The 12 Drunkest Musical Performances In History
Rock 'n' roll goes hand in hand with debauchery - that is until someone can't play guitar or remember the words. It's not entirely surprising that some of your favorite rock stars might have indulged a bit too much before hitting the stage over the years, but sometimes things go too far and make for some very uncomfortable performances. Other times they can lead to tragic experiences.
Whether the artists themselves had substance use problems at the time, most of the drunkest performances in history come mostly from bands who were known to party a bit too hard. Others are certainly surprising.
Let's take a look at times performers tipped a few too many before hitting the stage.
Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong (2012)
Green Day lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong's years of drinking and substance use finally caught up with him in 2012 while his band was performing at the iHeart Music Festival in Las Vegas. When a monitor alerted him mid-song they had one minute left to perform, Armstrong stopped the song and went on an intoxicated tirade against the festival for cutting their set short.
Armstrong later said of the incident, which led to him entering rehab:
I remember tiny things. The next morning, I woke up. I asked [my wife] Adrienne, ‘How bad was it?’ She said, ‘It’s bad.’ I called my manager. He said, ‘You’re getting on a plane, going back to Oakland and going into rehab immediately.'
Nirvana's Kurt Cobain (1991)
While on tour in 1991 prior to the massive success they achieved with "Smells Like Teen Spirit," Nirvana played a sloppy version of the Nevermind cut "In Bloom," complete with plenty of stumbles both literally and musically. At the beginning of a clip of the incident, singer/guitarist Kurt Cobain can be seen swerving around the stage and staggering his way through the performance.
The tour in question, a double-header that also featured Sonic Youth, was full of drinking and partying - as told by Dave Markey, a friend of Sonic Youth who accompanied the bands and filmed the festivities. That tour also brought Cobain together with Courtney Love, who was dating Smashing Pumpkins' Billy Corgan at the time and attended the Rotterdam show.
Guns N' Roses' Slash (1991)
Guns N' Roses arrived on the scene with a reputation for intense debauchery and incredibly sloppy performances. One of those performances happened in 1991 when guitarist Slash struggled to play the intro to the band's hit "Welcome to the Jungle" - seemingly too inebriated to comprehend the notes he was playing.
The previous year, the legendary hard rock guitarist made headlines for cursing at the American Music Awards.
"I don’t know what I said onstage, but it was short and sweet. I don’t think there were too many 'f*cks' in it," he later said of the event.
Beach Boys' Carl Wilson (1978)
During a 1978 performance of "Good Vibrations," the Beach Boys' Carl Wilson drunkenly stumbled over lyrics and went extremely off-pitch throughout his signature lead. It was a low point in the band's history, which continued to get lower until the passing of Wilson's brother Dennis in 1983.
Carl passed of lung cancer in 1998, decades after the height of the band's commercial success and their landmark release, Pet Sounds.
Avril Lavigne (2009)
In 2009, Avril Lavigne appeared as a guest of comedic glam metal band Steel Panther, and fans reported she was seemingly drunk as she performed "I Love Rock 'n Roll" (written by Alan Merrill and made famous by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts). Lavigne's spirited performance was completely off key, and more than a little embarrassing.
Lavigne has a history with Steel Panther - she reportedly almost had them at her wedding. When the "Complicated" singer married Chad Kroeger, the band was rumored to be their choice for entertainment.
The band announced on their YouTube page:
We're going to a wedding. We are going to be playing at 'Chaz' and Avril Lavigne's wedding. We've never been to a wedding before … obviously, nobody in our band has ever gotten married, none of our parents ever got married. I don't even know who my Dad is.
Eddie Van Halen (2004)
In what became known as a horrible and disastrous chapter in Van Halen history, Eddie Van Halen's problems with alcohol and substance addiction peaked during his 2004 reunion with Sammy Hagar. The tour was plagued by rough performances, particularly one involving Van Halen's guitar becoming unplugged while he played inebriated and his tech struggling to fix the problem.
Tensions between Hagar and the rest of Van Halen were at an all-time high during the reunion, due in part to the singer's reported insistence that they use co-founder and original bassist Michael Anthony. Eddie and Alex Van Halen were both allegedly angered that Anthony stayed friends with Hagar after the initial split. That, combined with Eddie's alleged drinking, led to a combustible situation.
The doomed 2004 tour ended after Eddie smashed his guitar on stage, allegedly crying and telling the crowd, "You don't understand."