We all know there are countless music concerts and performances that have stood out in history, for being shocking, influential or just damn right brilliant. I’m sure we all have our own opinion based on the personal taste of what we deem to be the most unforgettable. However, it would probably take forever to write down if you wanted to include every single one. So here we made a small list of our personal favourites (feel free to disagree).
Queen – Live Aid 1985
Probably one of the most iconic music concerts of all time, Live Aid was set in Wembley Stadium in 1985. A collection of the most talented and influential artists took the stage such as Elton John, George Michael, The Who, Dire Straits, U2, Sting and of course Queen, who quite frankly stole the show.
The event was opened by Princess Diana and Prince Charles to a crowd of over 72,000 people. Bob Geldof and Midge Ure organized Live Aid and secured musical artists from around the globe with the intention to raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia.
Funnily enough, Queen were initially hesitant about partaking in the concert but ended up being the most memorable act. Throughout the performance, Mercury demonstrated his ability to switch from vocals to piano and guitar, whilst interacting with the crowd flawlessly.
The set was opened by a shortened version of Bohemian Rhapsody on the piano and closed with a fitting ‘We are the Champions’. Most of the other groups only played three or four songs, however, Queen cleverly combined six of their most well-known hits into one melody that allowed them to maximised their set time.
David Bowie – Glastonbury 2000
According to many music critiques, David Bowie’ headline set of Glastonbury is perceived at the greatest festival headline set in history.
The legend has always been known as a chameleon and consistently taking on different personas such as Ziggy Stardust and The Goblin King, to name a few. However, this performance was so memorable because he decided to headline the festival as none other than himself. The set lasted an astonishing two hours long, delivering greatest hits after greatest hits and he had an enormous crowd mesmerised.
After playing a 17 song setlist that explored his career timeline, The Thin White Duke returned for an encore which featured crowd favourites Ziggy Stardust, Heroes, Let’s Dance and I’m Afraid of Americans’. The set was so popular that Glastonbury even released a live album and DVD so people could relive the moment from one of the most iconic music concerts.
Nirvana – Bueno Aires 1992
In 1992 on October 30th Nirvana were set to play a major show at Buenos Aires, which can hold a capacity of nearly 50,000. However, unlike the other entries on this list, Nirvana weirdly decided to self-sabotage their performance.
Why? Well, prior to their performance their support act Calamity Jane received such an abusive and sexist reaction from the crowd, which angered frontman Kurt Cobain so much he nearly called off the whole show. However, Nirvana eventually decided to play, but only performed rare songs and unreleased hits, and purposely wound up the crowed by continuously playing the intro of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ but stopping and changing to another song. Definitely a memorable and comical performance.
Rolling Stones – Texas 1978
‘The Some Girls’ concert of 1978 is considered by Stones fans to be one of their very best. The concert was a part of their US tour, designed to promote the release of the Some Girls album, including the hits ‘Beast of Burden’ and ‘Lies’ whilst sprinkling some of the band’s classics on top.
Unlike your typical Rolling Stones, this tour took things back to basics, with no back-up singers or costume changes, as well as minimal staging – just raw energy. This is what seemingly made this one of the most popular music concerts.
Pink Floyd – Los Angeles Sports Memorial Auditorium 1980
On February 7th 1980, Pink Floyd kick-started The Wall tour in LA. This wasn’t your typical gig but actually a multi-media show of which the audience were fully immersed into. The concert in LA was packed with robotics, stage effects, a variety of props and unexpected fires. The opening song ‘In the Flesh’ was introduced by explosions causing the top of the arena to catch fire, but luckily it was extinguished quickly and caused no real damage.
On the stage were many cardboard bricks that, over the duration of the first half of the show, would create 30ft high wall over the band. During the second half, album artwork was projected onto the wall and came crashing down in the finale. As if this wasn’t enough, the production also included inflatable puppets who represented a replica of the band wearing Pink Floyd masks, a flying pig and a model plane that crashed into the stage. You could say the band took the concept of ‘The Wall’ very literally…
The Doors – Isle of Wight Festival 1970
The Doors set at the IOW Festival was the band’s last ever filmed performance before Morrison would leave for Paris and meet his tragic death. The songs featured on this iconic set were fan favourites accompanied by an unexpected psychedelic version of ‘Ship of Fools’.
The performance was artistic and engaging, and Morrison’s vocals were almost perfect, even though he allegedly downed two bottles of Southern Comfort beforehand. This set offered a sad insight into the fragility of Morrison’s life as he transitioned from his previous reign as the Lizard King and became consumed by addiction and alcohol abuse. Still, it was a beautiful and poetic performance that has no doubt left its mark on the musical world and became one of the most iconic music concerts in history.
The Beatles – Shea Stadium 1965
The concert in itself was a milestone in musical history because it was, in fact, the first major stadium concert ever. Over astonishing 55,000 people came to watch this concert, with security having to deal with an overwhelming amount of girls fainting near the stage due to being star-struck…
The concert was also made into a film which included the Beatles helicopter ride from Manhattan to Flushing Meadows and visiting the baseball team’s locker rooms prior to their performance. The set was 12 songs long and included hits such as ‘Twist and Shout’, ‘Help!’ and ‘Yesterday’. Lennon later said it was a major career highlight for the foursome.
The Stone Roses – Spike Island 1990
Spike Island was a defining moment for the Roses as it was a celebration of their success and youth culture, in general. Their goal was to gather all of their fans all together in one place. During this time The Stone Roses represented a bridge between the 60s and the modern 90s house scene. Some would say Rock meets Rave.
The venue was a man-made island in Mersey, which posed organisational and environmental challenges such as flooding and limited access points to the location. During the performance lead singer, Ian Brown came out with an inflatable globe representing how the band were ‘holding the world in their hands’.
In 2012 the film ‘Spike Island’ was created which is a British comedy about a group of fans who idolise The Stone Roses and try to get into the gig on the island.
Oasis – Knebworth 1996
On August 10th 1996, Oasis played to a whopping 250,000 people and paved their legacy as one of the greatest rock and roll acts throughout British history. A massive 2.5 million people applied for tickets – 4% of the British population. But this wasn’t surprising following the success of their album (‘what’s the Story?) Morning Glory.
The show lasted for nearly two hours, with top vocals from Liam’s iconic voice and Noel’s guitar playing on point, even though Noel claims he has no recollection of even being there because he was so out of it. Support acts included Manic Street Preachers, The Chemical Brothers and The Charlatans – an evening of Britpop royalty. The boys finished with their hit ‘Live Forever’ after taking on a cover of the Beatles’ ‘I am the Walrus’ as fireworks filled up the sky. We don’t know about you, but we sure are itching to go to a concert now!
Let us know what your top iconic music concerts would be.
Text: Chloe Humphries
Images: Attitude, NME, Rolling Stone, Dangerous Minds