Rock and roll has a long and glorious history of on-stage stupidity and absurd set pieces.
Alice Cooper has been guillotined, electrocuted and otherwise murdered on stage in various methods for over 40 years, while Ronnie James Dio once fought a dragon. (On stage that is. I’m not sure what he did on his days off, but I’m betting dragons were involved. If anyone knows if he played D&D, please get in touch)
Motley Crue’s Tommy Lee has had various flying or upside down drum kits, while Sabaton use a tank as a drum riser.
KISS use enough pyro to supply a small conflict per show, in between Gene Simmons regular bouts of spitting blood, breathing fire and having an ego so large it can be seen from space.
Amon Amarth and Manowar have had long-ships, or parts thereof, as part of their stage sets while GWAR once decapitated a Tony Abbott mannequin, yelling that “he was no Costello.”
Many bands have also done stupid or ill advised things in the name of publicity. One only needs to look at Blackie Lawless’s collection of codpieces (Of the buzz saw and fire breathing variety), or the Norwegian black metal scene’s brief fad for setting churches alight. The Dwarves once faked the death of a band member (which got them swiftly sacked from their record label) and if half the stories about GG Allin’s onstage activities are true, well, don’t look him up unless you’ve a strong stomach.
But there is one band who can always be relied upon to take that level of madness and stupidity and go one further. From humble beginnings, with a kabuki mask that would spew fake blood over their drummer’s head in a small London pub, to the arena filling juggernaut they are today, they have consistently delivered live, both in terms of songs and spectacle. Their artistic fortunes may have waxed and waned over the years, but they have never had less than 100% commitment to their live show, and I can give no higher compliment than that to a band. I mean, they staged a WW1 era aerial display before a festival gig several years ago, at which their singer was flying a replica of the Red Barons triplane. I’m sure the likes of Beyonce or Taylor Swift put on a hell of a show, but have they ever done that?
I’m sure many bands have planned tours around what themes they can use for their stage sets, or how much pyro can they stack around the stage without immolating half the band. Sure, Rammstein have been known to set themselves on fire a fair bit, and I’d be remiss in not mentioning the time that James Hetfield stood on top of a flash pot during a gig in Montreal. Ooops. Historical note: Guns and Roses delaying their set till the advertised time, then playing for barely half their time-slot caused a riot that night. Turns out there is something that will make Canadians angry enough to riot over…
Fun Fact: The guitar he was playing at the time has the imprint of his hand on it. I’ve seen pictures, it’s impressively creepy.
But there’s only one band to have a meeting about what they’ll do on their next tour and between discussions on the set list, costume changes and the like, someone digs into the suggestion box and goes “I know, why don’t we strap flamethrowers to our singer for a song? What could possibly go wrong with that?”
Please step forward the one, the only, Iron Maiden.