5: The Rolling Stones
Altamont Speedway – Dec. 6, 1969
Like a couple other shows on our list of the 10 Most Epic Rock Concerts of All Time, the Rolling Stones’ infamous outing at the Altamont Speedway in California on Dec. 6, 1969, is best remembered for something other than the music. Not that there wasn’t plenty of great tunes there — the free show included performances by Santana, the Flying Burrito Brothers and Jefferson Airplane in addition to the Stones’ headlining set. But the music was dampened by the stabbing death of an audience member by a Hells Angel, the motorcycle gang that was hired as security for the concert. The hippie dream essentially ended here.
4: Bruce Springsteen
The Roxy – July 7, 1978
Bruce Springsteen was on his way to becoming a star when he played Hollywood’s Roxy Theatre on July 7, 1978, as part of his ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town’ tour. His concerts were growing to legendary status by this time, as Springsteen and the E Street Band would check in with three-hour epic shows every single night.
The Roxy gig is probably his best and most famous. He started with a cover of Buddy Holly’s ‘Rave On’ and ended three-plus hours later with ‘Twist and Shout.’ In between were stories, songs and proof that rock ‘n’ roll could be a religious experience in the right hands.
3: US Festival
Sept. 3-5, 1982
Apple’s Steve Wozniak commissioned a new open-air venue in San Bernardino, Calif., for a three-day “music and culture” festival to be held over Labor Day Weekend 1982. The event was to bridge state-of-the-art technology (computers were still a long way from being in everyone’s homes) and new music.
Classic rockers like Santana, the Kinks, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Fleetwood Mac joined new-school groups like the Police, Gang of Four and Talking Heads in the lineup. Eight months later Wozniak staged another three-day US Festival. Hundreds of thousands of fans attended both shows, but Wozniak spent so much money preparing for them, he ended up losing $20 million.
Tushino Airfield – Sept. 28, 1991
During their massive worldwide tour in support of 1990’s ‘Black Album,’ Metallica played the Tushino Airfield in Moscow on Sept. 28, 1991, as part of Monsters of Rock ’91. The date wrapped up that leg of the tour with a free concert — supposedly the first free show to feature global rock stars in the country. More than a million people showed up (some estimates double that number), making it the highest-attended Metallica concert in the band’s history.
1: The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert
April 20, 1992
Queen frontman Freddie Mercury died of AIDS on Nov. 24, 1991. Five months later, a massive tribute concert was held at London’s Wembley Stadium that doubled as a benefit for AIDS research.
The members of Queen were joined onstage by generations of fans and friends, including Guns N’ Roses, Metallica, Def Leppard and U2. Some artists chose to cover Queen songs with the group’s surviving members; some played sets of their own material. All rocked pretty hard for a good cause.
BY HARSHVARDHAN SINGH