Tantrums of the rich and famous: nine acts that turned on their audience – from Elton to Bieber to Blur

Estimated read time 6 min read

When Coachella 2024 comes to be remembered by future generations, the abiding image will be that of Damon Albarn attempting to engage the crowd in a game of call and response, and then failing, and then having a bit of a go at them.

In fairness to Albarn, it was a weird booking. Blur have always fared poorly in the US. Is this the band’s fault for writing all those songs about how much they dislike America? We may never know. Either way, by berating the crowd for their ambivalence – yelling “You’ll never see us again so you may as well fucking sing it” – Blur have joined the ranks of acts who have turned against their audiences.

Or, to be more specific, they’ve rejoined the ranks. In 2003, after Graham Coxon left the band, Blur played an intimate “secret” show in Madrid, which fell apart after Albarn lost some of his bracelets. This led to him dragging the whole show to a halt while he yelled at the crowd. “Unless they’re on that stage in fucking two minutes, I’m not going to do anything else fucking ever again in Spain,” he wailed. “So I want them back now!”

Still, at least Blur find themselves in good company …

Elton John

Elton John, a man who is no stranger to tantrums, went berserk at a Las Vegas audience in 2018 when some members who’d been invited on to the stage made the mistake of getting too close to him. After attempting to sing Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting while screaming “Fuck off” off-mic between lines, John eventually abandoned the song and left the stage, only to return to ban people from coming on stage in future. “You fucked it up!” he growled.

Justin Bieber

Justin Bieber is a man who for more than a decade has visibly bristled whenever he comes into proximity with overzealous fans. In Norway in 2015, an audience member spilled some water on his stage. “What are you doing? Stop it! Listen to me!” he yelled, before trying to wipe up the spill. But when they tried to grab the rag he used to clean up the spill, he stood up, huffed: “Never mind, I’m done, I’m not doing the show,” and left the stage.

Smash Mouth

Smash Mouth’s performance at a Colorado food festival in 2015 went off the rails when the band were pelted with slices of bread that had been given to the crowd as a free sample. This caused singer Steve Harwell to throw the mother of all tantrums. “You throw one more piece of shit on the fucking stage, I’m gonna find your ass, I’m gonna beat your ass, whoever the fuck you are out there,” he stormed. “Whoever is throwing shit at me, I will tell you right now, I will beat the fuck out of you. You’re a pussy punk bitch.” Harwell then tried to climb into the audience, presumably to fight everyone, only to be stopped by a security guard. He then went on to sing the song from Shrek like everyone wanted.

Bebe Rexha

More in keeping with the Blur meltdown, Bebe Rexha found herself yelling at an audience for their lack of enthusiasm during a pre-Grammy party in 2019. During a performance of her song Meant to Be, Rexha stopped the song and shouted: “This song was No 1 for 50 fucking weeks. I work too fucking hard for this shit, OK?”

Kanye West

Perhaps we should have seen it coming with Kanye West. During a concert in 2014, West stopped the music because he was angry that some audience members were not standing up and dancing like everyone else. “This is the longest I’ve had to wait to do a song, it’s unbelievable,” he huffed while the crowd booed the seated members. With a horrible inevitability, it quickly became apparent that they were sitting down because they were in wheelchairs.

Green Day

In 2012, during a performance for iHeart Radio, the Green Day singer Billie Joe Armstrong decided to end the band’s biggest song Basket Case early, only to throw a tantrum when a teleprompter informed him to clear the stage within one minute. “Give me a fucking break. One minute left. One minute fucking left. You’re gonna give me one fucking minute?” he whined to the crowd. “Let me fucking tell you something, I’ve been around since fucking 1980-fucking-8. And you’re gonna give me one fucking minute? You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me! You’re fucking kidding me. What the fuck! I’m not fucking Justin Bieber, you motherfuckers.”

Royal Blood

Most recently, the band Royal Blood briefly became more famous than they had ever been after singer Mike Kerr embarked on an excruciating rant during a set at Radio 1’s Big Weekend in Dundee. “I guess I should actually introduce ourselves seeing as no one actually knows who we are,” Kerr said. “We’re called Royal Blood and this is rock music. Who likes rock music? Nine people. Brilliant.” As his set ended, Kerr slammed down his guitar and stormed off giving everyone the middle finger, leaving his drummer to stand on stage and silently apologise.

Billy Joel

Finally, although it might only squeak by as a technicality, there is Billy Joel. In Moscow in 1987, Joel had what must be the most impressive meltdown ever recorded. This is because, thanks to all his years as a trained professional, it was confined to the moments between each line of his songs. As such the transcript for his performance of Sometimes a Fantasy is basically: “When am I gonna take control, get a hold of my emotions STOP LIGHTING THE AUDIENCE! / Why does it only seem to hit me in the middle of the night STOP IT! / You told me there’s a number I can always dial for assistance LET ME DO MY SHOW FOR CHRIST’S SAKE!” Soon after, Joel flips his piano upside down and starts smashing up his microphone without missing a single lyric. It is, without doubt, the most impressive thing ever performed by a human.

Source: theguardian.com

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