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    24 Shocking Onstage Events In Music History That Actually Happened

    I learned from this post to never use harnesses or pyrotechnics in a show. Oh, and maybe don't lip-sync, either.

    WARNING: Some the below examples include discussions of injuries. There are no deaths, and photos deemed graphic will have an overlay (so you can click to reveal it), but the descriptions may be graphic.

    1. One of the most famous examples is probably Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson's Super Bowl Halftime show in 2004. Timberlake ripped away Jackson's top, exposing her breast in what was later dubbed "Nipplegate."

    Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake onstage

    Jackson dealt with fallout and social shaming for years over the incident, while Timberlake largely escaped blame. She's rarely spoken about it in interviews, saying it's difficult to talk about that time and "going back to having that foundation; not just family, but God" is what pulled her through.

    Closeup of Janet Jackson

    2. Another super famous example occurred when Milli Vanilli was caught lip syncing at a Club MTV live performance in 1989. The opening lines of their track “Girl You Know It’s True" began to repeat over and over again after the sound system broke down, revealing that they were not singing live.

    Milli Vanilli

    Surprisingly, they continued to find success after the incident, but were eventually exposed as frauds who hadn't, in fact, sang on any of their hit records. One half of the duo, Rob Pilatus, even admitted that the concert "was the beginning of the end for Milli Vanilli.”

    Milli Vanilli

    You can watch the clip here:

    View this video on YouTube

    MTV / Via

    3. Another famous lip-syncing scandal was Ashlee Simpson being caught lip syncing on Saturday Night Live in 2004.

    Ashlee Simpson

    When the wrong track began to play (the same one she'd already performed), Simpson did not sing, and instead did a strange dance. She later blamed the band before saying she'd lost her voice due to acid reflux and was ordered by doctors not to sing. The singer's career was definitely affected, though it continued.

    Ashlee Simpson on "SNL"

    Watch the incident here:

    View this video on YouTube

    NBC / Via

    4. While filming an ad for Pepsi, Michael Jackson played for 3,000 fans at Shrine Auditorium in LA. However, during one of the takes performing "Billie Jean," a pyrotechnics display was set off too early, setting Jackson's hair on fire.

    Michael Jackson in a stretcher

    Jackson kept dancing, and the fire was extinguished by crew members. He was later rushed to the hospital, having suffered second-degree burns.

    Watch the video here:

    View this video on YouTube

    US Weekly

    5. Another fire-related incident happened to Metallica frontman James Hetfield in 1992. After the crew increased the pyrotechnics for that particular show at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, Hetfield accidentally stepped into a 12-foot flame.

    Pyrotechnics onstage

    Hetfield later described the incident: “I’m a little confused on where I’m supposed to be, and then pyro guy doesn’t see me, and ‘whoosh!’, a big colored flame goes right up under me. I’m burnt. My arm, my hand, completely down to the bone. The side of my face. Hair’s gone. Part of my back.” He suffered second and third-degree burns — but was back onstage about two weeks later.

    "I looked down and watched skin just rising, things going wrong."

    6. One of the more awkward stage mishaps came during a 1969 Rolling Stones concert in Hyde Park. The band planned to unleash thousands of butterflies in honor of bandmate Brian Jones, who had died two days earlier. However, the butterflies were asleep from the cold and looked dead, and many of them lay still in their cage.

    Unleashing butterflies

    Before the show, to get the sleeping butterflies to fly over the crowd as planned, roadies tried to warm them up, and at least one of the butterflies caught fire. When they were released during the show, many of the sleeping butterflies simply fell out onto the ground and were stepped on and killed by band members and fans.

    Rolling Stones onstage

    7. But the Rolling Stones' most serious entry on this list is the time lead guitarist Keith Richards nearly died onstage. The incident occurred in Sacramento in 1965, when Richards' guitar touched the mic stand, causing an electric surge to shock him badly. He flew back and landed on the ground, unconscious — many audience members thought he had been assassinated. However, Richards made a full recovery, and was even back to perform the next night.

    Keith Richards

    8. At a 2015 concert in Tijuana, Enrique Iglesias reached out to grab a drone flying through the air. This was a common action during his shows, as it gave the drone camera a better view — but he grabbed it wrong, and the propellers injured his fingers.

    Enrique Iglesias

    He went offstage and was treated, then came back to finish his show. However, a year afterwards, he still couldn't feel anything in one of his fingers.

    You can watch what happened here:

    View this video on YouTube


    9. While performing in conjunction with Rock of Ages at the 2009 Tony Awards, Bret Michaels was hit by a piece of falling scenery. A Tonys spokeswoman said he missed his mark, but they ended up settling with Michaels out of court.

    Bret Michaels onstage

    Michaels suffered a busted lip and a fractured nose, and said that his near-fatal brain hemorrhage 10 months later was related.

    Bret Michaels

    Watch the video here:

    View this video on YouTube

    CBS / Via

    10. At Mötley Crüe's New Year's Eve show at the Staples Center in 2015, Tommy Lee got stuck upside down during a drum solo. While his platform revolving — so at times he's playing the drums upside down – is a part of the song, it wasn't meant to get stuck.

    Tommy Lee

    Lee finishes out the song as crew members begin to climb up to get the platform moving away. Lee shouts "What the fuck?" and jokes that the crowd looks funny upside down.

    "What the fuck?"

    Watch the clip here:

    View this video on YouTube

    Stuart Thompson / Via

    11. At her Las Vegas residency in 2016, Britney Spears suffered a mishap onstage where her harness got stuck to a fake tree. She was supposed to float over the audience, but instead danced in place, holding onto the railings. A tech quickly ran up to unharness her, and she went down the stairs instead.

    Britney Spears onstage

    Watch the video here:

    View this video on YouTube

    mxwebman / YouTube / Via

    12. Another harness issue happened in 2010 with Pink, while touring in Germany. She was about to finish the show with "So What" when dancers strapped her into a harness, but Pink could tell something was wrong. She tried to warn the crew, but the mechanism quickly pulled her into the crowd and a barricade.

    Pink during an onstage mishap

    Besides being "seriously sore," Pink was luckily uninjured and resumed her tour the next night.

    Closeup of Pink

    You can watch the clip here:

    View this video on YouTube


    13. When Nirvana performed at the 1992 VMAs, bassist Krist Novoselic went for his "bass-toss schtick" (where he would toss his bass high in the air and snag it on the way down), but failed to catch it. According to him, it went up over 25 feet — then came back down and hit him on the head. It appeared to some in the crowd that this had knocked him out, though Novoselic said he faked this — and it's pretty clear he wasn't knocked out in the video.

    Nirvana onstage

    Watch what happened here:

    View this video on YouTube

    MTV / Via

    14. During U2's PopMart tour in 1997, part of the concert involved the band entering inside a giant mirror-covered lemon, then getting out to perform. However, the band got stuck inside the lemon on at least two separate occasions.

    U2 onstage

    15. At a 2005 concert at the St. Pete Times Forum in Florida, a 63-year-old Paul McCartney fell in a stage hole where a piano was supposed to appear from. Luckily, McCartney got up right away and joked about the incident, with only bruises to show for it.

    "Okay, there's a big hole in the stage and I just fell in it."

    Watch him talking about the fall — along with the clip — here:

    View this video on YouTube

    Ed Stephens / Via

    16. The same thing happened to Justin Bieber at a concert in Canada in 2016, when he fell through a trapdoor. He wasn't seriously injured and laughed it off, though. "Good thing I’m like a cat and landed on my feet,” he joked.

    Justin Bieber onstage

    Watch the video here:

    View this video on YouTube

    Sobre Tudo / Daniel /

    17. Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters also fell onstage during a concert in Sweden. They were only two songs in when Grohl misjudged a jump and fell into the security pit, dislocating his ankle and breaking his leg. He went backstage, had it set back into place, and came back on with the doctor holding his ankle in place to finish the show.

    "I think I just broke my leg."

    Watch some video footage here:

    View this video on YouTube


    18. Shawn Mendes also fell into the pit during a 2018 concert, which was captured by a fan on Twitter. Afterwards, Shawn tweeted, "Im ok but also that was insane hahahahaha."

    Shawn Mendes onstage

    You can watch the video here:

    Twitter: @ShawnLegendas

    19. Gene Simmons' hair caught on fire during a KISS concert in 1973. It was his first time attempting his fire-breathing trick, which later became a staple. In the stunt, Simmons spit a mouthful of kerosene onto a torch, but the fire ended up catching his hair. A roadie luckily extinguished it quickly, and Simmons wasn't hurt. He ended up sticking with the trick, and by 1999, said he'd set his own hair on fire "probably six or seven times."

    Gene Simmons onstage

    You can see one such incident during the trick here:

    View this video on YouTube


    20. Yet another pyrotechnic incident occurred in 1967 when Keith Moon of the Who rigged his drum set to explode at the end of performing "My Generation" on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. The exploding trick was planned, but Moon apparently loaded several times more flash powder than he was supposed to for this particular show.

    Keith Moon

    The incident reportedly permanently damaged Pete Townshend's hearing. Bette Davis, who was a guest on the show, reportedly fainted in the wings.

    The Who onstage

    You can watch what happened here:

    View this video on YouTube

    CBS / Via

    21. Townshend was also injured in another onstage accident in 1989, where he pierced the webbing between his fingers on the whammy bar of his guitar while doing his famous windmill strum.

    Pete Townshend onstage

    Watch the video here:

    View this video on YouTube

    The Who Vault / Via

    22. SNL has actually had a few controversial performers over the years. On Halloween night 1981, punk band FEAR performed — and while most everything that happened in their performance was likely planned by them, producers were in for a shock when they — and the busload of fans they'd brought in to be their audience — started essentially destroying the stage.

    "It's great to be here in New Jersey"

    The band caused a reported $200,000 of damage that night, and the broadcast was cut off before their last song, after one of the fans they brought screamed, "New York sucks!" into the mic.

    FEAR onstage

    Watch the performance here:

    View this video on YouTube

    NBC / Via

    23. The Replacements were also banned from SNL after Paul Westerberg accidentally dropped an f-bomb and Bob Stinson did a somersault that exposed his bare butt.

    The Replacements onstage

    You can see some of their performance here:

    Decade 77-87 - a grown up disco: new wave, punk, postpunk, goth & indie / Facebook / Via Facebook: watch

    24. And finally, here's one example that actually worked out well — during Paramore's headline set at Reading Festival 2014, the power went out completely for 10 minutes. Someone was able to find a microphone for Hayley, and the band played an acoustic version of "The Only Exception" with the crowd singing along, which Cosmopolitan called "bloody brilliant."

    Paramore onstage

    Watch them performing without power here:

    View this video on YouTube

    Paramore BR / YouTube / Via