The Best Music Festival Performances

Music Festivals are now part of modern culture, but they date right back decades to the founding events such as Woodstock etc. These festivals have made or even broken artists that have appeared in them, they have started great careers and also finished them before they started. Here we look at some of the legendary performances that lit up the stage at a music festival and made the whole event memorable.

Live Aid London – Queen

In 1985 Live Aid was formed to raise funds for the Ethiopian famine, it was a twin city location festival between London and Philadelphia. Live Aid was billed as the global jukebox, and the lineups on both sides of the Atlantic were the who’s who of popular music, with the world’s greatest stars clamoring to perform. It was also the largest link up of satellites ever, broadcasting the event globally to an estimated audience of 1.9 billion people. London was the first location to kick-off and legendary bands started the epic festival. Status Quo, Sting, Phil Collins, Bryan Ferry, U2 and Dire Straits all took to the stage before Queen, and although the festival was ticking along nicely, it had not ignited the expectant crowd.

Live Aid London – Queen

That all changed when Queen walked onto the Wembley stage, and the famous old stadium simply erupted, the band’s talisman who was lead singer Freddie Mercury performed the show of his life and had the huge crowd in the grip of his hand. He guided them like a conductor with a baton, and they followed his every word and command, it was a performance of sheer brilliance, probably never to be eclipsed. 

Woodstock – Jimi Hendrix

Woodstock – Jimi HendrixBecause of technical problems brought on mainly by bad weather, the 1969 Woodstock was running late, and Hendrix had a choice to come back the following day or close off the concert which had started at 9am that morning. The huge crowd of half a million music fans had, by that time, dwindled to less than half that number, but Hendrix opted to take the stage and perform a two-hour set. Hits like Hey Joe and Purple Haze were delivered like never before, but it was the three-minute version of the Star-Spangled Banner that will be forever remembered. In just three minutes, Hendrix had encapsulated the feel of the whole festival and American youth at the time. It was full of defiance but at the same time had hope, all of which Jimi Hendrix managed without speaking one word between songs.

Glastonbury – David Bowie

Glastonbury – David BowieGlastonbury, in 2000, will be always be remembered for David Bowie and his encore of the classic song Heroes. Some people have said that it was the greatest ever moment at Glastonbury and will never be topped. Bowie had decided to leave behind his then current drum-and-bass experimental music and treated his adoring fans to a back-catalog collection of his greatest hits. He actually announced to the expectant crowd that he had not played at Glastonbury for thirty years and he intended to enjoy himself and have one big party.

Bonnaroo – Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney delivered one of the finest performances of his long and illustrious career at the Bonnaroo festival of 2013. Sir Paul is not getting any younger these days, but he played for a massive three hours and his voice held out superbly. He delivered some of the finest ever renditions of Beatles classics such as Back in the USSR, Eleanor Rigby, Strawberry Fields, Get Back, Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds adding in some of Wings greatest ever hits, Band on the Run, Let ‘em In, Jet, Maybe I’m Amazed. The show closed with the entire crowd singing in harmony to Hey Jude, before finishing off with an energy-fueled Live and Let Die. Just as the pyrotechnics were dying down and the massive audience was thinking of heading to the exits, McCartney once more took to the stage to deliver an amazing further eight songs.

Reading – Nirvana

Those fortunate enough to be at the Reading music festival in 1992 had an opportunity to see one of the greatest live performances of all time, delivered by Nirvana. The three-man powerhouse of a band was as one and the show was breathtaking. A number of years after this legendary performance, Dave Grohl, the band’s drummer, actually revealed that because the lead singer, Kurt Cobain, had spent so much time in rehab, they had only rehearsed once before the concert.

The gig was an hour and a half of Nirvana indulgence, leaning purposely on their first two albums Nevermind and Bleach. Luckily for everybody, there was a live recording crew at the concert and the set was recorded for posterity and released as a Live album. The album shows a band at their pinnacle, where every part of their music is in sync and each band member at their very best. These performances rate as some of the very best live events ever in music festival history. They are all fantastic for quite different reasons and will live on long in the memories of those that were lucky enough to have witnessed them.

Las Vegas – Elvis Presley

Superstar performances don’t come much bigger than when Elvis was in town. People who were lucky enough to be in the Las Vegas area during his golden years witnessed more of a happening than an event. Handing out scarves and other memorabilia, Elvis was mobbed at the start of every single performance he put on.

Las Vegas - Elvis Presley

The period itself is fondly referred to as the “Elvis in Vegas” period and will be forever remembered in the hearts and minds of those who had the chance to attend. Presley notched up an amazing 837 consecutive sellouts from 1969 to 1976, something that no other musician has come close to repeating. Over the years, Las Vegas itself has become synonymous with hosting some of the world’s biggest superstars. People such as Sir Paul McCartney, Jerry Lewis. Prince and Celine Dion have all appeared. Aside from that of course, it is also home to the “strip” – a very well-known series of casinos and nightclubs.

To be honest, although I love to visit Las Vegas and have spent a fond hour (or two) in some of the best casinos it has to offer, had I been around in the day I would most certainly have opted to see live shows. It would be really hard to miss out on either visiting the likes of Caesars Palace, the Bellagio, but to be fair, it’s a price I would have been happy to pay. That said, I guess I could have still enjoyed playing some of my favorite games back in my room at What a great way to unwind after seeing the King himself on stage!