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Top 10 rock festival performances of all time

- April 10th, 2013

INDIO, California — Music festivals can be a make or break proposition for an up-and-coming band, or a big attention grabber for those who are already filling big venues.

We all remember last year’s edition of the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival when hip-hop heavyweights Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg made headlines around the world when they rapped with a hologram of late rapper Tupac Shakur (see below).

fests

There’s been a myriad of performances over the years that are still talked about by music fans.

With the desert sun ready to rise at Coachella this year, here’s our list of the most memorable festival concerts at various music events:

10. Oasis, Toronto Virgin Music Festival, 2009

After putting on a solid early showing, festival closers Oasis were the victim of a party crasher four songs in. A Pickering, Ont. man, who apparently hid underneath the girders of the stage for most of the day, came out and pushed guitarist Noel Gallagher into his own monitor, resulting in a separated shoulder. He soldiered on, however, playing a few more songs before having to bow out.

9. Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg, Coachella 2012

Tupac rose from the dead in hologram form and performs “Hail Mary” and “2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted.” It has now become fodder for the fest, with everyone wondering who the next deceased star will be to get the projection treatment.

8. Green Day, Woodstock 1994

The punk trio was already causing a bit of a stink with their debut “Dookie,” but it was a mud fight in Saugerties, N.Y., that made them a household name. With cheap hair dye jobs and a defiant attitude, the band playfully incites the folks in attendance with quips like “how are you doing you rich mother***ers?” and “I hope it rains so hard you all get stuck!” When an audience member chucks a chunk of grass at frontman Billie Joe Armstrong, he in turn sticks it in his mouth, and eventually throws it back into the crowd. Cue the mayhem and a long career.

7. The Who, Woodstock 1969

The Who didn’t exactly embrace the hippie counterculture movement at the time, however, they showed up to the now legendary festival and gave a dark, high-intensity performance that was in stark comparison to most of the acoustic-playing artists on the bill. And as an early indication of Pete Townshend’s no-guff demeanour, political activist Abbie Hoffman attempted to address the masses during their set, and he promptly booted him. “Get off my f***in stage!,” he said. Good ol’ Pete.

6. Radiohead, Glastonbury 1997

With their now classic 1997 album “OK Computer” just in stores, Thom Yorke and the gang break out the early hits and mix up tracks from the well-received disc. The crowd feeds off their energy, and the usually straight-faced frontman is all smiles, as if he knew that this was a key moment in the band’s career.

5. Janis Joplin, Monterey Pop Festival 1967

It will be forever known as her coming out party. Joplin, a relative unknown, appeared as a member of Big Brother and The Holding Company, blew everyone away with her intense set, topped by a snarly version of “Ball & Chain.” The set ends and the camera pans to Mamas & the Papas star Mama Cass mouthing, “wow, that’s really heavy.” The band were immediately signed to a contract after the show.

4. U2, Live Aid 1985

The eager Irish foursome were on the cusp of superstardom, and already had a arena-sized following after the release of 1984′s “Unforgettable Fire.” The powerful showing at Bob Geldof’s Ethiopian famine relief benefit put them over the top. Frontman Bono, during an extended version of “Bad,” pulled a woman out of the crowd and danced with her briefly. The incident caused a frenzy at the front of the stage, but connected with the millions watching. It also caused the band to skip the third scheduled song, “Pride (In the Name of Love),” because they went over their allotted time.

3. Stones, Altamont, 1969

This is memorable for all the wrong reasons. It was dubbed as the official end to the “Peace & Love” generation. In what was supposed to be the Stones version of Woodstock, the vibe of this free concert turned dark when, earlier on in the day-long rock festival, Jefferson Airplane’s lead singer Marty Balin was punched and knocked out by a member of the Hell’s Angels, who were inexplicably acting as security for the event (for a reported $500 worth of beer). As the Stones hit the stage, the tension increased, and during “Under My Thumb,” a scuffle broke out which resulted in the stabbing death of a 18-year-old man.



2. Jimi Hendrix, Monterey Pop Festival 1967

We all know him now as one of the most influential guitarists of all time. But in June of 1967, a clearly stoned axeman played to a large — and also very stoned — U.S. crowd for the first time. The reaction on the faces in attendance is priceless – some with their mouths wide open, and some just tripping at the set they’re taking in. It all culminates in Hendrix’s now-infamous guitar burning finale.



1. Queen, Live Aid 1985

There’s no better example of a frontman having the crowd in the palm of his hand than Freddie Mercury at London’s Wembley Stadium on July 13, 1985. In what will go down as one of the greatest live performances in rock history, the English rockers breeze through a six-song greatest hits set in rapid fire succession. Mercury, acting as a choirmaster, leads the 72,000 in attendance in an unforgettable sing-along.

Do you have your own favourites? Add them in the comment section below!

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5 comments

  1. Johnny Megabyte | April 11, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    What’s missing ? AC/DC at SARS Concert. Topped the Rolling Stones by a mile. So did Rush, for that matter,

  2. Timothy | April 11, 2013 at 11:42 pm

    Honestly, you put Green Day at Woodstock over Nine Inch Nails at Woodstock…seriously? Hologram Tupac…c’mon, they’ve been doing better holograms in Japan for years…

  3. Gerald | April 12, 2013 at 7:51 am

    Could not have chosen a better #1 performance myself, Queen at Live Aid, it was pure magic. With our eyes focussed on frontman Freddie Mercury as he was dwarfed by the crowd singing along to “Radio Ga-Ga” in perfect unison and clapping their hands in sychronicity, we knew we were witnessing music history.

  4. AARON | January 27, 2014 at 4:14 pm

    The MC5 belong on this list. At their peak in the late 60′s they were more exciting live than the Stones, an opinion shared by an old roommate, rock critic Dave Marsh. You had to be there but some clips of the band on Youtube mange to convey some of their incredible energy.

  5. Bill ficioris | February 7, 2014 at 7:34 pm

    AC/DC at Sars should be on this list as well as any of Springsteens festival shows in Europe.

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