5 of the worst live music performances

Axl Rose

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Following last week’s farce of a Justin Bieber gig at the O2 Arena, and Rihanna’s current vocal woes on tour, there’s never been a better time to mull over all the many things that can go disastrously wrong when a singer or band takes to the stage.

From terrible television appearances to shocking arena shows, WOW247 takes a look at five of the worst live music performances of all time.

Axl Rose Guns N' Roses worst live music performances
[Axl Rose of Guns N' Roses at the 2002 MTV Music Video Awards - photo: Getty]

The Stone Roses massacre their greatest hits

Widely considered to be one of the most horrifying festival sets of all time, The Stone Roses’ bill-topping closing performance at Reading ’96 was an absolute car crash that attracted the ire of critics and fans alike. With original drummer Reni and acclaimed guitarist John Squire having previously departed the band, the Roses were a jaw-dropping shadow of their former selves.

People will tell you that frontman Ian Brown is often out-of-tune live, but the sheer atrocity of his vocals that night – combined with the shambolic accompaniment and Bez-like dancer – proved so soul-destroying that long time devotees were reduced to tears.

Ashlee Simpson caught lip-synching

People have taken, quite unfairly, to branding Lana Del Rey’s performance as the worst-ever music appearance on popular prime-time TV show Saturday Night Live. But what about popster Ashlee Simpson who, it appears, wasn’t even going to the effort of actually singing when she appeared on the programme?

Somewhat embarrassingly for the young singer, a mix-up with the pre-recorded backing track on her second song meant that her ‘live performance’ was exposed as pure lip-synching. We’re not sure what’s worse: the way in which she attempted a cheesy little dance while her band stood around dumbfounded, or the cringe-inducing explanation she offered up afterwards.

Milli Vanilli also caught lip-synching

Mind you, if you thought that was bad  – spare a thought for notorious pop duo Milli Vanilli, whose substantial fame and fanbase were brought crashing down to earth in 1990 when it was revealed that members Rob Morvan and Rob Pilatus didn’t even sing on their own records.

The first agonising glimpse into this awful truth was offered during a live performance on MTV the previous year, when the backing track for their hit single Girl You Know It’s True skipped in half-hilarious, half-nightmarish fashion. The way in which the shell-shocked men simply run off stage is so humiliating it’s almost unbearable to watch. But have a go at least…

Axl Rose struggles to sing at MTV Awards

Mind you, just because someone actually has the confidence to sing live – doesn’t mean we’re necessarily going to be better off. And when Guns N’ Roses ‘rocked’ the stage at the MTV Video Music Awards in 2002, lead singer Axl Rose let the side down badly by screeching and mewling his way through much-loved hit Welcome To The Jungle.

Clearly out-of-breath for long periods of the perf0rmance and struggling to hit the required pitch and power, his vocals seemed all the glaringly weaker and more disappointing given his backing band’s full-throttle efforts.

The Hot Pogs murder a grunge classic

Footage of Nirvana’s seminal grunge hit Smells Like Teen Spirit being treated with the utmost of disrespect became a viral sensation last year, when a video showing a hapless band turning in a tremendously awful rendition notched up tens of thousands of hits on YouTube.

It’s since been suggested that the group in question, The Hot Pogs, were actually a hastily convened spoof act comprising members from Liverpool bands Lovecraft and Organ Freeman. But whatever the truth of the matter, their performance is a thing of utter, horrific beauty. Inducing first shock and then laughter, it’s no surprise they were eventually asked to leave the stage.

Do you agree with our choices? And are there other dreadful live performances you feel should have been included? Tell us in the comments below, on Twitter with #wow247 or over at Facebook

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Mark is the content manager for WOW247 in Leeds. When he isn't waxing lyrical about Ben Wheatley and Caravan Palace, he's landing news, assembling guides and penning features.