Persian and Oriental Rugs in Rock Shows

With seats way up at the ACC for Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck's concert in Toronto (Feb 2010), I had a great view of the oriental rug Clapton uses on stage. I saw the rug rolled out on stage during the setup. It had it's own long narrow tube from which the road crew slid it out. From a distance it appeared thin and light. Possibly an Ardebil or Caucasian.

The Persian rug as a stage prop at rock shows has been around for a long time, and Clapton has used one for years. In an interview in 2001 he said, referring to the rug, "Very expensive – ten thousand dollars – hand woven. It’s a new one. Positioning of the rug is critical (laughs). The rug came about because we were getting static."

The earlist reference I could come up with regarding the use of oriental rugs at rock shows is Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young in 1970 when they played the Filmore West. There is a hilarious reference to this in Bill Grahams book "Bill Graham Presents: My Life Inside Rock and Out"... about bickering with the band over the use and placement of the rug.

In 1974 Emerson Lake and Palmer used a Persian rug on the stage. Greg Lake claims it "cost me a small fortune....I use it to keep from being electrocuted on the stage!”. So it seems there may be a practical reason for the rugs being there.

The Greateful Dead always performed with many Persian rugs on stage. One in particular was a Persian panel tree of life type.

Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones is a major collector of fine oriental rugs and band mate Jagger owns a 16th century Persian rug. I could not find any reference to the Stones using Persian rugs on stage. They did not when I saw them circa 1975.

Meanwhile back stage, Elton John insisted on large "non-leather sofas to relax on with fine Persian carpets underfoot".

More recently U2 uses a bunch of Persian rugs in the video for "Beautiful Day". The rugs are spread over an airport runway as a plane takes off overhead. They also use oriental rugs all over the studio floor. Robert Plant and Allison Krauss used a "a surreal backdrop of nine Persian rugs of a quality normally found hanging on the walls of the Victoria & Albert Museum" at a concert last year at the Wembley Arena in London.

Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam used a round Persian rug for his solo tour in 2008.

The metal band Lamb of God uses 4 black rugs with the band's logo on them.

Ottmar Liebert uses rugs on the stage when he performs.

I'm sure there are many more examples.

By John Farr


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