Throw a bunch of people together in to a large concert and you set the stage, literally speaking, for a mob mentality. Normally sane people can act very differently when part of a large group of people in states of ecstasy, trance, or varied states of emotion. This can lead to the musician having to set boundaries, throw people out, or head off on a rant about whatever triggers them in that moment.
Sometimes they are calling to attention something worthwhile and are applauded. Other times they are under the influence, and so what they say needs to be taken with a grain of salt. It never fails, however, to get them on the front cover of some tabloid magazine somewhere. A little controversy, some extreme behavior and some tabloid exposure is not even a risk to them when they know it can lead to more sales and publicity.
Many musicians are politically-minded, and their concert can be an opportunity to voice their opinion about perceived wrong-doings in the world. With the presence of cell phones at concerts, these outbursts do not easily go unnoticed by the whole world, with fans racing to be the first to download it to their Youtube and Facebook accounts. In many cases it has been a detriment to a group’s image, but there have been moments where it has highlighted a strength of character that we would not have been of aware of.
Musical artists are emotional people, and as Fiona Apple said after a concert incident, “If you mess with someone when they are in that state, it’s like you’re messing with an animal when it’s eating.”
At a set she played in Portland, she was affronted by a member audience with the heckle “Get healthy – we want to see you in 10 years.” This hurt Apple, who responded with a few choice words, “I am healthy, who the fuck do you think you are?” That was it for that concert goer – she was ejected by Apple. What kind of response can you expect from someone who is in the depth of a performance and cut off by someone’s opinion?
Forget guitar smashing, it is outbursts directed towards a seven year old that left egg on Pete Townshend’s face at a concert in Hamilton, Ontario. To be fair, it was actually towards the father of a young girl. The man was shouldering his daughter, who was brandishing a sign saying “Smash Your Guitar Pete!”
In an apology he issued after the fact, it would seem that Townshend had been worried for the safety of the young girl with the crowds pushing around her. Still, mouthing the words “F^%$ off” on stage, was not the most tactful handling of the situation, and it offended the father, Eric Costello, who was not impressed by Townshend’s outburst.
Kanye West is one musician who has become known for his outbursts, often full of profanity, induced by intoxication to one degree or another. He wants to be real, to be authentic on stage, and he wants that of everyone else too. What it does mean, however, is that he does not edit his emotions, and they are exposed in front of millions around the world.
His anger towards SNL poured out one evening when he told them they should be doing skits about the paparazzi and leave the celebs alone. Perhaps it was a little vain to assume that SNL would want to parody him, but since marrying Kim Kardashian, he has most definitely had a fair amount of ridicule. Oh yes, and then there was the moment he ripped the VMA award from Taylor Swift’s hands to announce that Beyonce deserved the award.
Billie Joe Armstrong
To many musicians, a comparison to Justin Bieber is a beckoning to the end of their career. It was at a Green Day concert in 2012, when Billie Joe Armstrong, the lead singer, had a bit of a meltdown after mistakenly believing that he and the band were going to be kicked off stage prematurely. “I am not f-ing Bieber” he shouted, before destroying his guitar and launching it from the stage into the audience.
Turns out that it was a bit of a drug induced moment of paranoia, and within days he turned himself in to rehab centre. Things had gotten a little too much for him, and unfortunately the audience paid for it.
Aaron Lewis (Staind)
This week, Staind frontman Aaron Lewis broke off from the song that he was singing to reprimand members of the audience who were being inappropriate with a 15 year old girl. They were molesting her as she was crowd surfing and Lewis was not going to tolerate it.
He hurled a series of expletives at the men involved, threatening to end Staind’s set and to have them kicked out if they ever repeated that behavior. His rant lasted for a minute and was received well by those listening. He earned a lot of respect from many and was praised for his strength of character. Not that crazy, but still worth noting.
Sometimes concert outbursts are of the verbal nature, in most cases involving Lady Gaga, it involves a more physical and primal bursting out.
At a recent gig in London, Gaga debuted her new song Venus, about the planet of love and sexuality. After finishing up, she proceeded to rip all her clothes off in front of the audience before taking her exit from stage. As someone who is always willing to express her sexuality in public, whether it meets with condemnation or applaud, she definitely raises many eyebrows and voices.
Once the twerking phenomenon had died down and the nakedness in Wrecking Ball was forgotten, Miley had to nail the lid on the Hannah Montana coffin once and for all. Her recent breakup with Liam Hemsworth seems to have left a bit of a scar for the young superstar.
Before singing Wrecking Ball at the G.A.Y club in London, England, she launched into a rant about men, their private parts, how confident she was and how those she was angry at would have to listen to her songs on the radio for eternity. A video of the tirade has spread around the internet and many can hear the anger in her voice as she begins to sing the song. Miley herself denies that the rant was about the exes in her life; she claims she did it to rile up the men in the audience.
Josh Homme, lead singer of Queens of the Stone Age, does not easily forget. This year at the Grammies, his band was cut off about a minute before the end of their set with Nine Inch Nails, Dave Grohl, and Lindsey Buckingham. Two weeks later, he held nothing back when the group was playing for a crowd at Houston’s Bayou Music Centre.
He launched a tirade of f-bombs at “the man”, the grammies and Imagine Dragons before launching into “I Appear Missing.” Trent Reznor was equally pissed but kept his f-bombs to his twitter account. Ken Erlich of the Grammies made somewhat of an apology, claiming that his team did the best they could for a song that was five or six minutes long.
Guns ‘N Roses concerts were always prone to a riot or two, with the mouth of Axl Rose inciting acts of violence around the world. It was in 1991, in the days before it was accepted that people filmed concerts with cell phones, that they got in to a particularly rough incident.
At the St Louis, Missouri concert, Axl Rose was seen to be getting quite irate and calling for assistance from security. It was apparent to him that someone close to the stage was holding up a recording device. When no security was forthcoming, Rose took it upon himself to jump in to the crowd and take the camera from the fan himself.
This resulted in him leaving stage, facing assault charges and having the band banned from ever playing in St Louis again. It did not hurt their fame, and they included a reference to the event in their Use Your Illusion albums in September of that year.