In Oct 1994, on their Division Bell tour, Pink Floyd played the first of a 15-night run at Earls Court, London, England. Less than a minute after the band had started playing “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” a scaffolding stand holding 1200 fans, collapsed, throwing hundreds of people 20 feet to the ground. It took over an hour to free everyone from the twisted wreckage, ninety-six people were injured, with 36 needing hospital treatment. Six were detained overnight with back, neck and rib injuries.
That was not the end of the story, however. The re-scheduled concert had traumatised fans being sat in exactly the same seats they’d had on the first night – giving them even more cause for complaint as it was reported that Earls Court were not giving due attention to claims for compensation for damaged clothing, time off work and medical bills. One good thing about this re-scheduled show for those in block 9 was that they were all given special t-shirts to ‘commemorate’ the incident and were all invited backstage after the show to meet all the band. The last word went to Floyd guitarist David Gilmour, who announced on stage: “If I were you, I’d sue somebody. Er, not me, though…”
As Elvis Costello told us, accidents will happen, and by the laws of averages things can go horribly wrong.
Undoubtably the worst tragedy surrounding a rock concert happened in 2003 when 100 people died after pyrotechnics ignited a club during a gig by Great White in West Warwick, Rhode Island. Great White singer Ty Longley was also killed in the accident. Two brothers who owned the club were charged, along with the former tour manager with involuntary manslaughter. Foam soundproofing material at the edge of the stage set alight and the blaze spread quickly in the one-storey wooden building as fans all tried to escape through the same exit. Great White began a tour in July 2003 to raise money for the survivors and families of victims.
In 1969, The Rolling Stones hired Hells Angels to provide security at the Altamont Speedway event in California. They traded the Angels $500 worth of beer in return for controlling the crowd.
The Stones played the free festival along with Jefferson Airplane, Santana, The Flying Burrito Brothers and Crosby Stills Nash & Young. Stones fan Meredith Hunter was stabbed to death as the group played. It’s claimed Hunter was waving a revolver. One other man drowned and two men were killed by in a hit-and run accident, (you wouldn’t expect to be killed in a hit-and run at a gig).
A concert by The Who at The Riverfront Coliseum, Cincinnati, during their 1979 North American tour turned to disaster when 11 members of the audience were trampled to death after a stampede to claim unreserved seats.
Close to the time The Who were to take the stage, many eyewitnesses claimed that only one or two main entrance doors, from among a broad bank of doors, were opened to handle the massive crowd. When the doors were shut, people were smashed against each other and the building by the thousands of fans behind them who did not know the main entrance was closed. Crowd surges and human waves of pressure knocked people down.
In June 2000, Pearl Jam took to the stage in front of a crowd of about 50,000 people at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark. The crowd pushed towards the front of the stage, sparking a stampede that crushed people near the front. The band repeatedly asked the crowd to move back but they did not comply.
Some people slipped and fell in front of the stage and were trampled to death. People were climbing on top of each other to get air. In total, eight people lost their lives. Devastated by the tragedy, Pearl Jam considered calling it quits.
On a lighter note, its not just the paying punters who are at risk.
Steven Tyler was airlifted to hospital after falling off stage during a gig at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota in 2009. The 61-year-old Aerosmith singer fell from a catwalk onto a couple of fans, he suffered neck and shoulder injuries.
And during a concert in 1999, poor old Michael Jackson suffered severe bruising after falling over 50 feet when a bridge collapsed during a concert at Munich’s Olympic stadium. Jacko was singing “Earth Song” at the time of the accident.
As the leader of the band you have to keep your wits about you at all times. The stage can be a dangerous place for ‘accidental trips’.
During his 1975 Welcome To My Nightmare tour in Vancouver, Canada, Alice Cooper fell from the stage and broke six ribs.
Ryan Adams broke a wrist after falling during a gig at the Royal Court Theatre in Liverpool in 2004. A fan said, “One minute he was on the stage and the next he had disappeared. He went down with a thud and we couldn’t believe he was trying to continue singing?”.
Fee Waybill of The Tubes, broke a leg after falling from the stage at the Hammersmith Odeon, London in 1978, whilst wielding a chainsaw during the bands set. A chainsaw? Well serves him right. Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford fell off a motorcycle he was riding onto the stage at the end of a show in Brazil.
1971 wasn’t a good year for Frank Zappa. As we know from the Deep Purple song “Smoke on The Water” a crazed fan fired a flare gun during the guitarists performance at the Montreux Casino in Geneva, Switzerland. The venue’s heating system exploded, starting a fire that left several fans injured, the band’s equipment destroyed, and the venue itself burned to a crisp. Just six days later, during the band’s encore at London’s Rainbow Theatre, Zappa fan Trevor Charles Howell (who thought Zappa was eyeing his girlfriend), pushed Frank off the stage, inflicting multiple injuries upon the guitarist and composer, ultimately leaving him in a wheelchair.
Patti Smith fell 15 feet off the stage onto a concrete orchestra pit and broke her neck at a 1977 performance in Tampa, Florida.
The old show business expression “break a leg” can take on an unfortunately literal meaning. During a show in Sweden, Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl fell off the stage and fractured his leg. Although Grohl managed to return and finish that show after receiving medical attention, the Foo Fighters were forced to cancel the band’s current Europen tour.
Pink was rushed to hospital during a concert in 2010 after she was injured falling off a stage when an acrobatic stunt went wrong. The singer was performing in Nuremberg, Germany, when she donned a harness which was supposed to lift her over the heads of the audience. Pink was not correctly strapped into the device and was sent crashing into a barricade.
A few years back after singing “It’s been a lovely cruise, I’m sorry it’s ended” singer Jimmy Buffett crashed off the stage after his final Sydney concert and was rushed to hospital with a head injury. Shocked fans at the sell-out concert were urged to leave the auditorium by Buffett’s Australian tour manager as the 64-year-old entertainer lay on the floor in front of the first row of seating waiting for paramedics and an ambulance to arrive.
So, lets finish with the tale of the self-inflicted head bash seen around the world during the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards, when Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic threw his bass in the air and failed to avoid the descending guitar.