Concerts where the frontperson is wasted. How did you feel, and what did you do?

Ms. A and I went to see the Lemonheads at the Metro in Chicago last night. One of our favorite 90s bands playing one of our favorite venues. What could go wrong?

Here’s what: Evan Dando was wasted.

He walked onstage with a half-empty bottle of Maker’s Mark, played songs his bandmates didn’t expect and ended them abruptly. I have to say he was at least a happy, high-energy drunk, and ripped through a few songs like a rock star, but the whole thing seemed on the verge of falling apart every minute.

Ms A grew up with an alcoholic father and has very little patience for wasted people, so we left before Julianna Hatfield could join the trio to re-enact It’s a Shame About Ray.

I have such mixed feelings. On the one hand, I love love love that album and was so looking forward to hearing it live. (Hatfield’s excellent opening solo set sharpened the anticipation even more.) On the other hand, I knew there was a good chance Dando would fuck it up and forever change the way I hear it, possibly ruining it forever.

So … how did you feel, and what did you do in similar situations?

(Please, don’t turn this into a thread about rockers’ fucked-up onstage antics. I’m not so much interested in them as in your reactions to them – immediately and as time went on.)

Well, Evan Dando was a big time heroin user. Maybe just being drunk is a step in the right direction for him.

I remember seeing Joe Cocker open for Supertramp back in the 80s. He was drunk, slurring his words and dropping the mic. I thought that I was glad that I wasn’t a fan of his because it was a really disappointing performance. I also remember being embarrassed for him.

We were aware of his multiple rehab stints and relapses, but foolishly believed that if he was touring, it was evidence he was sober (or at least had things under control). We have no idea, of course, if he was using anything beyond alcohol.

During her set, Hatfield made a point not once but twice of thanking Dando and saying what a special person he was. (They have a long, complicated relationship, musical and otherwise.) That was an early sign that trouble was coming.

Back in the '70s I went to a concert where Black Sabbath was the headliner. FIrst group was Mahogany Rush a Canadian band but not the well known Rush, they were very good. Next up was Montrose, Ronnie Montrose and the then unknown Sammy Hagar, they knocked out of the park, so good.

Then Black Sabbath come on stage. Ozzy Osbourne was soo fucked up, stumbling around the stage trying to whip the audience up with “We love you!” and other shit. The band couldn’t even play their instruments. After about 3 minutes of this shit people were streaming for the exits, the aisles were full, if part of the arena had been on fire people would not have been leaving as fast.

Ozzy still owes me 35 bucks or whatever the ticket price was back then.

Funny - our violist went to that show, and we listened to Come On Feel yesterday during a rehearsal break. I’ll ask her her impressions, but won’t see her for a couple of weeks.

It is an unusual performance that is improved by booze/drugs. We were are a Dave Bromberg show a while back where the band announced they were going out to get high. The music did not improve as a result.

But there is also the part of wanting to just see someone - especially if they are unreliable. I was glad to see a rough, short set of Sly and the Family Stone back around 1980-ish, just to say I saw him.

I don’t have experience with that exactly.

But back in the late '80s I lived in Las Vegas and wife & I went to see Dionne Warwick perform live in one of the smaller ~250 seat venues in a big casino. Between tickets, tips for the seat-giver-outer, and drinks it was probably a $200 experience. So maybe $300 equivalent today.

Ms. Warwick came out, said she had a terrible cold / flu, felt like shit, but would give it a go. Her speaking voice was awful; she sounded ill. She gave no evidence of being wasted, but it was a very flat, perfunctory, low energy performance. After one minor song that was obviously not meant as the finale, she left the stage and the show was over; about half as long as was expected. It was unclear whether any of the singing had been live versus lip-synced to a recording.

Most everybody sat through it respectfully, but a few folks left at the beginning or after the first number in an apparent huff.

One the one hand I respected her for trying; on the other hand I felt a bit ripped off; better for her to have cancelled and the casino to have refunded the tickets. There was supposed to have been a second show later that evening. I never found out if it ran or not, but I sure hope not.

Saw the Pogues in Sheffield, England in 1990. Shane was pretty trashed, and drank throughout the show, on stage. Wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. He sounded fine.

If Shane ever performed sober, that’s when you’d want your money back.

Love the Lemonheads, love the Pogues. I remember Shane being ushered offstage when he was with the Popes. On Pinkpop. Utterly wasted. And I saw Hole in Amsterdam in the nineties, where a drunk and pissed off Courtney Love tried to climb the balcony in Paradiso. Idk, with some acts it was just part of the deal I guess…

Eddie Money headlined some festival I was at in Tampa, Florida in the early 90’s.

He was falling-down shit-faced. Could barely talk. Could barely sing. Butchered his own lyrics. I think we stayed for about three songs and then left the venue.

I only found out just now that … um … he, apparently, had a problem:

I’m an old (Grateful) DeadHead. I have a pretty high [NPI] threshold for my performers having a buzz on while they’re entertaining me.

But Eddie Money … just … couldn’t. I can’t remember if it felt like a lot of other people left, too, or if they were right up there with him and didn’t notice/care :wink:

Really? Have we skewed so mainstream on this site that we have to explain the term Dead-Head?

But speaking of which, for me it wasn’t Garcia or Weir that were annoyingly high, it was the fans (at least the ones who’d been camping out for two days in the parking lot…presumably practicing twirling in one spot for hours at a time).


As the flip side of the thread, we were prepared to put up with a drunk Dylan, but lucked out. The guy was lucid, articulate, and even clever… smirking as he surprised us with devilishly different versions of his classics.

(I figured we’d beaten the odds, so I passed on seeing Van Morrison, assuming he’d be full of good Scotch and bad attitude.)

I saw Bonnie Raitt perform on her 30th birthday. Front row seats. I passed her a bottle , she hit it and passed it to another person in the audience.

FANTASTIC show. I’d seen her many times and this was her absolute best IMO.

She “cleaned up” after that tour and I lost interest in her. Happy for her, I guess.

Back in about 1974, my buddies and I went to see Jefferson Starship at a theater in Kansas City. The opening act was a band we’d barely heard of, by the name of Kansas. Well, they rocked the house for 60 minutes, and we were pumped for the headliner.

Grace Slick came running onstage carrying a bottle of Heineken, drunker than shit. She slurred through a couple of songs, made a couple of bad jokes, then gave up. The rest of the band played for about 45 more minutes and called it a night.

We were pissed, but it was tempered just a bit by the show put on by Kansas.

I went a saw Guns and Roses play their next to last concert in 1992 at the Nutter Center in Dayton Ohio. We first went to a bar across from the venue to get a few drinks cheaper that we could at the show, on the way to the bathroom we saw Slash partying down in a side room and then got directed away because we were informed it was a private party (i.e we weren’t chicks). So we suspected that they were going to be late so we went to the show thinking the opening act would start at 9:00.

Sound Garden didn’t come out until just before 10:00 did an hour set and then we waited about 2.5 hours for Guns and Roses to show up. Man was the crowd tired and pissed. Axel Rose came out drunk off his ass and was ranting about how he hated Dayton because his stepfather was from Dayton, told the crowd fuck you and then broke into their set.

They played great when they played, but Axel keep going off on rants between songs and it took them until almost 4:00 in the morning to finish the set. I believe he even broke into a rant halfway through a song. When we got out side after the show it was pouring down a brutally cold rain (just to top things off).

To the rest of the bands credit it was a great show and we left with the feeling that the band would be breaking up soon because we just witnessed a man having a mental breakdown on stage. Their last show was the next night.

I saw The Doors (with Jim) four times, the last of which was August 1970. He was clearly drunk but managed to give an acceptable performance. He wasn’t “wasted” but it kind of fits this thread.

Saw Hank Williams, Jr. once and he was wasted (go figure). Luckily, he bailed after butchering a couple of his hits and one of his father’s. I say it was lucky because Patty Loveless was the opener and came back out and gave a great impromptu show.

Saw David Lee Roth just after he got booted from Van Halen on his solo Eat 'Em and Smile tour. He brought the Jack Daniels bottle on stage, but still seemed to hold it together pretty well. An added bonus was seeing a young skinny guitar player pull off some Van Halen licks. His name was Steve Vai.

On a related note, I saw George Carlin in Vegas just after he had gotten out of rehab. It was a few years before he died and he had zero energy. His timing was off and he brought notes on stage that he put on a stool. On one long bit, he actually read it off the paper. I saw some of the material a year later in an HBO special and it had improved greatly. Kinda wish I had skipped seeing him live.

Was it a cold November rain?

Apparently their substance abuse was legendary and spectacular.

Btw how was Mahogany Rush?

First concert I ever saw! I was thirteen. This was at the height of their “Carry on my Wayward Son” fame. Great show.

Read an interview with DLR where he talked about playing the rock star game- he said, someone hands you a bottle of Jack Daniels, you tip it back like you’re taking a big gulp of it, but you really just take a tiny sip.

I guess I’ve been lucky-- I’ve seen my share of concerts, but I can’t remember any in which the singer or anybody else was too intoxicated to give a good performance. Saw Aerosmith after they cleaned up but before they went completely corporate rock and they rocked the house.

From what I understand it wasn’t real booze in that bottle, he wasn’t getting wasted, it was all image.

I’m amazed they were allowed to keep the concert going that long. I’ve been to a couple shows where the headliner* started late (apparently through no fault of their own) and both times they had to cut their set short, apologizing profusely to the audience that this was because their contract with the venue and/or local labour laws didn’t permit the venue staff to work past a certain time. I was disappointed but had some sympathy for this line of argument; if I were working at a concert hall I might not like being forced to work several hours overtime with no advance notice.

*One of the acts was definitely Mark Knopfler at Massey Hall in Toronto, circa 2002. I can’t remember what the other one was.