A huge rubber Satan
Has started inflatin'.
He towers up over the drums.
Pyrotechnics and stuff
Give a blast loud enough
To rattle your teeth from your gums.
This incredible set
Is the best vision yet
Of our stage designer's craft.
And it helps to distract
The crowd from the fact
That the music is really quite daft.
— Mitch Benn,
"Never Mind The Song (Look At The Stage Set)"
Hard rock bands, and especially "Hair Metal" bands, with their aura of "Greek gods walking the earth," sometimes have a rather unfortunate tendency to rely heavily upon special effects such as fog, lasers or, more commonly, Impressive Pyrotechnics
in their videos and stage shows. It's as much about the visual BANG
as it is the music, sometimes more so — anything to perpetuate the notion that these beings are so far above and beyond us mere mortal music consumers that they actually alter the very nature of the universe
This attention to visual detail can be partly blamed on MTV, which transmogrified music from an audio medium to a visual one in the 1980s. Suddenly everything bright and flashy
was in, anything simple and straightforward
was right out; and as MTV grew in influence, music video budgets rose accordingly, allowing bands to afford more spectacular effects. That meant more explosions
Of course, nowadays we look back on those days long gone, and remember only the teased hairdos
and the flashing lights and Roman candles
. The music? Not so much
Oh, but don't misunderstand. Special effects in hard rock videos are very much here to stay
. Now with 100% more Bullet Time
and less 80s-style spark factories
Of course, not everything is about fire and bombs. Some bands, in an attempt to make a memorable video or concert experience, might take a trip into the outre with weird stage shows, odd props, or bizarre dramatizations with members of the band, roadies or even the audience. When it comes down to making sure you come back next year to see what they'll do, nothing is off limits.
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Note: It should be emphasized that the presence or absence of theatrics or special effects does not necessarily equate with the absence or presence of musical ability, nor vice-versa; the two can co-exist quite comfortably. This article is intended to have a light tone; let's keep it that way, shan't we?
- The Butthole Surfers love using these kind of effects in shows for serious Squick. Naked dancer, drum with a strobe light in it, films of such things as penis reconstruction surgery and gory driver's education films... apparently, Gibby Haynes and Paul Leary even had sex on stage once.
- During her 2003 live tour, Björk used firethrowers as a musical instrument(!)
- If you want to see this trope embodied to the fullest in music video form, watch the one for Skillet's "Hero". It consists of two things: random closeup shots of cops, firemen, marines and social workers ("heroes", you see) and the band playing in front of massive explosion after massive explosion. Oh, and it's raining for over half the video as well, but that doesn't stop all those GBOFs from going off undoused. To top it off, after cycling through every type of pyro in the rock and roll inventory, the video ends with a fucking mushroom cloud.
- Perhaps the grand-pappy of this would be the 1812 Overture where outside performances sometimes use real artillery pieces for the bit with the cannon fire. (Da-dadadada-da-da-BOOM!)
- Well, the piece was written to have Cannonfire included. None of this "let's add the theatrics afterwards" pandering.
- The Music for the Royal Fireworks by Georg Friedrich Händel is an inversion of this trope, with the piece especially composed to accompany a great firework in London's Green Park in 1749. It is today still often used as background music to fireworks performances.
- Garth Brooks's concerts had some very impressive pyrotechnics, particularly at the Live in Central Park concert in 1997, where they set a spotlight on fire. Understandable, as he counted Queen as one of his inspirations.
- E Nomine's "Die Prophezeiung" video is a huge dramatization of the entire disc's lyrics, which range from satanist cults to cursed souls walking the earth.
Hard Rock/Heavy Metal
- Aversion: Not to mention every folk singer ever, but special mention must go to José Gonzalez, whose performances tend to be so quiet and unobtrusive that a journalist once described them as "anti-gig"s.
- Indian singer Daler Mehndi uses this in his "Tunak Tunak Tun" video. At one point, he even picks up a CGI fireball and throws it at the camera.
- Conversely, some of his other videos (such as "Shaa Ra Ra") consist entirely of a still picture of him with the music playing in the background, and no movement at all.
- In his video for "Just A Gigolo/I Ain't Got Nobody", David Lee Roth parodies many videos and video tropes, including a pyro going off and setting the guitar player on fire.
- Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's intro song, the aptly named "Eternal Blaze" by Nana Mizuki, will always be accompanied by bursts of flames shooting all around her whenever she performs it on a live concert.
- Michael Jackson was well-known for using pyrotechnics, as well as dance moves (obviously), costumes changes, and trap doors. At the end of each concert during the Dangerous Tour he switched places with a stunt double who flew off in a real jet pack. Never mind that in 1984, during the making of a Pepsi commercial, a loose spark hit Michael's hair and engulfed him in flames before crew members smothered it.
- Pyrotechnics became so ubiquitous in the mid- to late-80s that at the 1987 MTV Music Video Awards, a bomb blast was used during the performance of Los Lobos' "La Bamba." "La frickin' Bamba," people!
- And don't forget Pink Floyd's "flying pig."
- Variations have included a flying hospital bed and an actual (model) airplane, which — yes — crashed into the stage and exploded.
- Roger Waters has included this in his shows after going solo as well; at one outdoor gig, he actually recreated the crashing model airplane by having his personal jet buzz the audience.
- Even Elvis Presley wasn't immune, and he died four years (almost to the day) before MTV.
- All live Paul McCartney versions of "Live and Let Die" include explosions. What sort depends on the show: the pyrotechnics have ranged from smoke pots to huge rocket firecrackers. On occasion, the huge rockets had been placed dangerously close to the piano Paul was using—though clearly nothing's gone wrong on that front yet.
- Muse. That's what we need to say.
- Famous aversion: Dire Straits deliberately avoided on-stage theatrics during their shows. When they played small venues, they often turned the volume down so people could talk to each other.
- In an early example, a 1967 performance by The Who on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour was capped off by Keith Moon igniting a pyrotechnic charge he'd smuggled inside his bass drum. The charge, which Moon had made himself, proved so powerful that it temporarily blacked out the studio cameras and singed Pete Townshend's hair, and the sudden explosion caused Bette Davis to faint backstage.
- Ok Go are the geeky subtrope. Pyrotechnics, no. Spectacular setpieces, oh yes.
- While U2 have never used actual pyrotechnics, when your stages look◊ like◊ THIS◊, you don't need 'em.
- Similarly, David Bowie's Diamond Dogs Tour (1974) and Glass Spider Tour (1987) each received a lot of hype for their huge sets. The former's set was so expensive that the cost figured into the choice to dispense with it halfway through the tour. The latter tour, with its mega-set combined with an eccentric dance troupe and stage antics that included Bowie flying about at one point, was seen as over-the-top even by the standards of The Eighties.
- Just take one look at the "Famous Last Words" music video by My Chemical Romance. Wow.
- In the movie biography of Jerry Lee Lewis (titled Great Balls Of Fire), he's depicted as setting a piano on fire during a performance of the eponymous song after finding out that Chuck Berry's contract stipulated that he, not Lewis, would be the closing act, then walking off and telling Berry "Follow that". However, this should perhaps be in the fictional category below: Lewis himself says he never set a piano on fire, though he did indicate that the idea appealed to him.