Amy Winehouse's Death: Moby Remembers Her Final Performance

moby 2011 black tee P
Matt Fried

The DJ recalls how "uncomfortable" her band was as "Amy was just standing there, swaying back and forth and mumbling occasionally," and that she was surrounded by people after she went back stage and laid down after being booed.

“after our show in serbia i wish i'd been able to help amy. i'm sorry.”

Moby posted this tweet on the evening of July 23, hours after news broke that Amy Winehouse was found dead in her London apartment. The popular DJ and dance-pop hitmaker was ostensibly the last musician she’d share a bill with: following the June 18 show at Belgrade’s Tuborg Festival, during which Winehouse slurred through her set to the echoes of boos from the 20,000-strong crowd, she would cancel the rest of her European tour.

Moby, whose new album Destroyed was released in May, still had to headline that night.

“The moment I got out of the car, I knew something was wrong,” Moby tells The Hollywood Reporter from a stop in Rome on Sunday night. “From backstage, I could hear the audience booing louder than the music.”

Making his way to the side of the stage while Winehouse was already on, Moby took in the troubling sight. “Amy was just standing there, swaying back and forth and mumbling occasionally,” he recalls. “The band were playing quietly and looking uncomfortable and the audience was looking on in disbelief.” He, too, could not believe his eyes.  

“She was on stage for about 30 minutes, then she left and was lying down on a flight case backstage surrounded by some people,” Moby continues. “I was horrified.”

As video of the performance painfully shows, Winehouse returned to the stage but struggled to get through songs like “Back to Black” and “Valerie,” which she had performed hundreds of times. After an hour, Winehouse was put in a car and rushed back to the hotel while the band played on without her in order to fulfill the contractual time obligation.

Moby, who has been sober for several years, wanted to check in on Winehouse ahead of the disastrous performance. “Since Amy had just gotten out of rehab, I had naively and presumptuously hoped to talk to her before or after her show to find out how she was feeling and to see if she needed any help,” he says. “There's a fairly extensive network of musicians on tour who are all trying to stay sober, and we generally reach out to each other and offer support when and where we can.”

That talk would never materialize, though Moby does note that before the show he “had seen her briefly at the hotel and she seemed relatively OK.”

In fact, he says he was reassured by festival producers that Winehouse would be able to perform. “Everyone involved said that she had been in rehab and was doing really well, so I was concerned, personally and professionally, but hopeful,” he says of the weeks leading up to the performance.

Of course, such a tragic and public display of crippling addiction makes one wonder: why didn’t anyone do something about it? “The problem for a lot of addicts is that alcohol and drugs are so unbelievably powerful and effective -- it's very hard to replace two things that work so well, if destructively, with sobriety, which at first can be kind of dull and foreign by comparison,” Moby attempts to explain. “It's especially hard when people are younger, as the consequences of their using are generally less severe. When I was in my twenties, I thought I was bulletproof. The hangovers only lasted a few hours, so there was no deeply compelling reason to get or stay sober.  It was only in my forties that the consequences of drinking and using became so bad that I realized I absolutely had to stop. Addicts love to drink and get high, and we'll employ any type of mental stratagem to enable ourselves.”

Asked if he saw any of his former self in Winehouse, Moby replies: “What I saw of myself in Amy was, simply, the love of drinking and using drugs and existing in a chemically altered state of consciousness.”

With the Forever 27 club in mind, one has to wonder whether the music business is partly to blame. Says Moby: “No one had to force me to drink and take drugs and no one else could have led me to get and stay sober.  It's sometimes too easy to point fingers when circumstances dramatically go awry, but as an addict, I'm ultimately responsible for my own decisions, no matter how benign or tragic the consequences.”

Moby took news of Winehouse’s passing with “resigned sadness,” he says. “I know a lot of addicts, and a significant percentage sadly don't survive.”