How do you make the show go on after a broken leg?
The blessing we give performers before they go onstage isn’t something we actually want to see happen. Nonetheless, stage injuries occur frequently, and in some cases, severely, as when Patti Smith fell 15 feet into a concrete orchestra pit in 1977 and broke several vertebrae in her back. “I felt like an asshole,” she told Circus magazine, “but my doctor told me not to worry, it happens to everybody.”
Maybe not everybody, but when the Foo Fighters played Gothenburg, Sweden in 2015, Dave Grohl took a major spill from the front of the stage, breaking his leg, while a crowd of 52,000 people watched. They also watched as, several minutes later, his crew carried him back onstage while the rest of the band fittingly played Queen’s “Under Pressure.”
The fall happened during the second song of the show, and Grohl returned to play the entire 26-song set, his doctor kneeling next to him, holding his leg together.
It didn’t hurt until I wound up on my couch in my hotel room, with a beer in my hand. They gave me some really strong painkillers—I never take pills, but within half an hour I was like, “Get me the f—ing Oxys right now, man!” It was pretty painful. And then I thought I could just get up and do a show a week later after surgery, but I literally could not get out of bed for about six or seven days. It was so f—ing painful. I had never experienced anything like that in my life.
With his leg in a cast, he determined that the band would make their Fourth of July show in Washington, DC, a return to Grohl’s hometown. “I started thinking… ‘I might not be able to get onstage next week,’” he told Entertainment Weekly, “‘but I’m not missing that Fourth of July show, and if that goes OK then we’re just going to keep going.’” The gig went so well the band kept touring, Grohl perched in a specially-designed stage throne.
“I love my job,” Grohl said, “I mean, f–, I’m out there with a broken leg and a plate and pins in a bone and I can’t even stand up, but I still want to get on stage and play, with my family. We’re not breaking up anytime soon, that would be like your grandparents getting a divorce.” There’s no shame in taking it easy after an injury, but if you’re a dedicated performer who lives onstage, you might heal even faster if you don’t. At the time, Grohl epitomized another old cliche — if you love what you do, you won’t have to work a day in your life, even when you have to work with a broken leg. Watch the fall just above and the triumphant return minutes later at the top of the post. Below you can see the reunion with the doctor who held his leg together.
Grohl’s fall, and other moments, get revisited in his new memoir, The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music.