Las Vegas is rightly recognized as the capital of live show entertainment, with 100 different live shows every day and 20 million tourists seeing a show in Las Vegas every year. With that much live entertainment going on, there are bound to be mishaps. Although the old adage says “the show must go on,” sometimes it’s not easy, or even possible. Here are the six most shocking accidents that happened at Las Vegas live shows, some with tragic consequences.
Criss Angel passes out during “Mindfreak Live!”
For almost a decade, magician Criss Angel had a show at the Luxor Hotel Casino called “Believe,” which had begun as a joint production with Cirque du Soleil. The show was almost universally panned, liked by neither Criss Angel fans nor Cirque fans. Eventually, the show became more Angel’s than Cirque’s and evolved into a standard shock magic stage show. It was during a 2017 performance (after he had changed the show’s title to “Mindfreak Live!”) that Angel, attempting to extricate himself from a straitjacket while hanging upside down, passed out. His team rushed the stage to release him and speeded him to the hospital. He recovered from the incident and retook the stage the following day. He has since moved the show to the Las Vegas Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.
Siegfried and Roy’s tiger attacks Roy onstage
One of Las Vegas’s biggest and most popular shows of all time, ‘Siegfried & Roy’ featured feats of magic combined with fantastic large cats and Liberace-level showmanship, running for 13 years at the Mirage Hotel. During a performance in October 2003, a large white tiger named Manticore suddenly bit Roy Horn and dragged him off the stage. He was rushed to the hospital with massive blood loss. He suffered severe trauma and was in physical rehabilitation for years. Roy claimed in an interview that he had fainted onstage due to high blood pressure, and the tiger was merely trying to help him by dragging him offstage. He refused to have the tiger put down, and retired him to the Mirage’s in-house animal park. Siegfried and Roy retired for good in 2010, but not before making one more appearance with Manticore on television during a benefit for the Lou Ruvo Brain Institute. Manticore died of natural causes in 2014, and Roy even gave the tiger a moving tribute on Facebook, writing, “Farewell my dear friend… know that your image is forever burned into my heart.”
Acrobats crash into each other at Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Zumanity’
Cirque du Soleil’s long-running “Zumanity” show at the New York-New York Hotel & Casino is part acrobatic spectacular and part risqué review. One of the signature pieces of the original show was a dance above the stage involving two acrobats suspended on “silks” or long strips of cloth. In November 2007, during a live performance, a female acrobat lost her grip and crashed into her partner; both fell almost 20 feet onto the stage. She was critically hurt; her partner escaped injury. The show actually did continue after the accident although half the audience had left the theater. Later it was revealed that another woman had been injured while practicing the same routine two years earlier, with the same male partner; her injuries ended her career. The routine has since been taken out of the show.
Acrobat falls to her death during Cirque du Soleil’s ‘KÀ’
The signature show at MGM Grand, “KÀ” is one of the most popular Cirque du Soleil productions. One of its biggest draws is the huge stage, which revolves, tilts, and even turns completely vertical. During the climactic battle scene, the stage turns on its side as acrobats move up and down, as if seeing the battle from above. In June 2013, one of these acrobats slipped from her harness and fell over 90 feet into the pit below the stage. She died on the way to the hospital. The show was shut down while safety reviews were conducted and an investigation completed. Eventually fined for seven violations, the show appealed and had all but one reversed. The show was performed for almost a year without the signature scene, but eventually it was reinstated in 2014.
Dave Grohl falls off stage
While not a permanent resident Las Vegas show, the band has had some memorable live mishaps. During a show in Sweden in 2015, lead singer Dave Grohl fell off the stage and broke his leg; he performed the rest of the tour seated on a majestic throne, sporting a cast. But at their first show in 2019, at the Hard Rock Hotel in Vegas, it seemed for a moment like déjà vu when, after wandering offstage to get a beer in the middle of a song, Grohl tried to get back on stage… and missed, falling back. Some in the audience thought it was a prank; he had once hired a lookalike to fall off a stage as a joke. But he was uninjured. The only tragedy was that he spilled some of his beer onto a speaker.
Dan Wheldon dies as Las Vegas Speedway
Not only does Las Vegas host a number of shows, it is also home to sports events and a major racetrack, the Las Vegas Speedway. During an IndyCar race in 2011, a 15-car pileup in the 13th lap (of a scheduled 200) took the life of Indy 500 winner Dan Wheldon. He died before reaching the hospital; the race was paused, and then, two hours later, cancelled — but not before his fellow racers made a slow, five lap circuit in Wheldon’s honor. A massive federal and internal investigation failed to pinpoint any one particular cause of the tragedy, although drivers have complained about the track’s design and road composition in previous years. The Speedway is still open.