The Pre-Show Rituals of 11 Famous Musicians
Whether it’s a matter of superstition or an attempt to create a sense of normalcy when sleeping in a new city every night, some of the world’s biggest bands and musicians turn into creatures of habit while they’re on the road. From shots of Jägermeister to a wood-burning ceremony, here are the pre-show rituals of some of your favorite artists.
1. FRISBEE // WEEZER
Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo and bassist Scott Shriner take a few minutes before every show to throw a Frisbee between them. “It helps warm up our hands, concentrate our minds, and get us in our own little world,” Cuomo revealed during a Reddit AMA.
2. SHEPHERD’S PIE // THE ROLLING STONES
Although The Rolling Stones have plenty of strange requests on their touring rider, such as cable or satellite television so that they can watch cricket matches, one of the band’s most bizarre requirements is a shepherd’s pie for guitarist Keith Richards. The rock icon loves the dish and will not go onstage unless he’s eaten one with an unbroken pie crust (he likes to break the crust himself). Richards once refused to perform when he discovered that the band’s security team ate his shepherd’s pie. He delayed the concert until a new one was made and served to him. Now that’s rock ‘n’ roll!
3. JÄGERMEISTER & MICHAEL JACKSON TUNES // FOO FIGHTERS
For good luck before every show, the Foo Fighters listen and dance to Michael Jackson songs while taking shots of Jägermeister. “Some bands pray to God they’ll have the best show of their lives,” explained frontman Dave Grohl. “Some bands huddle in a rugby scrum and yell, ‘Go team!’ We listen to Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall and do Jäger bombs, which are Dave Lee Roth juice. If you want to be Dave Lee Roth onstage, you need at least four Jäger bombs to get you there.”
4. GROUP RALLYING CRY // RIHANNA
During Rihanna’s 777 Tour in 2012, the pop star included an assortment of liquor and junk food on her tour rider, such as one package of Oreos and a box of Golden Grahams cereal. She likes to drink Grey Goose vodka with fruit juice before taking the stage. But before every show, Rihanna huddles all of her backup dancers and musicians into a circle, where they all lock hands in prayer and solidarity. Just before showtime, they put their hands in the middle of the circle and raise them to the ceiling, as they yell out a rallying cry.
“We always look forward to prayer with her because that’s when we know where she’s at and whether she needs that little bit extra that night,” said guitarist Nuno Bettencourt. “We don’t just do it as a ritual; it’s more like looking at each other and feeling each other out.”
5. HOT TEA & IRONING // LED ZEPPELIN
Although Led Zeppelin was known for being at the center of many outrageous tour shenanigans during the 1970s, including trashing hotel rooms and throwing TV sets out of windows, they've mellowed out over the decades. Instead of finding drugs, alcohol, or groupies backstage, frontman Robert Plant prefers to get ready for a performance with a mug of hot tea and freshly-pressed shirts and slacks that he ironed himself. Plant believes the ritual helps him get “in the mood.”
“They’ve asked for cups of tea and coffee. We’ll have some beer and a bottle of wine for them backstage but they have said they require very little,” concert promoter Harvey Goldsmith told The Telegraph in 2007.
6. ROTISSERIE CHICKEN // JOHN LEGEND
While on tour, John Legend sings for two hours straight for five days a week. Taking care of his vocals is his priority, so he stays away from alcohol and drinks plenty of water. The singer also eats half a rotisserie chicken before every performance.
7. PRAYERS & MASSAGE CHAIRS // BEYONCÉ
In 2013, during the Mrs. Carter Show World Tour, Beyoncé explained that in order to ease stress and help ensure a great performance, she spends a few hours relaxing before each show. “I say a prayer with everyone in the band, then we do a stretch,” she said. “I sit in my massage chair while they do my hair and make-up and I have an hour of peace and I have a playlist that I listen to every day.”
8. A GROUP HUG // COLDPLAY
British rock band Coldplay believes in having a quiet moment before they step in front of tens of thousands of adoring fans. “Before we play live we have a little moment where we’re just quiet, and [have a] supportive group hug,” lead singer Chris Martin revealed. Furthermore, Martin has his own way of getting ready before a successful show: “For me, there are about 18 things I have to do before I can go out to perform—most of them are too ridiculous to repeat! One is I have to brush my teeth before I go on stage, otherwise I just don’t feel smart enough.”
9. WHISKY & A LATIN CHANT // LEONARD COHEN
Before singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen takes the stage, he likes to prepare with a whisky to calm his nerves. He also sings a Latin phrase—“Pauper sum ego, nihil habeo”—as he walks to the stage with his backup singers and band. The phrase translates to “I am poor, I have nothing.”
10. A NAP & SOME BERRIES // LORDE
Recording artist Lorde prepares for a big show with a nap and a light meal of berries or seaweed. Lorde also admits that she gets really nervous before each performance, so sleeping with her lucky blanket and eating a small meal calms her down beforehand.
“Usually before a gig I have a sleep in my dressing room under a blanket I take everywhere with me,” the 19-year old singer told The Guardian. “I eat some berries or some dried nori (which I get all over my face) in place of dinner, because a couple of hours before the performance, my stomach starts heaving and I feel like I’m going to throw up—even when I’m not that nervous.”
11. WOOD-BURNING // MUMFORD & SONS
The members of Mumford & Sons gather around burning Palo Santo wood backstage just before performing. The band uses the South American wood to help them ease nerves and relieve sore throats. Frontman Marcus Mumford contends that the fumes from the charred wood are the only thing that seem to help his regular pre-show headaches. Palo Santo wood is Spanish for “Holy Wood” or “Tree of Life” and is believed by many to clear bad energy and bring good luck.