It’s not unusual for things to go wrong during concerts. I’m thinking of Paul McCartney’s grasshopper attack, the frontman of NY deathcore band Emmure getting electrocuted and rogue fans bum-rushing the stage at Justin Bieber’s concert in Dubai. Random attacks can’t be predicted, nor can technological malfunctions or natural disasters. There was absolutely nothing Kings of Leon bassist Jared Followill could do about pigeons shitting in his mouth in St Louis.
Sometimes, though, artists take it on themselves to push boundaries and offer fans something a little out of the ordinary. Bob Dylan once played a concert for just one person at Philadelphia’s Academy Of Music. “I was smiling so much it was like I was on ecstasy. My jaw hurt for hours afterwards because I couldn’t stop smiling,” said Fredrik Wikingsson.
The National did something a bit different recently when a gig consisted of… the band playing their song ‘Sorrow’ for six hours straight. There are plenty of examples of artist’s pushing the boundaries on stage; here’s 10 of the most outlandish.
Along the same lines, Bradford Cox of Deerhunter popularity, playing as his solo project Atlas Sound, covered The Knack’s mega-hit ‘My Sharona’ for an hour after it was requested by a pissed heckler in the audience. TBF the live videos (of which there are quite a few on YouTube) suggest it was an awesome free-jazz-style freak-out.
Neil Young trolled his audiences in the 1973 tour of ‘Tonight’s The Night’ playing his album once, and then twice. Nils Lofgren recalls what happened:
We were playing an album that he wanted to turn people on to that hadn’t been released. He was an icon already in England, everyone expected to hear his hits and he played none of them. He played the record from beginning to end starting with ‘Tonight’s The Night’, finishing with ‘Tonight’s The Night’. And the English audiences really were not… okay with it. They started yelling a lot, they started booing, they started complaining, whining, every show. He’d get to the end of the night and he’d say, ‘Alright, we’re going to play something you’ve all heard before’. And everyone would go crazy thinking it would be some Buffalo Springfield hit or whatever, and then we’d play ‘Tonight’s The Night’ again
It must get very boring playing your old records. You can’t really blame, say, Radiohead for dropping ‘Creep’. Post-punk experimentalists Wire found a solution. In 1985, they hired a tribute band called The Ex-Lion Tamers, to play the old stuff. Can’t imagine the fans were best pleased.
Brummie grindcore loons Napalm Death planned to play a gig at the V&A using a custom built ceramic sound system which would disintegrate throughout the performance. Speaking beforehand, Napalm Death frontman Mark “Barney” Greenway, had said:
Sound as a weapon – or a weapon of change – is a very interesting concept and I think that the whole process of our sound gradually degrading clay sculptures is captivating
Unfortunately the gig was cancelled for fear it would damage the building.
Pitbull, that rapping cash-monkey from Miami, was the centre of a hilarious internet prank when jokers rigged a Walmart competition to send him to deepest, darkest Alaska. Something Awful founders David Thorpe and Jon Hendren encouraged Facebook users to like the page until they were successful. Unfortunately Pitbull came back from Alaska the next day.
Huge office desks that transform into a treadmill; shopping trolleys; flying books; a secret location you won’t know about until it’s emailed. This was no ordinary concert, it was a Neon Neon concert. Producer Boom Bip and Gruff Rhys, the frontman for the Welsh rock band Super Furry Animals , toured their ‘Praxis Makes Perfect’ album in 2013 and it sounded wonderfully bonkers.
There’s more than one GG Allin gig we could mention. By the late 80s the punk rock scoundrel was defecating all over the place: rubbing it on himself, the walls and his audience.
In 2007, The White Stripes played a gig in Canada which was… one note long. Apparently it was a C#.
It wasn’t just the crazy instruments and costumes, nor the weird Rainbow Rhythms dance routines, the weirdest thing about The Knife’s shows in the last couple of years was that it was impossible to tell which ones Karin and Olof were and, indeed, if they were there at all. They seemed to be purposefully positioning different female singers centre stage for the main vocals to confuse everyone. What’s authenticity anyway, yeah?