, embedded a piece of cymbal in Moon’s arm, and left the stage clouded in white smoke. According to some, the explosion even caused permanent damage to Pete’s hearing. Yikes.