UFOs, gigantic light bulbs, monster toy robots, cash-flinging bankers and acrobats suspended from floating moons – yes, Muse have become the new kings of the stage gimmick. They’re planning to up the stakes again on their forthcoming tour by flying drones over the crowd in a move set to cause aneurysms across the Health and Safety industry, but how far can they take their wild-ass stage tomfoolery? Here’s some other artists who’ve pulled out all the stops for their live show with absurdly over the top gimmicks…
Motörhead’s bomber: For the tour around their 1979 album ‘Bomber’, Motörhead designed a lighting rig in the shape of an actual tilting-and-diving bomber which has become a totem for ‘Head heads ever since – despite almost crushing drummer Mikkey Dee when it was lowered onto his drum riser during an early outing.
Iron Maiden’s Eddie: When gimmick becomes icon. Iron Maiden’s undead mascot became such an identifiable image for the band that he’s now the star of the show – an animatronic Eddie marches around Maiden’s stage waving a tattered Union flag to this day.
Coldplay’s wristbands: On Coldplay’s ‘Mylo Xyloto’ tour, strangle alien wristbands were handed out at the door which would light up in a spangly array of colours during the first song, turning arenas into huge neon Jackson Pollocks and almost bankrupting the tour – they cost £4.22m to produce.
Skrillex’s spaceship: The onstage spaceship has been a running theme through sci-fi rock from ELO’s ‘Out Of The Blue’ tour to Muse’s stadium UFO. Most recently, Skrillex has been DJing in a one-man star-cruiser like those intergalactic junk scavengers from films that you know would never really be able to afford their own spaceship.
Kanye's mountain and Jesus: Yeezy's 'Yeezus' US tour saw an elaborate set design that, for large parts of the show, saw the Chicago master deliver his raps from the top of a huge mountain, plonked in the middle of the arena. Oh yeah, and he brought Jesus on at each show, for a segment where they talk. Nice.
U2’s massive lemon: “She wore lemon”, Bono once famously sang in a bizarre cod-Caribbean falsetto, and the backstage brainiacs got to work immediately on a massive mirrorball citrus fruit that the band could emerge from at the start of encores on their PopMart tour. When it actually opened, that is.
Kraftwerk’s 3D robots: If you too have ever wondered if DJs like Daft Punk and Deadmau5 actually turn up to their own gigs or get mates in helmets to do it instead, Kraftwerk cut right through the bullshit and sent mannequin-style ‘robots’ onstage to play their music for them, on recent tours in wild 3D.
George Clinton’s mothership: The daddy of all onstage spaceships, though, was George Clinton’s P-Funk Holy Mothership from which Clinton’s alter ego Dr Funkenstein would emerge to administer life-saving doses of intravenous funk to the gasping Earthlings. Last seen live at Woodstock 1999, the mothership’s final landing site was at the Smithsonian Institute.
Rammstein’s flame-throwers: A natural progression from the hordes of rock drummers prone to lighting their own anal expulsions, Rammstein took to blasting fire out of their guitars, face-masks and supervillain gauntlets, on a mission to play to eyebrow-less audiences across the globe.
Yo La Tengo's wheel of fortune: In 2010, Yo La Tengo hit the road not sure what their set would be each night – that was to be determined by a giant wheel, spun onstage at every show, which determined whether it was early era YLT songs they stuck to, more recent stuff – or whether they'd simply spend the entire show reenacting an episode of Seinfeld.
Kiss’ flying vampire: From the make-up to the merch to the rocket-firing guitars, Kiss are the crown princes of the stage gimmick. Their most iconic moment, though is Gene Simmons flying across the stage to a separate platform where he spews fake blood down his leotard from his mutant octopus-tentacle tongue. As you do.