Tommy Lee, and other Rock Catastrophes
“Fuck. I guess we broke it.”
and, “I knew something wasn’t right when we took off.” Both of these utterances have probably been uttered before, most likely in bed, by musician and boating-enthusiast Tommy Lee, but this time, he was speaking as a man in deep trouble. And also, upside down.
During a farewell (sorry, “farewell”) concert, the last of an 18-month tour, on New Year’s Eve at LA’s Staples center, the Motley Crue drummer was stuck, suspended, as part of the band’s crazy stageshow which featured an upsidedown rollercoaster looping through the arena and partially suspended from the ceiling. As cool as that was, and was it?, something not very rock and roll happened.
Lee handled it with panache and kept the crowd well amused with humanity, profanity and equal-opportunity requests for titties as the technicians scrambled to get him down.
Happens to the best…
Just last summer, that bad girl of country pop, the Tommy Lee of twentysomethings Taylor Swift had a slightly less embarrassing technical glitch when her elevated stage balcony-thing stayed a little too elevated. After hearing the soothing voices of pissed off DC-area Teamsters in her earpiece, she just smiled, stayed put, and told the crowd, “They just told me in my ear that I might be here forever, stuck up here…unless I choose to jump down. This thing is …broken.” No word if she’s still up there.
(If she didn’t sing “Shake it Off” next she’s not the spontaneous showman I thought she was.)
So is all of this flash necessary? Depends. If your idea of putting on a show is to be Joan Baez and sit on a stool with a guitar and a cause, so be it. That takes talent and quiet charisma. I’ll happily see my hero Tony Bennett stand next to a piano and sing — he doesn’t need walls of video, or lasers and ninjas (yes, I’m thinking of you, Justin Beiber) and he simply can’t go upside down, no toupee in the world can handle that. But some bands want to up the ante, and at 200, 300 dollars, euros, whatever for a decent ticket, sometimes you want a bit of pyrotechnics. Show ’em the old razzle dazzle.
…and it happens to others, too.
Calls to mind the time the rock and roll genius that is Gene Simmons got stuck suspended on wires over a roaring front row crowd while playing the guitar, and presumably dripping liquidized makeup and stage blood from his angry, sweaty face. I think that happened many years ago, while KISS was touring Australia.
edit: KISS expert and host of the Rock Solid Podcast, our own Pat Francis, tells me Gene wasn’t the only dignity casualty at that show. The Starchild was caught hanging as well, mid-stadium.
(in related news, the KISS road crew reports that weed is much stronger in Australia)
Coincidentally that was one of the three countries where the giant mechanical mirror-ball Lemon that was part of U2’s infamous high-tech PopMart Tour show went oh so wrong.
They call bum cars lemons for a reason.
The Lemon was used as a pod to sort of monorail the boys onto a second stage. As you do. I saw that tour in Dallas and it worked just fine. Ridiculous? Slow moving? Undoubtedly hot in there? Oh yes. But in Australia that same year, the power went out on the thing, or in the thing, and the transport had to be scrapped. U2 had yet to get in, so it was time for Plan B: use part of the stage to get halfway there and then just move through the crowd like civilians, Bono healing concert going lepers by his very touch as Larry and Adam avoided eye contact and The Edge silently cursed the meeting at which he agreed to a citrus-shaped disco pod. In Norway and Japan, the curse of the Lemon was stronger – they got stuck inside the thing. Brilliant!
And who says Spinal Tap isn’t real?
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A former ABC National, Dallas and Atlanta radio personality, Martina O'Boyle is now making movies and covering culture in London, Dublin, and as far in Europe as the cheapie flights will take her, for Pop Culture Beast.