Cellphones, sweets and even someone’s ashes: these are just some of the few objects musicians have had to encounter while performing at live concerts in the last few months. In a worrying trend that seems to have gripped concertgoers, being in the presence of your favourite artist comes at the cost of seeing other fans invade their private spaces — resulting in a viral mid-concert call-out or a lawsuit. From Taylor Swift to Bebe Rexha and Drake, dodging flying projectiles have become the new threat that celebrities are trying to steer clear of…quite literally! We take a look at the lengthening list of musicians who have been interrupted midway through a live concert by frenzied followers.
Trying to grab the attention of your favourite performer is nothing new: Fans have put up sign boards, proposed at gigs, and singer Pink was even gifted a giant wheel of brie cheese last month at a London gig. However, some of these interactions are taking a turn for the violent, leaving artists injured or having to shut down the show. Blackpink’s Lisa was upset when an attendee threw a teddy bear at her, Ava Max was slapped by a fan mid-performance, and Kelsea Ballerini was pelted with a bracelet. Harry Styles, Billie Eilish, BTS members V and Jungkook too have also had similar experiences, and follow a long list of musicians who’ve faced similar fan crimes and been interrupted onstage. Some social scientists are attributing the rise of such cases to the growing prevalence of social media, and are noting an obvious increase in security as a result of it.
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Why are musicians being attacked on stage?
Adele talks about concertgoers throwing things at artists:
“I fucking dare you. Dare you to throw something at me and I'll fucking kill you.” pic.twitter.com/vy680y8ekm
— Pop Crave (@PopCrave) July 4, 2023
Frank Salzano, managing partner of Salzano Ettinger Lampert & Wilson, LLP, a boutique entertainment and sports law firm based in Manhattan, told Newsweek that such a trajectory comes from the increased accessibility to stars via social media platforms. “Fans have 24/7 connectivity with their favourite celebrities through social media platforms, which is the driving force behind this phenomenon. This ‘access’ results in fans having a false belief that they have a right to act out as they see fit, often crossing a clear line of decency, including in some instances rising to criminal behaviour. These acts of violence will likely result in heightened security and more restrictive rules during concerts.”
“It’s quite concerning,” said Todd Dukes to The Hollywood Reporter. Dukes, who works in executive protection for Justin Timberlake and has also guarded musicians like NSYNC, Backstreet Boys, and Nick Jonas, added “I don’t know what the mindsets of the fans are right now,” he continued. “As a security professional, it makes it a little bit more difficult. It makes it harder.” As the founder of a security company Secworldwide, he said it’s important for him and his team to always be on guard during live shows. He revealed that local security, typically inside the barricades separating the fans from the stage, must be “aware of what’s going on.”
This trend of throwing things at performers while they are on stage must come to an end. (Bebe, Ava, AND NOW Kelsea Ballerini…) It’s so disrespectful and very dangerous. Please just enjoy the music I beg of you…
— Charlie Puth (@charlieputh) June 29, 2023
Industry insiders are speaking up about the insidious trend. Adele addressed the ongoing issue during her Weekends with Adele Las Vegas residency. “Have you noticed how people are forgetting f***ing show etiquette at the moment and just throwing s*** on stage?” she asked her crowd. “Have you seen that? I f***ing dare you, I dare you to throw something at me, I’ll f***ing kill you,” she joked while holding up her t-shirt gun. Charlie Puth, too, expressed his concerns via Twitter. “This trend of throwing things at performers while they are on stage must come to an end. (Bebe, Ava, and now Kelsea Ballerini…) It’s so disrespectful and very dangerous. Please just enjoy the music I beg of you…” the ‘Attention’ singer added.
Which musicians have been attacked at live concerts?
The multi-platinum singer kicked off his It’s All a Blur tour at United Center, Chicago last week, but he probably didn’t expect ‘God’s plan‘ to entail being struck by a cellphone. Despite the flying object making its way toward him, Drake continued his performance, absolutely unbothered. TikTok fans, however, added to the commentary by taking notes on his attitude, post-dodge. “Dude checked his nails,” noticed one as Drake appears to glance down at his Barbiecore manicure. “Somebody ain’t getting the phone back,” wrote another user.
The phone wasn’t the only thing Drake received during his event. As seen from the multiple social media videos of the concert, the 36-year-old rapper happily accepted a bra that had been tossed on stage. “Oh yeah, that’s definitely how I like it right here, godd-mn,” he said, picking it up. “38DD never let me down before.”
2. Harry Styles
— Maddison Ford (@Maddison200596) July 8, 2023
Several videos shared from the Ernst Happel Stadium in Austria showed the ex-One Directioner being struck by an unidentified object, leaving Styles wincing in pain. This isn’t the first time the singer was attacked in recent times. While performing in Cardiff during his ‘Love on Tour’ live concert, an attendee launched a bouquet of flowers toward Harry. He was even injured in the eye by air-borne Skittles in LA and by an aerodynamic chicken nugget in NYC, both of which occurred during his tour in 2022.
3. Ava Max
Someone jumped on stage at the end of tonight’s show in Los Angeles.
This is a reminder that this behavior is unacceptable. Sending all our love to Ava and her crew. pic.twitter.com/Rs0IFSn2Xp
— Ava Max Source (@SourceAvaMax) June 21, 2023
The 29-year-old ‘Kings and Queens’ singer was performing at the Fonda Theatre in Hollywood when a man jumped on stage and extended his arm to touch her. In fan-captured videos, and according to comments from people who attended the show, security fought to block the man from Max but his hand managed to strike her in the face.
He slapped me so hard that he scratched the inside of my eye. He’s never coming to a show again 😡😡thank you to the fans for being spectacular tonight in LA though!!❤️
— AVA MAX (@AvaMax) June 21, 2023
“He slapped me so hard that he scratched the inside of my eye. He’s never coming to a show again,” the singer tweeted, decorating the message with two angry emojis. “Thank you to the fans for being spectacular tonight in LA though!!”
4. Bebe Rexha
In the season’s most shocking incident, Bebe Rexha became the victim of a fan crime during her performance at New York’s Pier 17. One concertgoer, 27-year-old Nicolas Malvagna, decided it would be amusing to launch his cellphone at the artist, in an attempt to grab her attention. The Grammy-nominated star was visibly hurt, with her face bloodied and in need of immediate medical attention. She was later rushed to hospital, where she received stitches for her wound.
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The phone-pelter was eventually charged with attempted assault, and aggravated harassment, while confessing to prosecutors that he did so purely for his own pleasure. “I was trying to see if I could hit her with the phone at the end of the show because it would be funny,” Malvagna said after the incident. Rexha revealed the degree of her injuries via an Instagram post, while simultaneously assuring fans of her well-being. She has since performed in Los Angeles, although behind the protective shield of blue safety glasses. “What a queen,” said fans on social media.
In another incident of heinous concert behaviour towards musicians, Pink’s BST Hyde Park concert in London recently witnessed a fan throwing a clear bag containing a powdered substance onstage. As the singer belted out her hit, ‘Just Like A Pill’, the 43-year-old could be seen looking perplexed at the bag. Confused, she picked it up only to realise it carried the man’s mother’s ashes.
According to a video shared on Twitter by an attendee, Pink took the bag, holding it only by the corner. “Is this your mom?” the Grammy-nominated superstar asks the crowd member, who seemed to affirm her query. “I don’t know how I feel about this,” she answered.
6. Lil Nas X
The ‘Montero’ singer paused his Lollapalooza Stockholm gig after a fan hurled a sex toy toward him. The music cut out and the dancers looked confused as Lil Nas X hopped out of the way before picking up the item. “Who threw their p-ssy onstage?” he jokingly asked the festival-goers in attendance before continuing his set. No one was injured as Lil Nas X laughed off the moment and picked up his set where he left off. The incident was the latest in a string in which musicians have been confronted at live concerts with unruly, overzealous behaviour from fans.
7. Kelsea Ballerini
The country singer’s concert from Outlaw Field in Boise, Idaho, was the scene of another cautionary tale. At a time when the 29-year-old was singing her song ‘If You Go Down’, an unidentified object was viciously propelled towards Ballerini, forcing her to briefly pause the live show as she reacted to the projectile hitting her. At first, she continued playing the acoustic guitar while turning to the back of the stage, before she made a “stop” hand signal to the crowd and exited.
After taking a short break, she returned to address the crowd, asking, “Can we just talk about what happened? All I care about is keeping everyone safe. If you ever don’t feel safe, please let someone around you know. If anyone’s pushing too much or you just have that gut feeling, just always flag it.”
Ballerini, a victim of PTSD after watching a friend die in a school shooting, took to her Instagram stories.”Hi. I’m fine. Someone threw a bracelet, it hit me in the eye, and it more so just scared me than hurt me. We all have triggers and layers of fears way deeper than what is shown, and that’s why I walked offstage to calm down and make sure myself, band and crew and the crowd all felt safe to continue,” she wrote.
8. Kid Cudi
JUST IN: Kid Cudi walks off stage after people kept throwing things at him during his Rolling Loud set pic.twitter.com/jy8V62O3mO
— XXL Magazine (@XXL) July 23, 2022
Replacing Kanye West as the headlining act at Miami’s Rolling Loud Festival, Cudi was forced to cut his set short after being harassed with scores of water bottles. The rapper was performing the fourth song of his set, “REVOFEV,” when a vessel tossed from the crowd hit him square in the face. “Yo, I will walk off this stage if you all throw one more f****** thing up here, I will leave, I will leave right now,” he was heard answering after the impact. “Throw one more f****** thing on this stage and I’ll walk off, I’m not f****** playing. I’m not f****** playing, you will ruin it for everybody,” he continued. Almost immediately, another water bottle was thrown at Cudi, prompting him to walk off stage mid-song.
Post the incident, Rolling Loud representatives issued the following statement: “Rolling Loud is a family. Our fans, the artists, and everyone involved need to look out for each other. Share the love and be respectful to everyone. We love you, Cudi. Please take care of each other and let’s have an amazing day 2!”
9. Taylor Swift
Every Swiftie hopes to be in the presence of the superstar but two fans took it to the next level during Taylor’s 1989 tour at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta back in 2015. While executing a dance step that required Swift to rise up from the ground, two sets of hands tried to lunge at the singer’s leather pants-clad feet. Swift’s glare after the initial shock from this grab gave even more power to those ‘Bad Blood’ lyrics, as she was captured swiftly strutting away. Thankfully, no injuries were reported.
Throwing memorabilia on stage has become a notorious norm at K-pop concerts with several stars falling victim to fan violence. Members of Blackpink, too, were no exception to the trend with their Thailand live concert in May interrupted when a concertgoer launched a teddy bear at the musicians. While Jennie, Rosie, and Jisoo were captured in fan videos avoiding the flying projectile, it was Lisa who bravely discarded it off stage. It was later alleged that the soft toy was fixed with a hidden camera, drawing criticism for fans possibly attempting to film the quartet in their private moments.
Ahead of Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour and Coldplay’s upcoming live concerts in Singapore, we hope our beloved musicians receive the dignity, respect, and personal space they deserve.
(Main and featured image: Helene Pambrun; John Medina via Getty Images)
This story first appeared on Prestige Online Singapore