Rammstein’s fiery cauldron
German industrial metallers Rammstein have become world-infamous for their pyrotechnic-fuelled, provocative stage props. For their earliest shows, the band would just pour petrol around the stage and set it ablaze, but their budgets and prop quality had rocketed by the time of their 2004-5 Ahoi tour. Sharpest prop of this set was the onstage cooking pot, in which mic/knife-wielding frontman Til Lindemann appeared to flambé keyboardist Flake Lorenz with a flame-thrower – while singing their cannibal-themed ‘love song’ Mein Teil, naturally.
Pink Floyd arguably set the benchmark for theatrical stage props; their helium-filled porcine icon was originally created in 1976 (with the help of artist-designers Jeffrey Shaw and Hipgnosis) for the band’s Animals album cover art. Since 1977, the flying pig prop has been a staple of Floyd live shows, and it continues to appear in various incarnations (and scrawled with different slogans) at modern gigs by both the David Gilmour-fronted Pink Floyd and estranged former bandmate Roger Waters. The giant flying piggy has made a break for freedom on more than one occasion – in 2008, it floated into the Cali desert during Waters’s Coachella set and festival organisers offered a $10,000 reward for its safe return.
The P-Funk Mothership
Way-out funk/soul/rock pioneer George Clinton and his legendary collective Parliament-Funkadelic first launched their full-scale UFO prop during concerts to promote their 1975 album, Mothership Connection. The lavish live Mothership, replete with flashing lights and sci-fi sounds, would land on stage to deliver Dr Funkenstein, aka Clinton, to the masses. Soaring costs meant that the original P-Funk Mothership was retired from service (apparently it was dumped in a Maryland junkyard) but in 2011, a 1,200lb aluminium replica was acquired for the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture.
Madonna’s levitating hobby horse
By the 21st century, Madonna had sealed her rep as a show-stopping performer, but she could still spring some surprises. Her 2006 Confessions tour featured a massive discoball pod, parkour dancers and a mirrored crucifix – but perhaps the most impressive prop of all was Madge’s one-woman carousel/hobby horse, which she rode while singing Like a Virgin and performing yoga and pole-dancing moves above the crowd. Good going for anyone, especially a star approaching her 50th year.
Bono’s stadium rockers paid homage to the P-Funk Mothership while creating their own consumer satire for the Popmart world tour in 1997-8. Its elaborate stage set, created with Willie Williams and Mark Fisher, included a 40ft mirrorball lemon (with a nod to their track of the same title), designed to split open and reveal the band for their encore. Unfortunately this occasionally malfunctioned, trapping the quartet inside the giant fruit while the baffled crowds waited – less of a grand finale, more of a sour note.
Mötley Crüe’s drum rollercoaster