From an outsider’s perspective, playing rock and roll seems like one of the most fun jobs you could ask for. If you were offered the gig to travel the world, live up to the rock and roll lifestyle, and all for just playing music for a couple of hours every night, you’d be a fool to turn that down, right? In theory, probably yes, but you have to remember that the stage can be dangerous sometimes too.
Although every one of these artists may be giant these days, things weren’t exactly aligning in their favor when they stepped onstage these nights, leaving them getting pretty badly injured by the time they walked off stage. Even though most of these artists managed to recover, it’s a lot harder to watch them go down like this, intending to give the audience the best show they’ve ever seen and having to either cancel the set early or make drastic adjustments to their setup.
Shit happens in the world of hard rock, but it takes the true pros to keep going, and the best injuries on this list are where the players are able to overcome whatever problem they’re having and continue to bring the pain to fans no matter what. It might not be the most pleasant thing to witness, but the fans have come to be entertained, and come hell or high water these guys were going to entertain you.
For a lack of a better term, a lot of the injuries that tend to happen on lists like these tend to be more predictable than anything else. When you look at some shows that didn’t go as planned, you can normally expect someone to take a bad fall every now and again and maybe dislocate something at the worst of times, right? As for every other musician that has complained about hurting themselves though, just take comfort in knowing that you weren’t turned into the Human Torch like James Hetfield.
During one of Metallica’s giant shows with Guns N’ Roses in the ‘90s, James was halfway through the intro to “Fade to Black” when he started to get confused about where his mic stand was. After misjudging what side of the stage he was on, James stood above one of the band’s pyro canisters a little too late, being lit up with a huge chemical flame and knocked back on his side.
By the time the band realized what was going on, James was in no shape to perform, with half of his hair gone and not even the strings on his guitar surviving the entire mess. After Lars Ulrich awkwardly fumbled up to the mic to announce that the band couldn’t continue the concert, Guns N’ Roses may have been the hero of the day, only for them to cut their set short and leading to the audience storming into the stands of the venue and tearing the entire place to shreds.
When James finally got to the hospital and was in stable condition though, the first thing on his mind was to get himself into a good enough position so that he could still sing, with roadie John Marshall playing his rhythm guitar parts while he was still bandaged up. Even though Metallica fans may complain about the band taking a few missteps throughout their career, what keeps them coming back is someone like James committed to giving you the greatest show that he can.
If there’s one thing that most rock fans know by now, it’s that Dave Grohl never wants to disappoint his fans. This man has turned himself into one of the nicest guys in rock and roll for a reason, and he’s never going to give anything but 110% whenever he goes out on that stage to rock the night away for a stadium full of people.
Then again, he sometimes might need to learn how to control his energy…or at least know where the lip of the stage is. Going into a stadium show, the Foos were halfway through their second song of the night when Dave fumbled his way off the side of the stage, landing on concrete and severely breaking his leg.
After the rest of the band stopped playing to figure out what was going on, Dave explained that he was going to need medical attention right away and left the rest of the band to play a handful of songs for the crowd while he got his act together backstage.
What was supposed to happen was that Dave should have gone to the hospital, with his leg being broken in a few different places and needing to get a brace for himself to make sure his bones would stay in place to heal properly. That’s not on the schedule for the rock and roll lifestyle though, and Dave was determined to get back on that stage no matter what, bringing one of the doctors on stage with him to hold his ankle in place for the rest of the set while he played sitting in a chair.
There have been more than a few times when bands have gone above and beyond for their fans, but Dave is beyond just that. To him, he owes his fans more than everything he has, so if he has to play with a broken ankle, he’s gonna get it done.
Clown has gone on record saying that most members of Slipknot aren’t afraid of getting some sort of major injury whenever they’re onstage. Throughout their history, there have been huge pyrotechnic effects, a floating drum set, and playing up on drums that are many feet above the stage, so you can imagine how hard that is to manage when you have a huge mask on top of everything else.
When talking about the biggest injury that he ever had though, Clown only had himself to blame when he decided to headbang a little too close to his drums. Taking place during one of the band’s first major tours, the band was midway through the song “Eyeless” when Clown slammed his face on a mic stand and cut open his entire face beneath his mask.
After getting medical attention though, Clown talked about the whole thing as an almost surreal experience. Nevermind the irony of playing a song called “Eyeless” and your face being split open, Clown mentioned that the whole thing was probably hilarious to watch at the time, being carted out of the backstage area and being shot full of painkillers, all while watching his band play in the distance.
This was no easy surgery either, requiring as many as 20 stitches on both the inside and outside of his face. There have been many opportunities where one of the members of the Knot could have met their end on stage, but that’s the kind of injury that feels like it should have been almost fatal.
We’ve all heard the different critics talk about the solos that will make your fingers bleed, right? For all of the great rapid-fire solos that metal guitarists can dish out every time they’re on stage, no guitar solo has ever really led to fingers actually bleeding once the song was over. At least…that’s not what’s supposed to happen. When Zakk Wylde took a solo during one segment of his show, he tended to get a little bit overeager with how intense the speed was, which left one of his fingers splitting open halfway through the solo.
Since this is Zakk Wylde though, that’s not close to enough to slow him down, continuing to go through the solo and his hand looking more and more decrepit as the whole thing went on, including one part where he literally throws his hand in the air just to relieve some of the excess blood that was staining the guitar.
Even after the bloody incident, there are a few tricks that Zakk throws into his solo that a lot of professional guitarists wouldn’t normally try at this stage, including a moment he starts moving his bloody hand all the way down the neck, making for one of the more gruesome displays of endurance any guitarist has had to do onstage. Some guitarists might have those moments where they don’t know when to quit, but as for Zakk, this is crossing the line more than a few times before actually assessing the situation.
When metal was first coming into its own, Judas Priest was the one band that epitomized what the genre should sound like. Though Deep Purple and Black Sabbath were always a little hesitant to embrace the label of heavy metal, Priest claimed it and dressed the part every time they went on stage, donning the trademark denim and leather and Rob Halford making it a tradition to come out to the stage on a Harley motorcycle.
That was always the appeal of early Judas Priest, but you sometimes have to time the motorcycle just right so you don’t run into trouble onstage. After having to prod through different security measures to actually get the bike stunt approved during one of their gigs, Rob revved out onto the stage, only to be greeted headfirst with a drum riser in the middle of the stage.
Not being able to see anything because of the massive amount of dry ice that was coating the stage, Rob had to fight through a fog storm of CO2 before being knocked completely off the bike and almost knocked out on the floor of the stage. Even the rest of the members of Priest weren’t sure what had happened until Glenn Tipton admitted that he couldn’t find Rob until he almost stepped on him during the beginning of “Hell Bent for Leather.”
While the crowd enjoyed an instrumental rendition of the first song, Rob emerged back onstage with a massive piece of gauze over his nose, ready to give the fans the thrill of a lifetime even if it meant going through the rest of the show in agony. Metal was all about living on the edge though, and just a little injury to his head wasn’t going to stop the Metal God from preaching to his congregation any time soon.
Mike Portnoy Breaks Wrist Mid-Song
It takes a specific brave soul to even dare take on the task of playing a Dream Theater song. Ask any musician in the world of rock and roll and they will tell you just how demanding these guy’s songs are, either spanning for long stretches of time or featuring some of the most complex musical passages known to man, with different time signature switches and some of the more complex solo work in the world.
So imagine having to play that kind of show…with one of your limbs almost out of commission. During one of the band’s shows in the late ‘90s, Mike Portnoy had mentioned playing through one of the more complex songs and giving his all into one of the parts, only to find that he had completely twisted his wrist backward in the process.
After signaling to his tech that something was wrong, Mike was not willing to cancel the show, making the roadie bring out a bucket of ice and keep it on the stage while he played the rest of the set. If you look at how he kills it night after night, it’s strange the amount of intensity he needed to keep everything, having the same intensity in your playing while at the same time knowing that you’re probably going to have to undergo some serious medical treatment after the show is over.
Mike Portnoy might already be looked at as a god amongst drummers these days, but if this is what he does when he’s at half capacity, there should probably be scientists studying him to make sure he’s not really an alien.
No one’s really going to bat an eye when they see something awful happen to Alice Cooper at a show. The man has basically made a living out of bringing the macabre to the stage, and every show ends up concluding with Alice doing something to self-mutilate himself, from being stabbed with a giant syringe to being decapitated to being shoved into a box with metal spikes.
Amid all of the fake blood that’s flying everywhere though, there was actually a little bit of real blood added into the equation during one show. When talking about some of the technical glitches at some of his shows, Alice talked to Ronnie Wood about doing a bit where he would be waving a sword around during his songs, concluding with him driving it into the stage towards the end of the track. Once he drove the thing down one particular night, he started to feel a little bit uneasy on his feet, only to realize that he had plunged the sword directly into his knee.
While Alice made it through what rest of the set he could in the meantime, the band rushed him off to a hospital so that he could get proper treatment before going on with the rest of the tour dates. Then again, there’s always a certain layer of menace to every single Alice show, and the rest of the crowd probably just saw this whole thing as just a part of the act rather than a man literally impaling himself.
Whenever an artist suffers a major injury onstage, you can usually just chalk it up to an accident that ended up getting way out of hand. For as many moving parts that go on at live shows, accidents happen and there are bound to be a few shows that tend to be a bit more dangerous to work on than others.
Then again, there are also bands like Slipknot where Corey Taylor got injured as a deliberate part of the show. During the band’s first few tours, they would close the entire show with “Scissors,” which would eventually devolve into a more experimental track halfway through with everyone improvising something on the spot. Since Clown and Sid didn’t have anything to do though, they thought that it would be a good idea to set Corey on fire, either covering his legs in lighter fluid or just igniting him for the hell of it.
While Corey did end up taking it in stride more than a few times during the early tours, the next few years really showed the scars of all those nights, with some of Corey’s legs having severe scar tissue from those days, which he has since talked about covering up with tattoos.
Then again, when it comes to the golden age of Slipknot’s show, the stage is very much an ‘enter at your own risk’ kind of place, and every member of the band has an understanding of how dangerous things can get if one thing ends up going wrong. Compared to what’s to come on this list though, Corey may have actually gotten off a bit easy here.
If there’s one thing that was key to Van Halen’s success in the early days, it was the raw spectacle of their live show. Even though the band could have succeeded if Eddie just went up there and played an hour of face-melting guitar solos, David Lee Roth’s antics made the band look like a 24-hour party whenever they went on the stage.
Some of those antics got a little harder to do over the years, and Dave found out the hard way when the band was taping a special for Jimmy Kimmel. During one of the final major television appearances before Eddie’s death, Dave thought it would be a good idea to create a spectacle by doing some of his famous sword tricks he had done years before, only to catch a little bit of shrapnel in between everything.
Just before the band was due to go into their first song, Dave had to be tended to after slicing his nose open, coming back to the stage with a huge bandage over his nose before eventually launching into “Jump.” While this kind of thing may have caused a bit of a dust-up in the ‘80s era of the band, the rest of the guys played it off as funny most of the time, with Eddie just getting into hysterics and everyone else pulling together to get the rest of the show finished.
The nose incident may have been funny at the time, but it turned out to be bittersweet once this became one of the final shows that primetime got to see of Eddie Van Halen.
During Nirvana’s rise to the top in the ‘90s, It was almost becoming second nature for every single live performance to end with them destroying their gear. I mean, it’s already difficult to find a good way to close the show, so why not just spend most of the time just wrecking your instruments so that you physically can’t play anything else?
It may have seemed like a good idea to wreak havoc at the MTV Awards, but Krist Novoselic found out the hard way how aerodynamic a bass guitar can be. Towards the end of the song “Lithium,” Krist threw his bass up in the air, only to lose sight of it in the stage lights and have it hit him right in the face when it was coming down.
Though Kurt was still at the front of the stage as if nothing was happening, you can see Krist isn’t in good shape, struggling to the back of the stage and almost being knocked out cold towards the end of the clip. That wasn’t even the extent of how chaotic it got on stage either, with Dave Grohl coming out from behind the drum kit to harass Axl Rose and Kurt eventually diving into Dave’s drums and accidentally spitting on Elton John’s piano.
After being tended to backstage though, Krist was star-struck one more time, talking about how he was taken care of by Brian May of Queen, who offered him some champagne during the whole chaos. The MTV Awards might seem like a glamorous affair, but apparently, it can also get dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing.