Is it OK to throw bottles at artists?

In today’s edition of The Sun, Jane Moore argues that Morrissey was wrong to walk out of his concert in Liverpool last weekend. He had started the gig and was on to the second song when a bottle, thrown by an audience member, hit him in the face.

Morrissey walked off and never came back to complete the concert.

Moore claims that ‘in her day’ the Sex Pistols actively encouraged missiles, and when she once saw The Damned you could see saliva dripping from the face of Dave Vanian – and it was not his own saliva. Clearly Moore is a punk aficionado and believes that the artist should accept whatever the audience (literally) throws at them. She claims Morrissey protests too much.

But is it really acceptable anymore for an audience to behave like this?

Back in the days that Jane Moore talks about, Joe Strummer ended up with hepatitis after a fan gobbed in his face. Is that really the kind of concert atmosphere we should look on with rose-tinted glasses?

I remember once seeing Buzzcocks and witnessing a beer can narrowly missing the face of singer Pete Shelley. He stopped playing for a moment and asked everyone in the crowd who was thinking about throwing something at the band to ‘do it now so we get it over with’… hundreds, maybe thousands, of missiles suddenly rained upon the stage. Then the gig carried on… and there were no more beer cans lobbed at the band.

Because, in practical and rather obvious terms, it’s dangerous. The artist is usually facing lights and can’t see missiles as they approach. The crowd has an unfair advantage in targeting a singer on stage half-blinded by a number of spotlights. Most venues these days prevent glass from being brought inside or purchased, but a plastic beer bottle that’s mostly full weighs about half a kilo. Try getting someone to throw a half kilo weight at your face and see if it’s a laughing matter.

Add to that the fact that a concert stage is jammed full of electrical equipment and wires. It’s no fun for the roadies and engineers to try breaking up the show when all their equipment is covered in beer, water, and whatever else… and it may even be positively shocking. For a band lower down the food chain than Morrissey, that may be the only amplifier they can afford and to have someone chucking a pint of lager on it could be a financial disaster that messes up their next gig.

I understand Jane Moore’s sentiment, but I don’t think she has really thought it through. Or maybe she is commenting as someone who used to attend concerts and has not been to a gig in decades, so it would never affect her anyway.

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