controversial concert toronto

The 5 most controversial concerts in Toronto history

The recent controversy involving Action Bronson's free show at NXNE was the subject of much debate, but it's hardly the first time that Toronto has played host to fierce debate about the appropriateness of a performer or show. There's a long history of controversial concerts in Toronto.

These are my picks for the five most scandalous concerts in Toronto history.

Alice Cooper - September 13, 1969
The Toronto Rock and Roll Revival concert was one of the most important events in the city's musical history for a number of reasons, not the least of which because it was one of John Lennon's first performances sans the Beatles. It also hailed the beginning of Alice Cooper's "shock-rock" glory days. As the story goes, a chicken found its way onto the stage and Cooper, assuming it could fly, threw it into the crowd, where it was promptly torn apart.

Teenage Head, December 1, 1978
On December 1, 1978, a show at the Horseshoe Tavern featuring some of Toronto's most infamous punk bands went nuts when the police intervened and a riot ensued. It was the end of the road for local promoters the Garys (a.k.a. Gary Topp and Gary Cormier), who inadvertently ensured that their final night at the Shoe was one to remember. The ensuing riot was filmed and released as "The Last Pogo," and is considered one of the era's defining moments.

Rough Trade - April 14, 1982
Carole Pope's band Rough Trade built quite the reputation for its on stage antics, which, amongst other things, involved the singer performing in bondage gear. At the 1982 Juno Awards the band was asked not to perform certain lyrics from their song "High School Confidential," as the song depicted putatively inappropriate lesbian lust. Pope performed the song anyway, belting out the controversial line: "She makes me cream my jeans / When she's coming my way."

Madonna - May 27-9, 1990
Dubbed by many as "The Queen of Controversy," Madonna certainly lived up to the title in her 1990 "Blond Ambition" tour stop in Toronto. Her performance of "Like A Virgin" featured a not-so-subtle faux masturbation scene, which had the Toronto Police threatening her arrest if she tried to attempt it live. It ended up being a fake threat, but the buzz was remarkable.

Eminem - October 26, 2000
Recent outrage against Action Bronson might seem strong, but it pales in comparison to what Eminem faced after the release of "Kill You," from his 2000 album "The Marshall Mathers EP." The song featured the fictional death of his ex-wife Kim, and was graphic enough that then-Attorney General Jim Flaherty famously tried to ban the rapper from Canada for "hate speech."

Correction (June 10): An earlier version of this article incorrectly listed Madonna's Blonde Ambition Toronto tour stop as August 6th. We apologize for the error.

Writing by Sarah Niedoba

Photo via Square Madonna


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