The Most Bizarre On-Stage Meltdowns Explained

Female fans tossing their bras to their favorite artists onstage is nothing new. Bras have been flung at everyone from Miley Cyrus, who loves to joke around when fans throw their intimates right at her, to Drake, who called himself the "collector" of bras while on tour. Many artists take things getting thrown at them (like bras) in stride. However, not every celebrity enjoys having something hurled at their stage, and it could lead to a public meltdown that ends up all over the tabloids.

While not often, there have been a handful of times where artists make the headlines for their bizarre meltdowns in front of their fans. Whether it's because they were provoked by a ruthless audience member, or they felt it was the appropriate time to get on their soapbox, an outburst can go down in history with an artist. Let's dive into the most talked-about on-stage meltdowns and explain just what went down.  

No paparazzi for Axl Rose

Axl Rose of Guns N' Roses has a long history of causing controversy and a thing for punching people in the face. From punching a fan who compared him to Jon Bon Jovi to laying one out on David Bowie, it was clear that the rock star had a short fuse. While the band was known for their outlandish behavior, one of their messiest concert appearances took place on June 2, 1991, while performing in the Riverport Amphitheater in St. Louis, Missouri. 

Axl Rose spotted someone in the audience with a camera and blew his top. The lead singer dove into the audience to confiscate the equipment himself. He later told the Los Angeles Times: "I felt completely uncomfortable with the way the (security staff) was responding ... There was no respect for the band. I didn't plan on jumping off the stage to grab a biker and his camera. ... The security guys in the front knew exactly what was happening and they were doing everything they could to let that guy go — which fueled my fire to make sure that didn't happen."

Grabbing the camera and shouting, "I'll take it, god******!", Rose managed to get back on stage, dropped his microphone, and left with his band following suit. A riot ensued, with several fans getting injured. Rolling Stone stated that the band was banned from the city, and Rose was charged with "four counts of misdemeanor assault and one count of property damage and fined $50,000." While he was later found innocent by a judge, the band did hit back at the city on their "Use Your Illusion" album with the hidden message: "F*** you, St. Louis."

Jim Morrison's wild nights

The Doors frontman Jim Morrison was known for being a groundbreaking artist, but throughout his career, he found himself in a few legal troubles, with one arrest during a live show. It was 1967, and The Doors were set to play in New Haven, Connecticut. "As legend has it, Morrison was surprised and maced by a police officer who happened upon him making out with a fan backstage," the New Haven Register recalled.

Morrison and the officer reportedly exchanged apologies, and the singer still took the stage. But he lashed out, beginning with this retort to the audience (via the New Haven Register): "I want to tell you about something that happened a few minutes ago right here in New Haven. This is New Haven, isn't it? New Haven, Connecticut, United States of America?" 

The police walked up and arrested the singer in front of his angered fans. Pandemonium ensued, and Morrison was charged with incitement of a riot and obscenity. Charges were dropped, but two years later, Morrison would get arrested again during a show in Miami for exposing himself in front of thousands of fans, per Medium. This time, the rockstar "was found guilty of open profanity and indecent exposure." Morrison was free to go, but unfortunately, his appeal was never settled after he was found dead in Paris, France, in 1971.

According to NPR, 41 years after his death, Florida pardoned Morrison of the charges from that Miami night. His bandmates, including Ray Manzarek, had always believed that Morrison never exposed himself to his fans.  

Fiona Apple spoke out

Fiona Apple has always lived her truth. Even looking back at her mega-successful career in the '90s, the singer told NPR that she wouldn't have changed a thing if she could talk to her teenage self, sharing in 2020, "I've always wanted to live facing the truth, taking the truth and turning it into something beautiful."

However, when she won best new artist at the MTV VMAs in 1997 after the release of her hit album "Tidal," most people didn't quite understand Apple. Known for doing her own thing and not conforming to society, Apple took the stage, and instead of giving the repetitive thank you speech like so many other artists, she addressed the world. "I didn't prepare a speech, and I'm sorry, but I'm glad that I didn't because I'm not gonna do this like everybody else does it," Apple began, adding, "I'm going to use this opportunity the way that I want to use it ... This world is bulls***. And you shouldn't model your life about what you think that we think is cool, what we're wearing, and what we're saying and everything. Go with yourself. Go with yourself."

Apple was instantly criticized for her "bizarre" speech. MTV recalled that she became the "butt of jokes," and NYRock called her "a pretentious and, on occasion, excruciatingly silly human being." But looking back, Apple took a stand for what she believed in — something several pop artists during that decade were too afraid to do in the chances that they'd ruin their careers.

A$AP Rocky's raucous crew

Ruthless fans can always be a cause for concern, but rapper A$AP Rocky and his A$AP Mob crew took matters into their own hands in what escalated into a nasty brawl between the artists and fans during a SXSW show in 2012. According to Spinner (via MTV), it all started when a do-rag was taken from an A$AP Mob member, and after the band asked for it to be returned, someone from the crowd threw a beer can on stage, hitting one of the crew members. More objects were thrown toward the stage, with A$AP Rocky and the other men leaping into the crowd as a "full-blown brawl ensued for several minutes." 

Rolling Stone reported that the brawl only lasted a few minutes and one person "was seen with a bloodied head." Police eventually made their way to quell the riot.

Ozone Magazine (via Hip Hop Wired), shared that this wasn't the first time A$AP Rocky and his crew got physical at a show. In 2011, the "Peso" rapper had issues with the size of his stage while going to perform at Fader Fort in New York City. His crew reportedly turned over drum sets, and when a stage technician tried to remove the equipment, he was "jumped by members of A$AP Rocky's crew" and departed in an ambulance.

Wes Scantlin's volatile behavior

It was an unsightly scene for Puddle of Mudd's Wes Scantlin, whose band walked out on him during a concert in England in 2016. Loudwire reported that fan footage showed Scantlin flipping off his band while they walked off stage, leaving him seated alone on a stool and stating, "My band Puddle of Mudd, who I thought was my band, has quit on me. They have stopped playing with me. Is that not a surprise?"

It was also reported by Loudwire that this wasn't the first time the band had to cut their concert short because of Scantlin. There were two previous incidents where the lead singer "accused a fan of stealing his house" and ended a show, and a second, where the singer "berated the sound man" and cut his concert short. Fed up with Scantlin's actions, the band decided it was their turn to walk off. 

However, Scantlin tweeted, "My band did not quit. We played 7 shows together in the UK. The media makes up stories. End of subject." Scantlin is obviously not afraid to be bizarre, and that hadn't changed when he broke out into a cringey freestyle rap in a 2021 interview with Sofa King Cool podcast, after being asked about producing for rappers. 

John Mayer's onstage apology

At a concert in Nashville's Sommet Center (now Bridgestone Arena) in 2010, a fan captured a video of John Mayer apologizing to his bandmates after he used a racial slur in his infamous Playboy article. In his interview, Mayer was quoted saying, "Black people love me," using the n-word along with it. He also went on to say that he could not date Black women after comparing his private parts to "a white supremacist," more specifically, "David Duke," the former grand wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

Mayer was heard in the fan's concert video stating, "In a quest to be clever, I completely forgot about the people that I love and that love me ... everybody on this stage is here playing with me not because they condone what I say in any given interview, and certainly not in the interview that's made the rounds today. ... They're on this stage because they support myself as a possible future grown-up." Appearing to be crying mid-apology, he also stated, "Maybe I need to take a break from trying to be clever and just a spend a little time looking at what they see... I just want to play my guitar."

American Songwriter pointed out that one of his background singers who is Black was seen crying during his apology, and added that five out of his eight bandmates were Black. Mayer had also apologized on social media for using the n-word, tweeting (via Us Weekly), "It was arrogant of me to think I could intellectualize using it because I realize that there's no intellectualizing a word that is so emotionally charged."   

Ashlee Simpson's lip-syncing debacle

Ashlee Simpson-Ross' 2004 lip-syncing debacle on "Saturday Night Live" almost ruined the singer's career. Introduced by actor Jude Law, Simpson-Ross, who had already sung her hit tune "Pieces of Me" earlier, was set to sing her next song, "Autobiography." However, even before the songstress put the microphone to her mouth, "Pieces of Me" played in the background along with her vocals, and it was discovered that she had lip-synced her performance. 

Dancing an awkward jig off the stage, her bandmates continued to rock out before the show was cut to commercials. At the end of the show, Simpson-Ross returned, stating, "I feel so bad. My band started playing the wrong song, and I didn't know what to do, so I thought I'd do a hoedown." Simpson-Ross later called into MTV's "TRL" and blamed losing her voice on acid reflux, reporting that her manager and dad, Joe Simpson, advised her to use background vocals. 

Simpson-Ross knows that the incident will forever be stuck with her, but has moved on from it. "It's definitely not difficult to talk about ... that was a very long time ago ... I think things like that build your character and your strength and it's how you handle them," she shared with E! in 2018.

Billie Joe Armstrong's time was up

Green Day's lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong is not to be messed with, especially when he's on stage playing in front of his many fans. During a 2012 iHeartRadio Music Festival show, the band was given 45 minutes to perform and kicked things off with their hit "American Idiot." Far Out reported that during the performance, Armstrong noticed a screen signaling that they only had one more minute left on stage. He thought that they had 20 minutes left. Supposedly, Green Day was never informed that their set was being cut short from 45 minutes to 25 in order to make more time for Usher.

Being the rockstar that he is, Armstrong expressed his frustrations in front of the entire crowd and was heard yelling "I'm not f****** Justin Bieber you motherf******. ...one minute left. Oh, now I got nothing left ... Let me show you what one f****** minute f****** means!" Armstrong proceeded to smash his guitar on stage with his band member Mike Dint following suit.

The Guardian reported that Armstrong entered rehab for substance abuse just days after the incident. He later looked back on the meltdown and shared with Q (via Rock Sound), "I thought it was more negative than it was. Now, I think it was one of the most punk rock moments of the last 10 years. I should have taken it as that instead of a nervous breakdown. I know it gets pretty dark for other people that were involved, like my wife and kids, but as a piece of theatre, it was pretty amazing."

Chris Brown fell to his knees

Michael Jackson has been a huge inspiration for Chris Brown, so it became an emotional moment for the rapper when he got the chance to perform a tribute to the late King of Pop at the 2010 BET Awards. Rolling Stone noted that Brown's performance was the year after he was charged for assaulting then-girlfriend Rihanna the night before the 2009 Grammys, and he was not invited to pay tribute to Jackson in 2009. 

While Brown perfected Jackson's signature moves from songs like "Remember the Time" and "Billie Jean," it was when he was singing "Man in the Mirror" that the audience witnessed the rapper breaking down by falling on his knees and crying on stage. Mary J. Blige applauded Brown's performance by tweeting, "Chris Brown made me cry. We all must start with the man in the mirror." However, MTV reported that the performance left many viewers divided, with some believing it was a phony attempt at trying to win back the hearts of his fans. 

Chris Brown has since released dozens of songs and several albums with three of his records, including 2011's "F.A.M.E," 2012's "Fortune," and 2019's "Indigo," landing on Billboard 200's No.1 spot. Despite making a comeback, his violence against women is still alarming. He allegedly attacked a woman in 2021, per NBC News

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

Milli Vanilli and a broken record

Pop duo Milli Vanilli had us all fooled. Dubbed "the biggest lip-syncing scandal in pop culture history" by Biography, dancers Rob Pilatus and Fab Morvan thought they would get away with becoming one of the most celebrated pop groups of the late '80s and early '90s, only to be finally caught lip-syncing during a 1989 "Club MTV" performance. This was when their hit song "Girl You Know It's True" became stuck on a loop — and simply wouldn't stop. 

Milli Vanilli dominated the Billboard charts before they were ousted, and even after the lip-syncing scandal, they won the Grammy for best new artist in 1990. According to Totally80s, "the truth behind Milli Vanilli slowly began to unravel" with the duo and their producer Frank Farian admitting that they hadn't sung a tune for their record. Pilatus and Morvan had to return their Grammy Awards, and they were fired by Farian after wanting to sing using their voices for their second album.

During an interview with Oprah Winfrey in 2013, Morvan looked back at the scandal and shared, "To lose everything so publicly was harsh. You don't know where to turn to because there's nobody around you; you're left alone. We were famous, and now we're infamous, just like that." Sadly, Pilatus died of an overdose in 1998.

Eric Clapton's racist rant

Eric Clapton's racist rant during a 1976 concert in England was so vile, it prompted the Rock Against Racism Movement — a campaign to end the rise of racist violence in the streets of the U.K. — to move ahead, per The Guardian. Clapton spoke to the crowd about his support for Enoch Powell (via the Daily Beast), a politician who opposed mass immigration and went as far as proposing a race relations bill that would deny housing and employment to people of color. 

Clapton said to any immigrants in the audience, "I don't want you here, in the room or in my country. ... Stop Britain from becoming a Black colony. Get the foreigners out. ... Keep Britain white." The musician's racist comments went on, with him calling the U.K. a "white country," but even after his rant, Clapton seemed amused by his words, stating in an archived interview for Sounds Magazine, "I thought it was quite funny, actually." In 2004, Clapton denied that he was a racist, but admitted to still being in favor of Powell's views, sharing with Scotland on Sunday that the politician was "outrageously brave."

In 2018, Clapton acknowledged his racist remarks from his 1976 show, with the Daily Mail reporting that he was "disgusted" by his comments. "I was so ashamed of who I was, a kind of semi-racist, which didn't make sense. Half of my friends were Black, I dated a Black woman, and I championed Black music."

Tom Cruise had people 'weirded out'

Actor Tom Cruise was set to appear on Oprah Winfrey's talk show in 2005 to discuss his film "War of the Worlds," but instead of promoting his new, action-packed thriller, Cruise surprised the audience and Winfrey herself when he famously jumped on the host's couch to profess his love to his then-girlfriend, Katie Holmes. Audiences can hear Winfrey stating at that moment, "He's gone. He's gone. The boy is gone," per HuffPost

At the time of the wild interview, Cruise was portrayed as a leading Hollywood actor with "Top Gun," "Cocktail," and "Mission: Impossible" under his belt. However, after his infamous couch-jumping incident, VH1 reported that people watching Cruise's stunt were "weirded out," which resulted in dozens of memes and a new look at the actor, especially when fans were learning the dark truths to Scientology, of which Cruise is a proud follower. Cruise would also go on to marry Holmes in 2006, but they divorced in 2012 with rumors surfacing that Holmes wanted to leave the Church of Scientology with the former couple's daughter, Suri, per InStyle

Cruise would go on to have other blockbuster hits with the release of the seventh and eighth installments of Mission: Impossible on the roster, but he would also be known for his public antics and that bizarre Scientology promotional video that saw the actor acting very, very strange.