The Worst Onstage Meltdowns

Rock history has graced us with a multitude of memorable onstage meltdowns, but here are a few of the very best.

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Do you remember a time when you simply lost control? A time when something upset you so much that you disregarded rationality and sanity in favor of rage and chaotic behavior? If so, don't worry, you're not alone. Everyone living outside of the most serene Buddhist temples can probably remember a time when they flew off the handle and ended up with an embarrassing story to tell. You go out drinking with your friends and tell the story and everyone laughs and laughs, then shares their own story about the time they got into such a heated argument over which "Matrix" sequel is better that they ended up slamming their fist on the glass coffee table and shattering it. Or, you know, whatever story they have. (If you're reading this, Mom, sorry about the table). Luckily for most of us, our meltdowns happen in front of a small group of friends or family, and not on a stage in front of thousands of people. When a musician freaks out on stage, it becomes a media event, a Twitter phenomenon, an embarrassment of epic proportions. It's like watching a train wreck, or MTV - it's terrible, but you can't look away. Rock history has graced us with a multitude of memorable onstage meltdowns, but here are a few of the very best.

The Everly Brothers Break Up On Stage

The Everly Brothers are the Billboard Hot 100's most successful American rock duo of all time, but that doesn't mean they haven't had their share of drama. In 1973, during a show in Hollywood, the brothers were in the middle of their set when the venue's manager came on stage to alert the crowd that the show had been cancelled due to Don Everly being "too emotional" to play. In reality, Don was too drunk to remember the lyrics and guitar parts to the songs. His skipped notes and forgotten lyrics enraged his brother Phil, who proceeded to smash his guitar mid-show and storm out of the building, promising he would "never get on stage with that man again".

Scott Stapp's Performance Leads To Fan Lawsuit

Itts fairly common knowledge that Creed's Scott Stapp embraced drugs and alcohol with arms wide open during the band's rise to fame in the late 90s and early 2000s, a tendency that ultimately manifested itself in a 2002 performance in Chicago that was so poor the fans decided to sue the band for a refund. That night, Stapp reportedly staggered to the stage, obviously drunk, and tried to play the show. He nearly fell down numerous times, and performed most of the show sitting or lying on the stage, unable to get back up. According to a lawsuit filed by fans, Stapp was "unable to sing the lyrics to a single Creed song". He slammed his microphone down and wandered backstage multiple times throughout the show, and appeared to pass out on stage at one point. Ultimately the fans' request for a refund was not honored, and Creed broke up a year later. The incident remains one of the only times a band has been slapped with a class action lawsuit in music history.

Ryan Adams Personally Pays Heckler To Leave

Alt-country rocker Ryan Adams is a generally mild-mannered performer, known to play folksy music and heartfelt, intimate live shows. Just don't confuse him with Canadian "Summer Of '69" rocker Bryan Adams. In 2006, Adams was playing a show in Nashville when a heckler began to mock him, requesting that he play "Summer Of '69". Not finding that very funny at all, Adams asked that the house lights be turned on, and with help from fans, identified the heckler. He then waded into the audience and handed the man $28 to cover his ticket price, and refused to continue the show until the heckler had "left the house". Ultimately the man left the building and the show continued, and no one requested any Bryan Adams for the rest of the night. The Bryan Adams / Ryan Adams confusion eventually faded as Ryan's fame grew and peaked in the mid-2000s. If you asked Ryan, he might even tell you that those were the best days of his life.

Billy Corgan Invites Fan Onstage, Then Insults Him

In 2008, notoriously emotional Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan was playing the second of a two-night concert at United Palace in New York when he stopped the show and asked a fan to come onstage to critique the Pumpkins' performance from the previous night. The nigh''s performance had been panned by critics, consisting of rehashed old material and a jumble of cover songs. The courageous fan told Corgan to his face that the show sucked, which evidently didn't go down very well with the Pumpkins vocalist. Billy told the fan "I liked that song you wrote: [title unfit to print], it was a big hit in Europe". Pure class, Billy. The incident cemented Corgan's reputation as a brazen rock star who cares little for what critics, and apparently fans, have to say about his music.

Axl Rose, Need I Say More?

Axl Rose has a long and decorated history of onstage meltdowns, though two incidents stand out particularly prominently, as his behavior triggered riots on both occasions. In July 1991, Guns N' Roses was performing in St. Louis, Missouri when Axl noticed a fan with recording equipment in the front of the audience. Stopping mid-song, Rose yelled to security: "Take that! Get that guy, and take that! I'll take it!..." Rose dove headfirst into the crowd, intending to personally take the camera from the offending fan. The bouncers pulled him back on to the stage, where he proceeded to insult the venue's security team before slamming down his microphone and storming off stage, taking the band with him. When the house lights came on ten minutes later, the fans began to riot, causing extensive structural damage and sending 60 people to the hospital. Guns N' Roses was banned from performing in St. Louis ever again for the incident.
His next major meltdown occurred a year later, during a co-headlining tour with Metallica. In Montreal, Metallica was forced to play an abbreviated set when singer James Hetfield was severely burned by a pyrotechnics display. As was his custom, Axl was late to the venue, rendering the band helpless as they waited for their singer to show up as the crowd grew unruly. Eventually Guns took the stage, ostensibly saving the day for the thousands of paying fans in attendance. However, after about 50 minutes, Axl began to complain about voice problems and left the stage unexpectedly. The show was over. Angry fans again began to riot, and the violence spilled into the city streets, where police had difficulty controlling the chaos. When it comes to onstage meltdowns, it's hard to top the guy that personally caused two riots; whose tantrums are so legendary that venues begin preparing for Guns N' Roses shows by assembling their best legal teams; who is known more for his short temper than his creative abilities. Axl Rose is the undisputed champion of the onstage meltdown. Almost makes that coffee table seem insignificant. Right, mom? By Alex Larsen

189 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    GasPipe
    There's also the video of Maynard from Tool, where he is trying to sing "Parabola", his voice ****s up, so he throws the mic away and walks off stage.
    T7E
    Butt-Head : I watched escape the fate give a guy money to leave for throwing things POSTED: 04/29/2011 - 01:53 pm / quote |
    Why would you watch Escape the Fate?
    frazzledazzle
    col50 wrote: Axl must have caused more then 2 riots. Number seems a little low
    He did. Vancouver, 2002 (?). Axl didn't show up for a gig at GM Place. The workers at the arena came out to tell us Axl was still in LA and the show was off. Most of the fans, like me, left peacefully, but some started to break stuff, and it turned in to a riot. I remember a drunk guy trying to fight a cop - the drunk got one-punched and knocked out cold. It was scary, but at least we refunded...
    svelle
    ChucklesMginty wrote: I hear metalcore bands breakdown a lot on stage. Bu dum tsh.
    it's so bad that it's funny again.
    Picklelerner
    Abby Hoffman and Pete Townshed incident at Woodstock ring a bell? You can buy the audio of it on iTunes lol
    Most_Triumphant
    Picklelerner wrote: Abby Hoffman and Pete Townshed incident at Woodstock ring a bell? You can buy the audio of it on iTunes lol
    that wasnt a meltdown that was Pete protecting his stage.
    reason84
    Several people have already mentioned it, but it is a little surprising Jim Morrison didn't make the list...there's the infamous Miami incident in '69, New Haven incident where he actually gets arrested right on the stage, and I think Morrison's last ever live Doors show he just sat there and didn't even say a word...hence what triggered it to be his last live performance, he had a total breakdown and was burned out.
    RyanM92
    Jacobrivers8 wrote: anyone know about the time when axl stopped a gnr show to tell them not to throw bottles and trash at him or he would end the show, its hilarious
    =PLBA0BD823A73B8E10
    He did that in Ireland this year too... Makes me proud to be Irish . Also, josh homme should definately have made the list....
    NeutralLuke
    the_hoodster wrote: When Sebastian Bach jumps in the crowd and starts beating that guy who threw a bottle at him is my personal favourite
    Mine also
    b_flo
    Billy Duffy yelling at his monitor engineer during sound check....then yelling at him some more, during the show. He didn't want any bass in his monitors...even though there wasn't any.
    fightthefoo
    I saw this video on youtube where Kurt Cobain jumped into the crowd and a dumbass (obviously drunk) started pulling on Cobain's hair, so he started bashing his head with the guitar to make him let go. The dumbass got pissed and started punching Cobain. Dave and Krist then quickly stopped the song and broke up the fight.
    GunsNRyche
    I always loved the one when fans were throwing stuff at Chad Kroeger. He stops and says something like, "Do you want to hear some rock n' roll, or do you want us to go home?" So someone throws more crap at him, and he's like "See ya," walks off stage, and gives the crowd the finger. Epic.
    SmittyMan90
    SumFX wrote: Skullivan wrote: What about when Kirk Hammett went crazy because that little girl illegaly downloaded a Metallica song, so he kicked a black beach ball at her and killed her? Okay, only about half of that was true. Hur.....hur.....bwhahahahahahahaha! Too Funny +1
    HAHAHA!
    JuiceStain
    I very much enjoyed this article. It was well written. I thought I was reading an article from Cracked for a moment there.
    SumFX
    Skullivan wrote: What about when Kirk Hammett went crazy because that little girl illegaly downloaded a Metallica song, so he kicked a black beach ball at her and killed her? Okay, only about half of that was true.
    Hur.....hur.....bwhahahahahahahaha! Too Funny +1
    Root Beer
    Soundservant wrote: I don't see Josh Homme verbally abusing cocksmokers here?
    Hahaha I love that one.
    HatsForEveryone
    Some of these were nothing. I'll never forget Sydney BDO '08 when Silverchair frontman Daniel Johns was being a douchebag and the crowd threw plastic bottles at him. After flipping off the audience and ripping off the crowd, he then proceeded to **** up two great songs with his Dissociative's influenced bullshit and left the stage with his guitar propped against the amp, feedback like a motherlicker. The rest of the band were not impressed.
    espChris93
    ChucklesMginty wrote: I hear metalcore bands breakdown a lot on stage. Bu dum tsh.
    Already great, but the Bu dum tsh pushed it way over the top. A+
    col50
    Axl must have caused more then 2 riots. Number seems a little low
    Chronologo
    the_hoodster wrote: When Sebastian Bach jumps in the crowd and starts beating that guy who threw a bottle at him is my personal favourite
    That was like a flying kick, anyway Sebastian deserved it for being a douche
    Chronologo
    Chronologo wrote: the_hoodster wrote: When Sebastian Bach jumps in the crowd and starts beating that guy who threw a bottle at him is my personal favourite That was like a flying kick, anyway Sebastian deserved it for being a douche
    The bottle I mean
    Solarstar101
    ChucklesMginty wrote: I hear metalcore bands breakdown a lot on stage. Bu dum tsh.
    hahaha hillarious!! +100000
    JunKDepot
    Benji Webbe from Skindred? Invited a guy onstage, smashed a bottle on his head. Why? because someone said his keyboard gay.
    NoInnerKind
    ChucklesMginty wrote: I hear metalcore bands breakdown a lot on stage. Bu dum tsh.
    Hahahahaha. You clever bastard, you! +100000
    Jacobrivers8
    anyone know about the time when axl stopped a gnr show to tell them not to throw bottles and trash at him or he would end the show, its hilarious
    =PLBA0BD823A73B8E10
    metallica-#1
    what about in 1992 when James Hetfield caught fire? that was literally an onstage meltdown
    LlZARD KlNG
    I didn't read through all the comments to see if anyone mentioned it, but Jim Morrison's final live performance in New Orleans, 1970? He apparently had a breakdown on stage, and midway through the set he slammed the microphone numerous times into the stage floor until the platform beneath was destroyed, and then he sat down and refused to perform for the remainder of the show.
    LlZARD KlNG
    Haha, I didn't even see reason84's comment before mine. I didn't refresh the page for like 15 minutes. But yeah, totally agree with him. Morrison should have made the list for numerous occasions.
    Slap-happy
    When supporting Guns N' Roses in 1991, Skid Row had received negative press in the UK (The Daily Star - a dazzling piece of journalism!). Sebastian Bach took the offending newspaper, dropped his trousers on stage and proceeded to wipe his arse with it. Classy. A year or so later, Faith No More were supporting GN'R in Spain. The crowd started hurling bottle at the band and, with a little rudimentary Spanish the band actually encouraged it. One bottle hit the stage and was clearly full of some audience member's bladder contents. Patton made note of this, holding the bottle aloft and ensuring the audience were fully aware. He then stood atop Axl's front stage autocue, opened the bottle and poured the contents over his head. Sometime later at one of FNM's own shows in Europ he relieved himself into his boot onstage. Then drank it. And once made coffee for the front row.
    emphaticleech
    axegrinderj wrote: Shawn1379 wrote: I'm surprised there's no GG Allin...
    There's a big difference between a breakdown and being GG Allin.