Thirty Years Ago, Elton John Was Forced Offstage By a Swarm of Crickets

(Not the actual insects who rained on Elton John's parade.)
(Not the actual insects who rained on Elton John's parade.) / (Elton John Photo) Michael Putland/Hulton Archive via Getty Images; (Insects and background) Minasse Wondimu Hailu/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Thanks to security guards and crowd barriers, super-famous rock musicians playing massive venues rarely need to worry about stage invaders. Unless, of course, the trespassers are coming from the air, as they were during one very unusual Elton John concert in 1993.

On Friday, February 19, 1993, at the National Tennis Centre in Melbourne, Australia, John and his band found themselves beset by a swarm of crickets. According to Reuters, who identified the offending bugs as grasshoppers, the six-legged creatures landed “in the singer’s hair, clothes, and mouth.” They also crawled “over backing singers, musical instruments, and the audience.” Elton was forced to cut the concert short by 30 minutes and split before doing an encore.

“You try working at your desk covered in insects,” Elton’s publicist, Patti Mostyn, told Australia’s The Age. “I think this is out of perspective. He is one of the world’s major performers and he came to Australia to do a concert. He doesn’t just walk off for the hell of it.”

According to The Age, the common black field cricket was to blame for the evening’s disturbance. Conditions in the summer of 1993 had apparently been just right for this critter, as wet weather early in the season had given way to “hot and windy weather that animated the crickets,” the paper reported.

As for why the crickets targeted the “Tiny Dancer” singer, it was really quite simple: The stage was well lit. In advance of John’s concert at the same venue the following night, a team of pest control experts fumigated the grounds. This was mostly a precautionary move, as Friday’s unusual weather was the cause of the incident—not any underlying infestation. In any event, the second show seems to have been a bug-free affair.

Funnily enough, John and his road crew were slated to take part in a game of—get this—cricket on the day of the second concert. Perhaps not surprisingly, Elton scrapped the event.