/ 25 July 2013

The show must go on: Even near death won’t get in these artists’ way

The Show Must Go On: Even Near Death Won't Get In These Artists' Way

Beyoncé had a hair-raising moment this week when her barnet got tangled in the blades of a fan while on stage in Montreal. The singer continued to perform even while security tried to extract her from the mechanical device. This may seem impressive, yet other musicians have faced far more taxing obstacles and decided "the show must go on". Here is a selection:

One Direction play gig after horror smash
One Direction isn't perhaps the first name you'd put down on a list of pop's most fearless or indestructible, but we have to salute their indefatigability for insisting the show must continue after a bus crash in January last year. The squeaky five-piece boy band had just played a gig in Birmingham when a car sped into their tour bus. Louis Tomlinson, Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Zayn Malik and Liam Payne were all treated at the scene for neck injuries and spinal pain. A performance in Plymouth the following night was perhaps understandably described as "tentative".

The Fall's Mark E Smith gets back on stage after mighty fall
Fronted by the colourful Mark E Smith for more than 35 years, the Fall have notoriously been subject to more than their share of career-threatening punch-ups, flying microphone stands and injuries. "There's been some big fights," Smith said in 2005, not even referring to the notorious 1998 ruckus in New York which saw him brawling with his own band. But in March 2004 it was a patch of ice in Newcastle that put him in A&E. Nursing a broken leg, the irascible singer made a live return within a month. And the first song? The Four Seasons' Walk Like A Man. Two hip operations later, in 2009, he sang at London's Koko in a wheelchair.

Curtis Mayfield and Teddy Pendergrass perform while paralysed
James Brown called it "soul power", but something seems to particularly enable soul singers to carry on after career-threatening injuries. Archetypal "lover man" Teddy Pendergrass made a comeback in a wheelchair at Live Aid, just three years after being paralysed from the waist down in a car crash. 

Perhaps even more heroically, Curtis Mayfield managed to carry on after a falling lighting rig left him paralysed from the neck down. He was unable to play guitar, but this didn't stop him from writing his 1997 album New World Order, painstakingly recording the vocals line by line while lying on his back.

AC/DC come back in black
Pop has innumerable incidents of bands who have carried on following the departure or death of a key member, from the post-Brian Jones Rolling Stones to a Syd Barrett-free Pink Floyd. But perhaps AC/DC best typify how a show can go on following the demise of a member who is supposedly irreplaceable. Following singer Bon Scott's death in February 1980 after a night of heavy drinking, the singer's own family told the metal legends to continue. Eyebrows were raised when the Australian rockers replaced Scott with a flat cap-wearing Geordie, Brian Johnson, but their respectfully titled comeback album, Back In Black, is second to only Michael Jackson's Thriller as the best-selling album of all time.

Billie Holiday overcomes heroin addiction, a barking dog and a hatpin
The years 1947 to 1948 were a hell of a time for jazz legend Lady Day. The Strange Fruit singer was at her commercial zenith when a 1947 narcotics trial led to her spending a year in jail. On her release, she was first knocked to the ground by her pianist's crazy dog before managing to injure herself at her 1948 Carnegie Hall comeback gig, where she attached some flowers to her hair from a box that unfortunately also contained a hatpin, which plunged into her head. "I didn't feel anything until blood started rushing down in my eyes and ears," she said, bravely managing three curtain calls before finally passing out.

Folk legend plays comeback gig while 'dead'
For the ultimate show-must-go-on moment, it's hard to trump someone who has played on for years following his "death". In April 1999, the Daily Telegraph ran an obituary of the esteemed ex-Fairport Convention musician Dave Swarbrick, praising the charismatic violinist who "could electrify an audience with a single, frenzied sweep of his bow". Very much alive if not exactly well, The Swarb read about his own death in a hospital bed in Coventry. "It wasn't the first time I've died in Coventry," he quipped, and when he returned to the stage at the following year's Cropredy festival, he happily signed copies of his own obituary for adoring fans.

Ozzy Osbourne has an offal time on stage
Whether it's U2 getting stuck in a giant lemon or Judas Priest's frontman riding his Harley Davidson on stage and landing in the orchestra pit, there are innumerable examples of pop's real life Spinal Tap moments. A classic example of what can go wrong happened when Black Sabbath legend Ozzy Osbourne used a huge catapult to throw meat and offal over his audience (as you do) on his not-inappropriately titled Diary of a Madman tour in 1981. He later recalled: "When I pressed the button, it just went phut, and instead of this massive load of pigs' bollocks and cows' entrails flying into the audience, it smacked me at 20mph on the back of my head." The madcap rocker has since been known to lament: "You'd never get that kind of shit past health and safety today". – © Guardian News and Media 2013