Defenders Of The Face – When Musicians Get Hit By Stuff

It’s been a bad week for musicians looking to hang on to their dignity. At a gig in Liverpool the other night Morrissey quit the stage after just two songs after being hit by a drink hurled from the crowd.

A few days before that, a few moments into a show in Dundee, Calvin Harris was struck by a rogue shoe, causing him to collapse to the floor, clutching his face in agony. In the interests of journalistic record we reprint a photo of the incident, which is not – we repeat not – the slightest bit funny.

Pic courtesy of The Courier

Apparently Calvin was confidently bellowing “Hellooo Dundee!” at the very moment of impact, but of course there’s nothing funny about that either.

Seriously, though: who throws a shoe? Especially if the culprit is, presumably, someone who’s already paid to get into the gig. Still, maybe shoe-hurling is a sign of affection in Scotland, a bit like cheering when England get knocked out of the World Cup, or dropping Temazepam in a close friend’s drink.

The thing is, you can tell a lot about a musician from the way they respond to provocation. Morrissey probably over-reacted slightly by cancelling the gig with a terse “Goodbye” (Calvin soldiered on) – but neither of them unleashed a salvo of F-bombs, or waded, Axl Rose-style, into the crowd to duff the culprit up. Both performers exhibited a very British kind of irritation, the live equivalent of going, tsk, typical.

Contrast with the childishly belligerent behaviour of Josh Homme, who tends to greet audience misdemeanours with a deeply unpleasant line in cock-obsessed vitriol. Here he is, threatening to “beat the shit” out of a young bottle-thrower. “Lift him up,” he instructs the vast Norwegian festival crowd, “so I can kick him in the fucking face”. The poor kid’s only about 12.

It’s not the first time Homme has singled out an audience member like this. On the 2005 live album ‘Over The Years And Through The Woods’ he accuses one unruly crowd-member of being a “total cocksmoker” and “throwing shit at me”. Then, just in case you failed to apprehend the full extent of this guy’s overwhelming cocksmokerishness, the QOTSA frontman follows it up with: “Hey cocksmoker, eat a bag of dicks.”

It seems like the classy and mature thing to do, when faced with a hostile crowd, is to adopt a battle-hardened determination, and just get on with the gig. Emo bands are good at this, perhaps because they’re so used to being scorned by metal fans, they no longer even notice the flagons of hot piss arcing inexorably stage-ward. Here’s My Chemical Romance at Download 2007 – note the full-throated cry of “WANKEEERS!” at 0.23, so evocative of the unique charm and open-mindedness of heavy metal fans (they bottled Lethal Bizzle, too, the year after).

It’s a measure of MCR’s professionalism, abhorrence of violence, and general good blokeishness that they weathered the bottle-storm and completed the gig without calling the audience a bunch of cocksmokers. At the opposite end of the humility scale, here’s Nickelback’s Chad Kroeger acting like a total douche at a gig in Portugal. “Do you guys wanna watch some rock and roll?” he asks, having been struck by a plastic bottle launched from the crowd. “Or do you wanna go home?”

By rights, that question should have been met with a sudden stampede for the exits. As it is, Kroeger didn’t stick around to find out – he cut the gig short and strode offstage, giving his own paying fans the finger.

The lesson to draw from all this? Getting hit in the face by a bottle undoubtedly sucks. But it doesn’t suck quite as much as paying £25 for a gig ticket and then only being able to enjoy two songs because the guy you’ve paid to see is having an almighty strop.