There’s something about performing in front of an audience that can either make or break a singer, mostly because there are no do-overs; a seasoned performer knows how to gloss over a mistake and keep going, but sometimes there are shows that just will not go on. Here are 8 famous singers who had epic meltdowns in front of a live audience.
Axl Rose (Guns N’ Roses)
Axl Rose is somewhat of a meltdown master; there’s even a compilation video of all his stage disasters. But his most infamous incident onstage was during a 1991 concert at the Riverport arena in St. Louis. Halfway through “Rocket Queen,” Rose spied a fan in the front row taking pictures (this was back when that was considered not cool) and he stopped the song to demand security wrestle the offending camera away.
When security didn’t move fast enough, Rose jumped off the stage to deal with the miscreant himself. Several thrown punches later (he hit both security and audience members) he was dragged back onstage, but he threw the mic down and stormed away. Angry concertgoers started to riot, dozens of fans were injured, and Guns N’ Roses was banned from playing in St. Louis for nearly two decades.
Courtney Love (Hole)
While she’s no stranger to sudden bouts of freaking out, nothing tops her performance at Club Paradiso in Amsterdam back in 1995, when audience members were heckling her with pictures of her former husband and Nirvana lead singer Kurt Cobain, who had killed himself the previous year and whose fans often blame her for his death. Love justifiably tore into the hecklers, calling one a “fat goth” and telling them to go see Nine Inch Nails instead.
Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins)
Here’s another singer who has had so many stage meltdowns it’s hard to choose one. The most recent one was at the Orpheum in Memphis in 2016, when a fan decided to join him onstage during a song. Corgan threatened to punch the guy in the face if he didn’t get right back off stage again. The fan complied. The show continued.
Scott Stapp (Creed)
This is a sad one. Creed’s lead singer, crippled by long years of alcohol and drug abuse, was in no condition to perform but took to the stage anyway during a 2002 appearance at the Allstate Arena in Chicago, Illinois. Stapp, oblivious, bumbled around the stage, forgot all his lyrics, and finally tried to sing while lying down and passed out, all while the band played on. It was so bad that attendees filed a class action lawsuit against the band, not the venue, to get their money back.
The one live gig you do not want to wreck is a New Year’s Eve broadcast. Mariah’s 2016 live performance was anything but live: the tracks were prerecorded and Carey flubbed her own words, revealing that she was lip synching. She tried to pass the blame off on technical difficulties and then just gave up. All in all not a stellar performance, but that’s showbiz.
Okay, this takes some explaining, because this is one name you’d never expect on a list like this. Performing in 1987 in Moscow (still Soviet Union then, remember) was already a bit tricky, but then add in the “filming a documentary about it” angle and you have pandemonium. The film crew kept distracting Joel by shining lights into the audience and Joel objected, but security chose to boot the audience members whose only crime was having light thrown on them by bad documentarians. Joel then went full metal freakout, flipped his piano over and beat a cameraman over the head with his mic stand… while still singing!
Billie Joe Armstrong (Green Day)
During the iHeartRadio festival in 2012 in Las Vegas, Green Day singer Billie Joe Armstrong halted his set when he saw that he was running out of his allotted time, complaining that Usher had run long and cut into his band’s scheduled slot. He smashed his guitar and went on a diatribe against Justin Bieber, ranted about how they were being disrespected, reminded the audience that they were due respect because they’d been around for a long time – since 1988! – and eventually left the stage, which nobody minded because Rihanna was next in the lineup. Armstrong literally entered rehab after this incident, and the video went viral.
The Notorious B.I.G. (aka Biggie Smalls)
Nothing wrecks hip-hop like a bad DJ. During the KMEL Summer Jam in 1995, the turntables were so hot — literally, it was sweltering in SoCal — that it messed with the synchronization and kept throwing Smalls off-time. Smalls blamed the guy in charge of the turntables, DJ Kap, for the problems and used the mike to chew him out in front of the crowd.