With the continuing decline of physical record sales, concerts are arguably one of the bigger money-makers for musicians nowadays. As much as shows can be fun, if tiring for bands to play, it can be annoying in equal parts if certain members of the crowd fail to cooperate with the musicians. This has been shown in multiple ways on the part of the musician; often resulting in them flipping out on said crowd members, having security throw those crowd members out of the venue, or cutting their set short and pissing off the fans who paid their hard-earned money to see them and did nothing wrong. However it happens, it’s always a bit surprising, even despite the egos of some of those musicians. In this list, we’ll be counting down the top 10 incidents of musicians throwing on-stage temper tantrums.
Some of these examples show these artists saying somewhat uncharacteristic things during their onstage tirades: Courtney Love complaining about having to deal with Kurt Cobain’s kid, Eddie Vedder going postal on a fan for throwing quarters on stage, Josh Homme hurling homophobic slurs at a fan throwing stuff at him, etc. Others, such as Kanye West and Axl Rose, are hardly surprising whatsoever, but it’s still worthy of inclusion based on what was said rather than who said it. Regardless, it not only ruins the experience for many of the fans – and that’s not even mentioning the fan who the artist insulted – but also risks damaging the artist’s reputation. Without further ado, here are the top 10 artists to have thrown epic hissy fits on stage during one of their shows, and the backlash that would ensue from it.
10 Kanye West
Before we continue, let’s just get one thing straight: Kanye is the least surprising of these 10 to be on this list. In fact, several of his rants during his Yeezus tour are arguably worthy of inclusion on here. However, his outburst against a fan throwing a coin onstage during a show he played in Melbourne, Australia in 2008 probably takes the cake. During a concert while he was in the midst of his 808s and Heartbreak phase, Yeezy improvised with his auto-tuned voice by angrily telling the fan to “eat s**t and die.” Not the most convincing way to get your point across when you sound like T-Pain while you do it, but it’s still his most memorable on-stage tantrum. It’s also not the only coin-related rant on this list...
9 Pearl Jam
Let’s be honest, Eddie Vedder hardly seems like one of the angrier dudes in rock music, and his blowup during a show in 1998 with a tirade aimed at a fan throwing quarters at him seemed understandable but still a bit uncharacteristic. The incident, which happened during their show that year in Mansfield, MA after finishing their song “Go”, showed Vedder yelling profanities at the fan and threatening to have the whole band leave the stage. Vedder also gave whoever was standing next to the quarter-thrower his permission to beat the guy to a pulp. Way to tell everyone who’s the “better man” here, Eddie.
8 Foo Fighters
Ever since Kurt Cobain’s suicide, his widow Courtney Love has had quite the acrimonious relationship with Nirvana’s drummer/Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl. One example is through her performance at the SWU Festival in Brazil with her then-recently re-formed band Hole. After ripping on a fan for holding up a picture of Cobain during the show, she claimed that she “had to live with [...] his ghost and his kid” and briefly stormed off the stage after flipping off the crowd. Once one of her band members got the crowd to chant “The Foo Fighters are gay!” she came back on stage to slam Grohl for taking money off her daughter Frances’ table.
6 Kid Cudi
Thanks to his stoner image, few would have expected Kid Cudi to lose his temper on a fan mid-concert. Unfortunately for one fan of his during a show in Vancouver in 2009, that’s exactly how things went down. After a different fan threw his wallet at Kid Cudi, the Cleveland rapper threw the wallet back into the crowd. When the fan who caught it felt bad about it, he tossed it onstage without any malicious intentions towards Cudi. Instead, the rapper came down and punched the fan in his face. Cudi later apologized to the fan and offered to fly him to New York as a means of making peace with him.
Although Nickelback have arguably been one of the most oft-hated groups in music in the last decade and a half, their onstage outburst during a festival in Portugal in 2002 was as hilarious as it was cringeworthy. As they were inexplicably booked to play a metal festival in the country – and Chad Kroeger apparently began their set saying “Good night, Spain!” – the Hanna, Alberta quartet stopped playing mid-song as they were being pelted with rocks. After Kroeger said “You guys wanna hear some rock and roll, or do you wanna go home,” he was hit in the head with another rock, prompting the band to flip off the crowd while storming off stage.
4 Queens of the Stone Age
During their set at the Norwegian Wood festival in Norway in 2008, a very sick Josh Homme was playing his set despite his 102º temperature with Queens of the Stone Age when a young crowd member threw a shoe at him while he played “3’s & 7’s”. Between songs, Homme pointed at the culprit, yelled profane and homophobic insults at him before throwing a bottle in the crowd member’s direction while he was being ejected by security. The band continued their set, and Homme later apologized for his comments through an open letter claiming that he “never said, nor suggested, that being gay is wrong.”
3 Billy Joel
Not usually known for having an explosive personality, Billy Joel showed us another side of him during a 1987 concert in the Soviet Union, in which he became the first American rock musician to play in the country since the Berlin Wall had been built. Midway through his song “Sometimes a Fantasy”, Joel slammed the show’s film crew for lighting the audience. When they didn’t adhere to his demands, he threw a classic temper tantrum by flipping his keyboard over and destroying the microphone stand. Through it all, he continued singing as much of the song as he could, but the incident got him headlines around the world such as “Billy’s Red Rage”.
2 Green Day
Although this particular on-stage tirade is pretty shocking in and of itself, the possible reason for said tirade is even more surprising. When Green Day were told to cut their set short and only play for one more minute at the iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas in 2012 to make room for Usher’s set, frontman Billie Joe Armstrong did not mince words with regards to the decision of the festival’s promoters. After yelling some curse words, smashing his guitar and walking off stage mid-set, it was revealed two days later that Armstrong had checked in to rehab for substance abuse problems with alcohol and prescription drugs.
1 Guns N' Roses
During a show at the Riverport Amphitheater near St. Louis on tour with Metallica in the early ‘90s, the perpetually temperamental Guns N’ Roses frontman Axl Rose lost it when he saw a fan in the crowd trying to take pictures of the concert. Instead of letting security deal with it themselves (they didn’t) and continue the show, Rose jumped into the crowd and tackled the camera-wielding fan. Rose proceeded to slam the show’s security and walked off stage in disgust. The rest of the band followed, and riots began with numerous people injured. Rose would later be charged for having directly incited the riot, but would not be found guilty.