With DJ Khaled claiming his recent Vegas gig was sabotaged, we look back at the history of (supposed) malicious gig antics in rock...
Take a huge yet fragile ego surrounded by frond-waving yes people, pump it to paranoid bursting point with prescription drugs and shove it onto a stage experiencing mild technical difficulties. What do you get? Cries of “sabotage!” as the basketful of rider puppies are kicked against the dressing room wall and demands are made for FBI investigations into the whether any of the house sound crew have a motive for revenge.
Take DJ Khaled, who has blamed the sound crew for intentionally ruining the EDC Las Vegas set that saw him booed offstage and mocked by Deadmau5. “They tried to sabotage my sound so many times,” he wrote on Instagram. “THEY could not get the sound right on my set and I still stood on stage wit no sound and when they got the sound to work they want cut my set short but I still rep for my people, anyone else would walk off stage.”
He joins a glittering array of stars who couldn’t possibly be responsible for their crap gig themselves. Such as…
When Mariah Carey was sauntering around the stage at the 2016 New Year’s Eve Times Square party, in front of a TV audience of millions, complaining about the lack of vocal track for her to mime along to, she didn’t think for a second to just open her mouth and sing along to the backing track instead. No, she was quietly fuming about a perceived plot by producers Dick Clark Productions to, as her spokeswoman would put it, “set her up to fail” in order to gain ratings. “Defamatory” and “outrageous and frankly absurd” came the official reply. Carey herself flapped the whole farrago away with a flurry of sad face emojis.
Delivering what they humbly described as “one of the very worst [shows] the band has ever played” at Glastonbury in 2015 as last-minute replacements for Prince, The ‘Oo allegedly arrived onstage after Paul Weller’s set to find that someone had been fiddling abaaht (‘Tommy’ gag, ask your dad) with their carefully-attuned equipment before they went on.
“We found someone had sabotaged the carefully tested audio connections for much of our gear,” wrote a crew member. “We’ve never seen that before, but we’re good at plugging things in, so all damage was repaired in time. Was it Mr Weller or Lionel [Richie], no way. Dalai Lama – hmmm … he did steal the show already.”
There’s no doubting this one – Chuck Berry most definitely sabotaged Springsteen and the E Street band when they agreed to back him at the Concert For The Rock’n’Roll Hall Of Fame in 1995. After a seven hour set, the closing song was due to be ‘Rock And Roll Music’ – the song started fine, but as guitarist Nils Lofgren remembers, “somehow, a minute or two in, he like … shifts the song in gears and a key without talking to us. Now, we all … okay, we’re pros, right? So, we’re all like … trying not to make a train wreck, and it’s tricky. Okay, what key is he in? Let’s start playing there.”
Another four or five key changes from Berry “to mess with us” and the E Street Band were all over the shop. “At the height of it, when no one has any idea how to fix this, Chuck looks at us all and starts … looking at us, duck walking off the stage, away from us,” says Lofgren. “He leaves the stage, leaves us all out there playing in six different keys with no band leader, gets in the car and drives away.” Judging by the video below, they held it together pretty well actually.
Playing a 60,000 capacity stadium in Buenos Aires in 1992, Nirvana were horrified when support band Calamity Jane were pelted with rocks and coins during their set, forcing them off in tears. Infuriated, Kurt set about sabotaging his own set. “Krist, knowing my attitude about things like that, tried to talk me out of at least setting myself on fire or refusing to play,” Kurt is quoted in the book Nirvana: The Chosen Rejects. “We ended up having fun, laughing at them (the audience). Before every song, I’d play the intro to ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ and then stop. They didn’t realize that we were protesting against what they’d done. We played for about forty minutes, and most of the songs were off Incesticide, so they didn’t recognize anything. We wound up playing the secret noise song (‘Endless, Nameless’) that’s at the end of Nevermind, and because we were so in a rage and were just so pissed off about this whole situation, that song and whole set were one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had.”
Possibly one to file under ‘too good not to be apocryphal’, a mid-70s edition of music magazine Creem told the tale of The Faces sneaking backstage at an NYC show by Lou Reed and detuning all of his guitars. There’s also the tale of The Faces being banned from so many hotels for smashing up rooms on tour that they began booking in under the name Fleetwood Mac, thus sabotaging the Mac’s chances of getting a room in most US cities…