Live music. There’s something special about it. Not many things can top the experience of hearing the music you love as it’s literally pouring and being created in front of you in real life. It’s an immersive kind of event where all your senses are engaged… You’re dancing, you’re sweating, you’re laughing. You’re exchanging looks with strangers who are enjoying it just as much as you. The drink in your hand is swaying, the lights are swinging, the air is full of magic and the world feels full of hope.
This is why we are concert geeks. We’ve been missing live gigs the past year and a half… But, thankfully, they have now become more accessible to many of us, and we thought the news deserved some kind of celebration. So we traveled back in time for a fun walk down memory lane. What did we find? Some of the most iconic concerts OF ALL TIME!
We didn’t really want to rank these, so ignore the order and relish the stories! Here’s a hand-picked selection of historical music performances that will remain in our hearts (and dreams) forever. We didn’t really want to rank these, so ignore the order and relish the stories!
- 2Pac and Biggie at Madison Square Garden (October 24, 1993)
Two of the most talented rappers to ever bless the music industry. First, they were friends, then they became committed rivals and were responsible for the whole East Coast-West Coast war as each was proudly representing a different community.
Pac was a California man till his last breath, while Biggie was a typical New Yorker, born and bred in the Brooklyn borough. They had a lot in common though. Both artists used their lyrics to talk about life on the streets and the social injustice they were facing every single day as black men living in America. Moreover, both musicians tragically died just as their careers were soaring.
Their Madison Square Garden freestyle from 1993 undoubtedly has to be included in a list where iconic concerts are concerned. The show was actually headlined by Patti LaBelle, an American actress and singer widely regarded as the queen of rock and soul music. DJ Mister Cee and Big Daddy Kane were doing a concert for the Budweiser Superfest that night and were, surprisingly, the only rap group participating in the show.
They had only 10 minutes allocated for the performance and brought both The Notorious B.I.G. and 2Pac onstage. Cee thankfully recorded the whole thing on cassette and the video has become truly monumental for hip hop history and its devotees. The film “Poetic Justice” featuring Janet Jackson and Tupac had just come out the week before, while Biggie had already released his record “Party and Bullsh–” and was starting to gain fame. Because of this, both MCs were recognizable to the crowd at the “World’s Most Famous Arena” and people simply went nuts during and after their act.
2. Queen at Live Aid (July 13, 1985)
Did you know that the 2018 biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” starts and ends with footage recreating Queen’s legendary Live Aid concert at London’s Wembley Stadium?
That’s right! The film is telling the story of the adored British rock band and their lead singer Freddie Mercury, leading up exactly to their famous performance at Live Aid. The benefit for Ethiopian famine relief had an impressive program with artists like Sting, U2, David Bowie, Elton John, and George Michael hitting the stage in London that same day. And, boy, did Queen still the show, while demonstrating to everyone how to stand out amid a crowded line-up!
Their explosive 20-minute set included “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “Radio Ga Ga”, “Hammer to Fall”, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”, “We Will Rock You”, and “We Are the Champions”. It’s been reported that Wembley hosted 72,000 people in the audience, while an estimated 1.9 billion people were watching on TV from 130 different countries around the world. Let those numbers sink in.
Bob Geldof, the organizer behind this historical event, recapped Queen’s magic in the following statement. “Queen were absolutely the best band of the day. They played the best, had the best sound, and used their time to the fullest. They understood the idea exactly, that it was a global jukebox. They just went and smashed one hit after another. It was the perfect stage for Freddie: the whole world.”
3. Prince at Coachella (April 26, 2008)
He was so iconic, he even got his own shade of purple. A year after his devastating passing in April 2016, Pantone, the institution who’s pretty much responsible for our universal understanding and language of color, created a royal purple honoring the brilliant musician who released 39 albums and won 7 Grammy Awards (out of 38 nominations) over a 40-year career. Apparently, the color was inspired by Prince’s custom-made Yamaha purple piano which was originally scheduled to go on tour with the performer before he tragically left us at the age of 57.
This international icon must be included if we are talking about the performances that will be remembered forever, and when we consider his career, there is definitely a particular one that immediately comes to mind. His 24-song earth-shattering performance in Indio, California, the home ground to The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.
There had been rumors of Prince playing a variety of music festivals, including Coachella, but those rumors were almost never true in the end. One of the organizers has shared how they had already booked The Purple One and he had even signed off on everything when he unexpectedly pulled out. Needless to say, the team was rather disappointed and then completely surprised (once again) to get a phone call, just 2 weeks before the event, saying he will actually be joining the headliners. This back-and-forth communication was messy but it’s Prince we’re talking about, so everything was worth it. Including the $5 million he cost.
Like previously mentioned, the set was quite long and comprised of many covers and originals. The Minneapolis-born superstar thankfully sang his most loved hits like “1999”, “Little Red Corvette”, “Purple Rain”, and “Let’s Go Crazy”. But according to thousands of people who were lucky enough to be in the audience that Saturday night, the most moving and impactful part of the entire show was Prince’s eight-minute-long cover of Radiohead’s very well-known “Creep”. We invite you to watch the video and see for yourself. The YouTube comments underneath are also kind of epic.
4. Daft Punk at Coachella (April 29, 2006)
While gushing over Prince’s Coachella spectacle we cannot miss Daft Punk’s performance at the same festival only two years prior.
Fans of electronic music, especially those who were present in the Sahara Tent at 11:00 pm on Saturday, April 29th, 2006, say that what the French robotic duo did has changed the course of music. One of the many impressive things about that historical night was the fact that the tent ended up welcoming 40,000 people even though it was originally designed to fit only 10,000. Talking about being squished in a big crowd…
The tales of dancing folks still ring loud to this day. It seems everyone was completely captivated by an immersive explosion of moving lights and color. And it was something very ahead of its time too! Huge LED screens definitely weren’t popular or that accessible 15 years ago. The technological effects of the production combined with the group’s synth-heavy, unique-sounding EDM hits was the magic combo that shook everyone to their core.
The show Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de-Homem Christo gave has been described as “a retrospective blend of old and new tracks with some live elements that was unlike anything the group had ever done before”. The whole audio-visual experience was something revolutionary with their infamous Pyramid becoming a symbol of trend-setting and innovation in the world of dance music.
Unfortunately, all good things come to an end. The Paris-born duo split up after 28 years of making music together and 6 Grammy Awards out of 12 nominations in total. Let’s finish this piece of the article dedicated to them by mentioning a pretty curious fact not many know. Their signature robot helmets cost $65,000 each! They were designed by Tony Gardner who was inspired by a 50s sci-fi classic called “The Day The Earth Stood Still”.
5. Nirvana at Reading (August 30, 1992)
The last act on this short, yet important list of iconic concerts is another one for the books.
It’s the summer of 1992 in the UK. Kurt Cobain enters the stage in a freaking wheelchair pushed by music journalist Everett True. He’s wearing a blond wig and fakes a collapse. What the heck is going on, you’re thinking… Well, this is Kurt’s witty way of mocking the gossip that he had overdosed or that Courtney had. Just a week before Reading, they had welcomed their daughter, Frances Bean, and rumors that the couple were both drug addicts and that the band were about to split up were everywhere in the press. This was the beginning of the grunge band’s emblematic headlining performance at Reading festival.
The live included almost all of “Nevermind” and a few songs from their 1989 debut album “Bleach”. The 78-minute gig also included a series of covers and unreleased stuff like “Tourette’s”, “All Apologies”, and “Dumb”.
It was actually their second year in a row playing at the annual music event, but unlike the previous year when the Americans received a Friday afternoon slot as Iggy Pop headlined, this year everything was different. They had released “Nevermind” and the album’s lead single “Smells Like Teen Spirit” had broken the UK’s Top 10. “Nevermind” ended up doing a five-year run on the Billboard 200 and delivering US sales alone of 10 million copies.
Something that so many people in the industry (and Nirvana enthusiasts) consider as history in the making was actually a bit of a surprise if you ask Nirvana’s drummer Dave Grohl. This is what he had to say as a comment afterwards, “We rehearsed once, the night before, and it wasn’t good… I really thought, “This will be a disaster, this will be the end of our career for sure”. Shocking, I know.
After years of fans bootlegging recordings of the show, it was finally immortalized on the “Live At Reading” CD and DVD and officially released in 2009.
In a world of so many new emerging artists, who will be the ones making a significant mark like the legends we’ve praised in this list? Are any names coming to mind?
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