Think of the greatest tours in history, and what comes to mind? An on-fire Van Halen opening for Black Sabbath in 1978. A speed-fuelled Metallica breaking big as support for Ozzy Osbourne in 1986. Rage Against The Machine and Tool blazing across Europe in 1993. Lollapallooza, Clash Of The Titans, Ozzfest… the list goes on.
You’ll fine absolutely none of those here. Nope, these are the tours where everything went to absolute shit thanks to a combination of intra-band tension, external circumstances or old fashioned rock’n’roll idiocy. From Guns N’ Roses and Iron Maiden to Deiced and Threatin – hey, who remembers that guy? – these are the most disastrous tours in history.
1. Coal Chamber/Insane Clown Posse: The Amazing Jeckel Brothers Tour, 1999
Poor Coal Chamber. It’s bad enough that they’re remembered solely as Dez from Devildriver’s old band with the daft hair, but they had a rough time on the road even at their most commercially successful. Firstly, the spooky kids headed out with the equally wally-like Insane Clown Posse on a supposed US co-headline run in 1999, only to drop off after two days citing ‘production issues’.
Drummer Mike Cox whined to MTV that they’d been deprived of a soundcheck and a stage show. “We thought it was a first show thing. Second show, same thing,” he said. It transpired that they’d been fired following poor ticket sales. Coal Chamber threatened legal action, and started their own tour where they could headline and, therefore, not be upstaged.
Unfortunately, they decided to bring a support cast of Amen, Machine Head and, wait for it… Slipknot on their first album! One night, they lowered the curtain on Machine Head while Robb Flynn was still onstage at the end of their set in New York, and were promptly booed offstage when they arrived to play themselves. Silly sausages!
2. Slayer/Biohazard and more: Tattoo The Planet, 2001
With a line-up that brought both Pantera and Slayer together to tour the UK, alongside a veritable who’s who of the most inspiring metal bands of the time, Tattoo The Planet could have been one of the all-time great gatherings.
Unfortunately, just two days before things were to kick off in Dublin, the 9/11 terror attacks threw the whole world into chaos, leaving bands stranded all over the world and unable or unwilling to travel. Pantera pulled out, but Slayer bravely fought on and headlined the three shows.
Although, due to a patched-up bill that promised heavyweights such as Static-X and Sepultura, yet had to make do with UK underground newbies Defenestration, refunds, poor attendance and a general sense of distraction by current affairs made it a bit of a non-event. However, in a typically resolute gesture to not be fucked with, New York natives Biohazard did make it over to play. Legends.
3. Sepultura: Tribalism Across The World, 1996
Sepultura should have been enjoying a golden year in 1996. In February, they released their ambitious sixth album, Roots, produced by rising producer Ross Robinson and not only featuring recordings with the indigenous Brazilian Xavante tribe, but guest appearances from heavyweights Jonathan Davis and Mike Patton.
Roots Bloody Roots was a mega hit, and the record reached No.4 in the UK charts and No.27 in the US. But the band was slowly splitting into two camps: roaring frontman Max Cavalera and his wife Gloria (Sepultura’s manager) versus guitarist Andreas Kisser, bassist Paulo Jr. and drummer Iggor Cavalera.
In August, Sepultura arrived in the UK to play Monsters Of Rock, and received the tragic news that Gloria’s son, Dana Wells, had been killed in a car accident. Max and Gloria flew home, and the band played as a trio. Back on the road, emotions were running high.
Andreas, Paulo and Iggor made the decision to fire Gloria and get a bigger manager, and confronted her after their final show at London’s Brixton Academy on December 16. “The situation was coldly calculated,” Max told us. “It’s as if they said, ‘We’re sorry about Dana, but business is business.’”
Gloria denies she was dismissed, saying the business relationship had come to a natural end. “I was never fired, in my life. I finished my contract and I walked,” she told us last year. “And I told Max, ‘You’re welcome to stay with them. That’s your baby.’”
However, Max walked away with her. It was the end of the classic Sepultura line-up and the beginning of a decade-long feud with his own brother, Iggor. Sepultura carried on with new vocalist Derrick Green, while Max went on to form Soulfly and Cavalera Conspiracy. To this day, fans still hold out hope of a reunion.
4. Guns N’ Roses: Use Your Illusion, 1992
Although they were collectively off-the-rails as a matter of course, Guns N’ Roses had been an unstoppable force for the first few years of their worldwide fame. By the time they released their two-album Use Your Illusion splurge in September 1991, Axl Rose and his comrades were simply the biggest heavy rock band on the planet, with only Metallica registering as credible rivals. As a result, when the two bands announced a co-headlining tour for the summer of 1992, it could hardly have been a bigger deal.
Guns N’ Roses’ Use Your Illusion tour had started a year earlier, seven months prior to the albums’ release. At a show in St. Louis, Missouri, Axl took exception to someone taking photographs from the crowd, leaping into the throng and physically attacking the culprit. A riot broke out, leading to more than 50 people being injured and assault charges for the volatile frontman.
With hindsight, this set the tone for the next two years, which became a rollercoaster of cancelled gigs, onstage tantrums and preposterous showbiz excess. The tour with Metallica began in July ’92. By this point, Guns N’ Roses were a 12-piece live band with backing singers and a brass section.
Meanwhile, Axl Rose’s entourage included his own personal psychic (and two assistants). Things were getting silly and Metallica were not impressed. “[Axl is] a really spoilt personality,” James Hetfield observed to Classic Rock’s Johnny Black. “I don’t really have time to figure him out, but he’s a psychiatrist’s fucking dream.”
Whether it was because his band were no longer the unassailable critical darlings of the Appetite years or because he was simply a perpetually difficult bastard, Axl Rose was not endearing himself to James or his bandmates. All accounts suggest that Duff and Slash were amiable enough company at that point, but their leader was becoming an unpredictable pain in the backside.
Support band Faith No More were temporarily ejected from the tour for slagging Axl off in the rock press. Even fans in Kansas got the hairdryer treatment, as Axl berated the entire city of St. Louis for the riot that, in all fairness, he had caused the previous year.
After a few gigs were cancelled due to Axl straining his vocal cords, the tour resumed at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium on August 8. During Metallica’s set, James Hetfield accidentally stood in the wrong spot and was roasted by an erupting flame-jet, receiving third-degree burns to his left hand.
Less than generously, Guns N’ Roses then made fans wait for hours before finally starting their own set, during which Axl had a meltdown about sound issues and stormed offstage. A massive riot broke out.
The next seven gigs were rescheduled as a result. In Las Cruces, Mexico, Axl insulted the local population from the stage and was showered with bottles. In Denver, Colorado, he left the stage midway through Guns’ set, with no explanation, leaving his band to play several songs without him.
“It was hard… dealing with Axl and his attitude,” James later noted. “It’s not something we’d want to do again.”
5. Five Finger Death Punch: Beale Street Music Festival, 2015
In an age where mobile phone screens create a canopy above most crowds, the good and the bad of the live environment are inevitably captured. While Five Finger Death Punch are renowned for their impassioned, confrontational live shows, the last few years have also seen emotions run high and tempers flare publicly.
At the Beale Street Music Festival in Memphis on May 1, 2015, after a couple of weeks of shows, tempers were exacerbated by an onstage disagreement between singer Ivan Moody and then-drummer Jeremy Spencer over a technical issue, leading to everyone but Ivan walking offstage.
Though they would finish the set, reports and video circulated, leading to rumours of the band’s breakup. Ivan would allay the fears in a statement reading: “I apologise for taking out my anger onstage… And to the haters… wipe that smirk off your face… we are not going anywhere.”
Speaking to Hammer a few weeks later, Ivan grimly acknowledged the incident, stating: “The saying is that you should wash your clothes at home. Unfortunately, there were 20,000 people watching while he and I had an argument. I really fucked up and I was so embarrassed. The fans didn’t have to see that. I’ll be honest, it hurt.”
Ivan would soon enter rehab, but despite the band claiming Memphis was a crossroads moment that they had put behind them, troubles have continued to rear their head onstage.
In 2016 in Worcester, Massachusetts, Ivan left a gig mid-set, apologising for his performance and claiming his mother was passing away. The following year in Tilburg, Netherlands, another fractious show saw guitarist Jason Hook throwing his instrument down and Ivan saying it was his last show with the band, before again entering rehab. They’re currently in the studio working on their eighth record, hopefully followed by a drama-free tour.
6. Motörhead: Another Perfect Tour, 1983
In five years, Motörhead’s classic Lemmy/Philthy/Fast Eddie line-up took the band from rock’s mangiest underdogs into an era of sold-out tours, No.1 albums and hit singles. This perfectly matched band of brothers thrived on volatility, but when tensions came to a head and Eddie walked out in May 1982, a stand-in was needed
Within a week, ex-Thin Lizzy hellraiser and wah-wah wizard Brian ‘Robbo’ Robertson had joined Motörhead on a US tour, but this was not the guitarist anyone was expecting – even before Robbo cut his hair into a dyed-red bouffant, and revealed a penchant for wearing headbands, mesh vests, satin shorts and ballet shoes onstage.
“All that shit about being dressed differently, all the wearing of stupid shorts, it was just to get at me,” Lemmy later explained to Classic Rock. “Or make sure everybody knew he wasn’t in Motörhead, just a featured guest artist, doing us a favour from the great heights as a Thin Lizzy guitar player.”
Worse, Robbo’s narky attitude extended to refusing to play much-loved hits live; punters screaming for Ace Of Spades, Overkill, Motörhead or Bomber in 1983 went home disappointed. This line-up’s sole artistic collaboration, the daringly polished and melodic Another Perfect Day LP, gradually settled into its status as a bold Motörclassic, but the ensuing Another Perfect Tour arrested Motörhead’s momentum, compromising earlier successes.
Dates and attendances were down on previous jaunts, while the stage show was drastically reduced, the iconic Bomber lighting rig scrapped. By the end of the year Robbo was gone, and Philthy soon followed to join him in a new band, Operator, which never materialised. Lemmy was left to pick up the pieces, and win back some approval from a fanbase almost cut in half by the controversies of 1983.
7. Death: Torture Over Europe Tour, 1990
Chuck Schuldiner spent seven years obsessively progressing Death from adolescent din-makers to the cutting edge of a musical force thriving in their wake. Approaching burnout on 1990’s Spiritual Healing US tour, the stricken frontman announced he couldn’t continue into the European leg.
Drummer Bill Andrews and bassist Terry Butler controversially opted to tour without Death’s charismatic bandleader, with drum tech Louie Carrisalez on vocals, to general bemusement and cries of “Where’s Chuck?”
Chuck was painted as an unreliable prima donna, but back then mental health wasn’t much discussed or understood. Chuck confronted it head-on in Thrash ’n Burn mag in 1991:
“I could see why they might’ve been angry, I mean, of course they’re angry,” reasoned the frontman, “but when you’re in such a confused state of mind, and you feel depressed, and you’re being consumed by depression, all I knew was I had to do something for myself for once.”
8. Iron Maiden: Ozzfest tour, 2005
August 20, 2005: Iron Maiden are co-headlining Ozzfest with Black Sabbath in San Bernardino, California. As their set unfolds, the band are bombarded from the front rows of the outdoor auditorium, with eggs, bottle caps and ice. Meanwhile, someone keeps switching the PA off in the middle of the performance.
It swiftly transpires that Sharon Osbourne is pissed off with Bruce Dickinson for making unsubtle onstage digs at Ozzy Osbourne’s reality TV career earlier in the tour. The result? All-out war. Unfortunately for Sharon, Iron Maiden are not a band inclined to back down.
As missiles rain down, Bruce Dickinson and Steve Harris
stand proudly at the front of the stage, defiant to the last. When Maiden play The Trooper, it’s so intense it sounds like Slayer. And when Sharon comes out after Maiden’s set to rant about Bruce’s behaviour, she is roundly booed by thousands of punters, many of whom head for the exit before Sabbath’s set. Oops.
9. Deicide: The Second Coming Tour, 1992
During an NME interview to promote the Satanic death metallers’ UK tour, Deicide frontman Glen Benton shot a squirrel. Death threats quickly poured in from pro-critter terrorist group Animal Militia; following a minor bomb blast at a gig in Stockholm, a missive bragged “Not even Satan himself will protect you once you set foot in England.”
Deicide’s label Roadrunner bravely stood with their band, quipping, “Look how many albums Elvis Presley sold after he died!” The Manchester venue was evacuated after a bomb scare, but happily Glen remains under Satan’s protection to this day.
However, our Glen also remains a bit of a Shit Tour magnet. In 2013 a maniac ran wild with a box-cutter at a show in Texas; Broken Hope were kicked off the tour, venting personal insults at Glen via the press. Two years later, Deicide ended up the only band on the ironically named ‘Metal Alliance Tour’, after three others cancelled. Awkward…
10. Threatin: Breaking The World, 2018
Really, if you hadn’t heard about this one, where were you? In 2018, LA-based frontman Jered Threatin recruited a bunch of young musicians for his band and promised them a European tour; they would get to live out their rock’n’roll dreams playing to a devoted overseas crowd.
It almost sounded too good to be true. It was. No one showed up to see Threatin, and rumours began to circulate online that something rather strange was going on at venues across the country. Meanwhile, the band did some digging online and discovered accusations that he had faked his fanbase.
Guitarist Joe Prunera, bassist Gavin Carney and drummer Dane Davis quit the band and flew home, while Jered claimed it had all been an elaborate set-up to gain publicity, and that we were part of the “illusion”.
Joe and Dane successfully sued for money they lost on the road, while Threatin finally arrived in The UK in November 2019. It was, uhm, unusual.