The 22 Wildest Onstage Moments of 2022
As the pandemic finally began to recede, 2022 saw the complete return of concerts and touring.
The only people likely more excited than fans about the return of live music were the rock acts themselves. Seemingly every major artist headed back on the road full of gusto, playing to audiences all around the globe.
There were plenty of memorable onstage moments, including reunions, mishaps, collaborations and fist fights. One of music's biggest stars got married during a concert, while another pulled down his pants and mooned thousands of fans. We recap these and more in our list of the 22 wildest onstage moments of 2022:
March 17: Duran Duran's Rooftop Concert
Duran Duran delivered a 12-song set on the rooftop of the Aster, a members club and hotel in the heart of Hollywood. The performance was held just weeks after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and in view of the nearby Capitol Records building, which was illuminated with the blue and yellow colors of the Ukrainian flag. “We are appealing to our fans in Russia to have an open heart and to support peace,” John Taylor said in an official statement. “We are all hoping you can get back to an ‘Ordinary World.’” Footage from the rooftop concert was later released as part of Duran Duran's documentary film, A Hollywood High.
Read More: Duran Duran Play Hollywood Rooftop Show
March 26: Genesis Play Their Last Show
Genesis brought their farewell tour to a close in March with a concert at London’s O2 Arena. The Last Domino? dates had already been postponed by the pandemic, with the final show taking place more than two years after the trek was originally announced. Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks celebrated the band’s long and impressive career with a 23-song performance. Included were classic tracks from their prog-rock era – including “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)” and “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway” – as well as pop hits like “Invisible Touch” and “I Can’t Dance.” Making the night extra special, former frontman Peter Gabriel was on hand to take in the show.
March 30: Wolfgang Power Trio
As the old saying goes, the show must go on. That’s exactly what Wolfgang Van Halen’s band Mammoth WVH did during a tour stop in New Jersey. The five-piece group was down to just three members on the night. "This is fun; this is interesting. It's dangerous," Van Halen told the crowd early in the show. "You don't know what's going to fucking happen, right?" Sure enough, Mammoth WVH more than held their own as a power trio. The night also featured an especially poignant moment when Van Halen performed a solo acoustic rendition of "Distance," a tribute to his late father Eddie Van Halen.
April 6: Backing Tracks Go Wrong
Santa Cruz found themselves in the center of controversy after footage of the hard rock band clearly performing with a pre-recorded vocal track went viral. The clip drew the ire of musicians and media personalities alike on social media, who blasted the group's “blatant fakery.” Santa Cruz later insisted the whole thing was a publicity stunt. "Pro-tip: fuck up a track live on purpose & get a shit-ton of free publicity," frontman Archie Cruz argued.
April 8: Jack White Married Onstage
Fans in attendance at Jack White’s April concert in Detroit didn’t just see a show, they witnessed a wedding. White was was in the midst of performing the White Stripes’ 2001 single “Hotel Yorba” when he proposed to his girlfriend Olivia Jean, whose band opened the show earlier that night. When White returned for his encore, Jean, her father and White’s mother also came onstage. The couple then exchanged vows and were wed in front of the crowd, with Third Man Records co-founder Ben Swank serving as officiant.
May 12: Fan Fills in For Pearl Jam
Drummer Matt Cameron tested positive for COVID and was unable to perform during Pearl Jam’s tour stop in Oakland, so a trio of musicians stepped up to take his place. One was Josh Klinghoffer, the Pearl Jam touring member and former Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist. Another was Richard Stuverud, an Oakland-based drummer who's played in several side projects with Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament. But Cameron’s most unlikely substitute was Josh Arroyo, a local fan who Pearl Jam brought on stage to perform the closing song of the night, “Yellow Ledbetter.”
May 12: Metallica Group Hug
Even the world’s greatest rock stars doubt themselves sometimes, and James Hetfield has always been open about that. Metallica’s performance in Brazil found him detailing how bandmates helped during a recent tough time: "I've gotta tell you I wasn't feeling very good before I came out here,” Hetfield admitted. I was “feeling a little bit insecure, like I'm an old guy, can't play anymore – all this bullshit that I tell myself in my head. So I talked to these guys and they helped me, as simple as that. They gave me a hug and said, 'Hey, if you're struggling on stage, we've got your back.' And I tell you, it means the world to me." At that point, the others joined him for a group hug, cheered on by more than 60,000 fans. Metallica then proceeded to rock through a rendition of “Sad But True.”
May 15: The Who Return to Cincinnati
The Who returned to Cincinnati more than four decades after a stampede left 11 dead at Riverfront Coliseum. They honored the 1979 tragedy by playing a free charity concert, with many of the victim’s families in attendance. “I’ve been trying to think of what to say – what would be cool to say, what would be uncool to say,” Pete Townshend told the crowd. “There’s no words that we can say that can mean [as much as] the fact that you guys have come out tonight and supported this event. Thank you so much.” The poignant show included a rendition of “Love Reign O’er Me,” during which the 11 victims were shown on screen.
May 28: Vinnie Vincent Performs With Ace Frehley and Bruce Kulick
Kiss fans could be forgiven for doubting Vinnie Vincent would actually perform his announced set at the Creatures Fest in Nashville. After all, he'd become notorious for canceling recent appearances after being out of the limelight for the better part of two decades. Yet, Vincent dutifully took the stage in May in front of roughly 900 Kiss fans, opening with 15 minutes of fiery riffage before welcoming fellow Kiss alumni Bruce Kulick and Ace Frehley to join him for a few classics. The performance was briefly marred by a few technical problems, but that did little to dampen the excitement around Vincent’s return.
May 31: Judas Priest Hell Bent Without Leather
Judas Priest launched the European leg of their 2022 tour without their customary outfits. This club show in Germany also featured no stage design and no pyrotechnics – but they hadn't left behind their distinctive leather and studs for a public show since debuting the look in 1978. The sight of Rob Halford in jeans and a T-shirt may have been unusual, but it didn’t stop Judas Priest from delivering a typically incendiary set. “Last night in Berlin was glorious and something I’ve never done with the band before,” guitarist Richie Faulkner said the next day. “No leather, no studs. No screens, no motorbike. No massive light show or inflatable Birmingham bull. Exposed speakers, just jeans, T-shirts, a small club and it was all purely about the music – all of us together and the raw power of the music.”
June 23: Tracii Guns Performs in a Bathroom
Tracii Guns has long battled anxiety, though he's learned to control a lot of it. One trigger he still cannot handle, however, is heat. So, when L.A. Guns was scheduled to play a sweltering club in Plano, Texas in the middle of June, it appeared likely that Guns would have to sit out. That is, until bassist Johnny Martin came up with an ingenious idea. “I proposed that we find an air-conditioned spot near the stage – and … voila!” The band ran cables from the stage back to a nearby bathroom, where Guns could perform and interact in comfort. He even live streamed the set so fans could get a glimpse at his unique experience.
Aug. 2: Vince Neil Plays the Grand Ole Opry
The Grand Ole Opry is known for a long-standing connection to country music, but it occasionally welcomes performers from other genres – including Vince Neil. He took the venerable stage in August, delivering a rendition of Motley Crue ’s classic 1985 single “Home Sweet Home” that earned loud approval from the fans in attendance. Neil seemed honored to be included, tweeting about his excitement to be featured at the Opry.
Sept 7: Kane Roberts Returns to Alice Cooper
A familiar face joined Alice Cooper as he kicked off his fall tour in Bethlehem, Pa. Guitarist Kane Roberts returned to the lineup for the first time since 1988, serving as a replacement after Nita Strauss departed earlier in the year. Roberts' first reunion set lasted 23 songs, and featured the return of his famous machine gun guitar. Cooper celebrated the homecoming, proclaiming “the beast is back – Kane Roberts!” as the band took their bows.
Sept. 9: Tommy Lee Moons Fans
Tommy Lee offered a series of eyebrow-raising antics throughout Motley Crue’s highly successful Stadium Tour trek with Def Leppard. Spoiler alert: They all had something to do with nudity. After posting a naked picture of himself on social media, Lee began regularly encouraging fans at Motley Crue shows to expose their genitals. He offered to show the crowd his “wiener” at a stop in L.A., only to pull a dachshund out of his pants. Things inevitably hit their pinnacle at the final Stadium Tour stop in Las Vegas, where Lee announced he was joining the adult-streaming site OnlyFans by pulling down his pants and mooning the crowd.
Sept. 24: Nine Inch Nails Original Lineup Reunion
The original members of Nine Inch Nails came together for an unexpected reunion, as Richard Patrick, Chris Vrenna, Danny Lohner and Charlie Clouser joined Trent Reznor for show in Ohio. They performed alongside the current lineup, delivering the final six songs of the night – including “Wish,” “Sin” and “Head Like a Hole.” The concert took place one day after Nine Inch Nails members past and present took part in a fan day Q&A at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Sept. 27: Wolfgang Plays 'Panama' for Taylor Hawkins
In an August 2021 tweet, Wolfgang Van Halen said he honors his late father "by existing and doing what I do every day. I'm not fuckin' playing 'Panama' for you guys." Turns out, there was one exception to this rule. Van Halen delved into hits from his family’s namesake band at the Taylor Hawkins tribute concerts in London and then in Los Angeles. At the first show, Wolfgang delivered “On Fire” and “Hot for Teacher,” while “Panama” was an L.A.-only treat. In fact, his rendition of the 1984 hit was an unquestioned highlight on a night that featured some of rock’s brightest stars.
Oct. 17: Iron Maiden's Prop Plane Falls Flat
Things didn’t go according to plan for Iron Maiden during an October show in Worcester, Mass. Their closing song “Aces High” is typically accompanied by a World War II fighter plane emerging above the band on stage, but the typically impressive replica Spitfire stalled on the way. Anxious crew members tried to fix things, pulling and tugging on various support wires. When the prop still refused to deploy, they opted to remove it entirely from view. All the while, Iron Maiden continued playing.
Nov. 5: ZZ Top Bring Out the Big Bass
ZZ Top debuted a big addition to their band during a November stop in Huntsville, Ala., as bassist Elwood Francis pulled out a comically oversized instrument during the opening number, “Got Me Under Pressure” from 1983's Eliminator. "I was doing night internet searching [and] turned up a picture of this crazy 17-string bass,” Francis later explained. “I sent a picture to Billy [Gibbons] and we laughed about it and made some jokes about actually trying to use it. A few weeks later, after I had forgotten about it, Billy shows up with [the 17-string bass],” Francis added, describing the situation as “one of those ‘hold my beer’ moments."
Nov. 5: Dolly Parton Leads Hall of Fame Rendition of 'Jolene'
Some traditionalists may have bristled at Dolly Parton's induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but there’s no doubt she was the shining star of the this year's induction ceremony. Parton led an ensemble to close the star-studded event that included fellow inductees Rob Halford, Pat Benatar, Duran Duran's Simon Le Bon and Eurythmics' Annie Lennox through a rendition of “Jolene.” The sight of Judas Priest’s frontman earnestly vocalizing alongside a glittering Parton was worth the price of admission.
Nov. 22: Black Crowes Stage Invader
The Black Crowes ventured to Australia as they continued their Shake Your Money Maker tour, and the trip was not without incident. A rowdy fan attempted to get on stage as they performed the song “Stare it Cold” during a show in Melbourne. Security tried to apprehend the invader, before brothers Chris and Rich Robinson took matters into their own hands. Chris jabbed him with a mic stand before Rich bludgeoned the invader with his guitar. The fan was soon escorted out of the venue, and the Black Crowes restarted “Stare it Cold” once more.
Dec. 2: Pantera's Return
The remaining members of Pantera began touring again more than 20 years after their last concert. Frontman Phil Anselmo and bassist Rex Brown were joined by guitarist Zakk Wylde and drummer Charlie Benante, who took the place of deceased members "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott and Vinnie Paul. Pantera’s return began in December at the Hell & Heaven Metal Fest in Texcoco, Mexico, with more than 30,000 fans on hand to celebrate. They'll continue with extensive tours of Europe and North America into 2023.
Read More: Pantera Plays First Reunion Show
Dec. 8: Axl Rose Injures Fan With Microphone
Fan Rebecca Howe was apparently unaware of Axl Rose's habit of making mic-tossing farewells, and got badly injured during a November concert by Guns N' Roses. “He took a bow and then he launched the microphone out to the crowd … and then bang, right on the bridge of my nose,” she later reported. The incident apparently put a stop to the tradition. "You've heard of AA, right? I have to go to TA: Tossers Anonymous," Rose said at a subsequent concert, earning a wave of laughter and applause from the crowd. "Yes, it's true. It's a 12-step thing. I don't know what I'm on. I'm only at the beginning. The first step, you know, you've got to admit you have a problem. So, my name is Axl, and yes, I'm a tosser."