8.2k readers

Fire Away: The Worst Pyrotechnic Accidents Of All Time

Updated February 13, 2019 8.2k views11 items

Kids are told, “If you play with fire you’re going to get burned.” Adults don’t always follow their own advice, especially rock stars. Many big name acts rely on showers of flame to make their shows sizzle and setting off controlled explosions at just the right moment can be enthralling to an audience. But as artists from Rihanna to Metallica have learned, nobody is safe from a flame-induced accident. And when artists without the cash, equipment or wherewithal to pull off pyro displays make a mistake, it can be a recipe for disaster. Even when every possible precaution is taken, situations can quickly get out of control. From the humorous to the horrific, here are 11 of the most dramatic pyro mishaps of all time.

  • Video: YouTube

    Rihanna is know for her hot performance but a 2011 concert in Dallas really went up in smoke. Midway through her performance at the American Airlines Center, a light caught fire and the flames quickly spread across the beams. The singer was rushed off stage and the fire continued for roughly five minutes until crew members were able to put it out. The singer was forced to cancel the rest of the concert. She later tweeted: "DALLAS!!! We set the stage on FYAH tonight!!! LITERALLY!!! I'm so pissed, I was havin so much fun wit yall too!!! I gotta come back man!!"

  • Photo: Kreepin Deth / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

    This was bound to happen. Industrial metal band Rammstein use so much pyro they make KISS look like Ed Sheeran. Over the past decade, the band has learned everything there is to know about flamethrowers, fireworks, blazing walls and other devices that could destroy a home in minutes. Fortunately, their stunts are carefully controlled and there are failsafes. Back in the day, however, they weren’t so rigid and almost paid the price. During a show at Berlin’s Treptow Arena on September 29, 1997, a stage decoration caught fire and collapsed onto the stage. Members of the crowd fled but Rammstein, adhering to the axiom the show must go on, kept playing while crew members rushed onstage with fire extinguishers. After that, the band hired a professional pyro team, including firemen and paramedics and vocalist Till Lindemann studied to receive a license as a pyrotechnician. Even so, he has suffered burns on his ears, head and arms over the years. Of course, that’s bound to happen when you walk onstage wearing a burning jacket.

  • Video: YouTube

    The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour wasn’t usually the kind of edgy variety show that erupted in controversy or chaos. Then again, The Who weren’t a normal rock band. They had just landed in the U.S. Top Ten with “I Can See For Miles” when they were invited to play on the Smothers Brothers show on September 15, 1967. In an effort to stage a memorable performance they planted pyro in Keith Moon’s drum kit. But during the rehearsal for the show, the pyro was less than spectacular, erupting with a dull thud and a small plume of smoke. “Keith said, 'Listen, you must increase the charge,'" guitarist Pete Townshend told VH1. The show’s stage manager used more powder – without realizing Moon had already dumped extra explosives into the pyro machine. At the end of the set, Townshend and bassist John Entwistle smashed their instruments into their amplifiers and Moon’s mini-bomb went off with three times the charge it was supposed to generate, destroying the drums and momentarily setting fire to Townshend’s hair. Without hesitating, the guitarist grabbed Tommy Smothers’ acoustic guitar and smashed it to bits while the dazed show host stood with a blank stare. “I was so busy looking for bleeding bodies; I didn’t know what had happened,” Smothers told the Daily Gazette. Townshend later said that he suffered hearing loss from the explosion, that began his lifelong battle with tinnitus. 

  • Video: YouTube

    The King of Pop, Michael Jackson was once one of the greatest showman on the planet, so it was no surprise when he signed an endorsement deal with Pepsi for $5 million to celebrate the brand’s “New Generation.” The deal only lasted from 1983 to 1984, since Jackson was injured while Pepsi was filming a promotional advertisement. Jackson was in Los Angeles at the Shrine Auditorium performing a simulated concert when a pyro blast set fire to his hair. The star suffered second-degree burns on his scalp by the time handlers put the fire out. He was rushed to the hospital and needed medical treatment to hide the scars. Jackson settled out of court with Pepsi for $1.5 million and donated the money to the medical center that treated him. In return, the hospital named the facility after the pop star. From then on, Jackson made sure never to stand too close to stage pyro.