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The Ten Most Controversial Live Performances

Last updated on: May 23, 2012 14:14 IST

The Ten Most Controversial Live Performances

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As many of you might be aware, Lady Gaga's Born This Way tour is passing currently through Indonesia, where the government is trying hard to censor her, to call her names and to stop the show, but the singer's carrying on quite impressively.

From Gaga to the Rolling Stones, we take a look at some truly controversial shows over the years:

Lady Gaga in Indonesia, May 2012

Known for her outrageous costumes and over-the-top theatricality, Lady Gaga's concerts have always been excessive and frequently scandalous, but the Indonesian government -- calling her "anti-God," "a pornographic icon" and saying that she looks "like a devil worshipper" while performing -- tried hard to cancel her current concerts but Gaga rebelled emotionally.

The resulting media storm has ensured the concerts go on now, but the Indonesian government is very tentative indeed.


Image: Lady Gaga
Photographs: Jemal Countess/Getty Images

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Elton John in Florida, 2010

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One of the most flamboyant homosexuals in show business, Sir Elton John is an icon revered for his candour.

Therefore, it shocked many around the world when John played at the wedding of American political commentator Rush Limbaugh, a man often lambasted for being homophobic.

John pocketed a cool $2 million for the event, money which has since gone to the Elton John Foundation for AIDS.


Image: Elton John
Photographs: Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

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Jennifer Lopez in Moscow, 2006

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Telman Ismailov, a Russian tycoon who was said to have 'owned' Russia's largest black market, loved celebrities and brought in J Lo for his 2006 birthday party.

The show took a while to go on, and Lopez -- furious to be kept waiting till midnight -- asked to be paid $200,000 for every half hour she had to wait.

Ismailov agreed instantly, and in the end Lopez walked away with $1.4 million for a ten-minute performance.


Image: Jennifer Lopez
Photographs: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

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Mariah Carey in Libya, 2009

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Wikileaks informed us last year that Mariah Carey had played a private performance in Libya for dictator Muammar Quaddafi's son's New Year Bash, back in 2009.

She was paid a million dollars for her show, and it has since come to light that Beyonce and Usher also performed for the dictator the year before.

Following the revelations, the artists have since donated the performance proceeds to charity.


Image: Mariah Carey
Photographs: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

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ABBA tribute band in Russia, 2009

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Bjorn Again, a popular British ABBA tribute band, went on record claiming they were taken to Lake Valdai, near Moscow, for a private concert for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

With an audience that "consisted of Putin, a blonde woman and six men in tuxedos," the band made headlines but Putin's people -- the President was the PM of Russia at the time -- denied the concert ever happened.

"I have no doubt that he likes some music of ABBA," said Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, "but he simply wasn't there."


Image: ABBA


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Janet Jackson at the Superbowl, 2004

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It's America's most-watched annually televised event, and half-time show at the Superbowl has always been about the spectacle.

Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson ensured it was unforgettable in 2004, though, when Timberlake, being all breathy and suggestive -- "I'll have you naked by the end of this song," he sang -- ripped off a part of Jackson's outfit, but clearly more than was planned, exposing her right breast.

Nipplegate made Jackson's career nosedive (though it must be noted that Timberlake escaped pretty much unscathed) and the halftime show has since been tamer than ever.


Image: Janet Jackson
Photographs: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

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The Dixie Chicks in London, 2003

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Back when George W Bush was President, these spunky Southern girls told a London audience that they weren't fans.

Singer Natalie Maines said, "Just so you know, we're ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas."

The band's career was instantly derailed with hundreds of radio stations refusing to play their music, fans crushing CDs in bulldozers and even death threats.

So much for freedom of speech, huh?


Image: The Dixie Chicks
Photographs: ShowBizIreland.com/Getty Images

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The Manic Street Preachers in Cuba, 2001

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Wearing their socialist political ideas on their sleeves -- and indeed, on their lyrics and album covers from time to time -- the Preachers were proud to become the first Western rock band to ever perform in Cuba.

Meeting Fidel Castro before the show, the rockers warned him that the show was going to be very loud. Castro's response was perfect: "It cannot be louder than war, can it?"

The show went well but polarised the band's fans, with their fanbase dwindling considerably.


Image: The Manic Street Preachers
Photographs: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

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Sinead O'Connor in New York, 1990

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Performing for the Saturday Night Live television show in New York, O'Connor was in militant mood from the start.

She played a cover of Bob Marley's song War, but tweaked the lyrics -- changing the word 'racism' to 'child abuse' -- to target the sexual abuse carried out by the Roman Catholic Church.

As the song ended, she tore up a picture of Pope John Paul II, while telling the audience to "fight the real enemy." The phone lines went crazy, NBC was flooded with complaints, and the footage was never rebroadcast.


Image: Sinead O'Connor
Photographs: Jason Kempin/Getty Images

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The Rolling Stones in Altamont, 1969

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Finally, a truly grim night.

All the other so-called controversial concerts fade into insignificance next to this Californian nightmare. The Altamont Speedway Free Festival, organised by the Stones and featuring a great lineup of other artists, was hyped as the Woodstock of the West before the event.

Management for the Stones decided to use the infamous local biker gang, the Hell's Angels, to look over things as security, and they were promised payment in beer. This free beer had been drunk all day, and by the time the Rolling Stones took their place on stage, the Angels had been fighting the crowd with motorcycle chains.

Someone accidentally toppled one of their motorcycles, and this led to even greater violence, injuring performers as well as many members of the crowd. The Stones kept trying to calm the crowd -- and, more importantly, the Hell's Angels, who were now rampaging -- when 18-year-old Meredith Hunter from the audience drew a gun and was fatally stabbed by an Angel. It remains the darkest night in live music history.


Image: The Rolling Stones
Photographs: Getty Images

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