Making history: five incredible Rolling Stones gigs

Hyde Park, Altamont, Rio De Janeiro, Glastonbury and more historic shows


The Stones coming to The Middle East for the first time is sure to go down as one of the most famous performances they’ve ever done. But it’s not the first time that the ground-breaking rock legends have hosted a show that’s gone down in history. Here are some more legacy-defining concerts:

Hyde Park (July 1969)
A free super-concert in Hyde Park, London, was the band’s first public gig in the UK for nearly two years, and the moment new guitarist Mick Taylor would be introduced as founding member Brian Jones’ replacement to the Stones’ adoring fan base. But it wasn’t the introduction of Taylor, the concert’s historic location, or the enormous crowd (some estimates have the number of concert-goers as high as 500,000) that mark the gig out as being perhaps the most memorable in the band’s history; it was Jones’ death just two days previously that served as a ‘moment in time’ backdrop to the most emotive (at least from an audience perspective) performance in the Stones’ history. Memories of candles, poetry recitals and the release of thousands of cabbage white butterflies supersede the music as far as Hyde Park 1969 is concerned, but that doesn’t take away from how important and iconic a stepping stone the moment was in the band’s history.

Altamont (December 1969)
Often referred to as the final nail in the coffin of the counter-culture movement, The Stones’ free concert at Altamont Speedway Circuit will long go down in history as perhaps the darkest day in the band’s history. Billed the West Coast’s answer to Woodstock, Altamont had put together an impressive festival line-up, with The Stones headlining. Approximately 300,000 people turned up, and over the course of the day the mood turned sour quickly. In a catastrophic error of judgment the organisers had employed the local biker gangs to run the concert’s security, who over the course of the day were involved in numerous altications with the crowd. Events came to a head as The Stones took to the stage at sundown, with thousands rushing the stage and even climbing up and manhandling the band. Despite Mick’s pleas for the crowd to calm violence erupted, leading to the death of Meredith Hunter, an 18 year old African-American who was stabbed by a member of one of the gangs. Much would be discussed relating to the incident in the following days, months and years, but the feeling that lingered was that The Stones’ performance at Altamont was the defining moment that ended the swinging sixties.

Rio De Janeiro (February 2006)
In 2005 the band hit the road again after a two year hiatus, kicking off the A Bigger Bang tour in North America. Despite numerous obstacles along the way, including Wood’s well-documented battles with personal issues, Richards falling into a coma after an accident involving a coconut tree in Fiji, and Jagger’s persistent throat troubles, the tour raked in a then world record (and still second highest grossing of all time) $630 million. The tour had many highlight concerts, but the one that sticks out to many is the free concert held on Copacabana beach, Rio De Janeiro in February 2006. The concert was attended by a staggering 1.5 million people, making the it one of the 10 biggest of all time, and proving that no matter which corner of the world they’re playing in, The Stones still draw the biggest crowds on the planet.

New Jersey (December 2012)
Another year, another ground breaking tour, and this time it was to celebrate the band’s 50 year anniversary since their first gig at the Marquee Club way back when. The tour was an instant success, with the opening two official dates (after two surprise warm-up performances in Paris) in London selling out in minutes. But it was stateside that once again history was made when a gig was broadcast live across the world on PPV television from Newark, New Jersey. Special guests (including former band members Bill Wyman and Mick Taylor, who will join the band onstage at du Arena) littered the tour. Lady Gaga, John Mayer, Gary Clark Jr., Bruce Springsteen and The Black Keys performed onstage with the band on the PPV TV gig, adding an extra element of amazement to an already superb experience, as fans the world over got to see the legends performing a full concert live, in most cases from many thousands of miles away.

Glastonbury (June 2013)
For as long as Michael Eavis has been running the world’s most famous music festival (that’s 43 years by the way), he had made no secret of his desire to get The Stones on the Pyramid Stage. The dream, that was shared unequivocally by Rolling Stones fans and festival aficionados, was finally realised in 2013 when Mick and the boys headlined Saturday night in front of the largest crowd the festival’s history. The two hour show was part-broadcast live on British TV too, opening up the band’s back catalogue to a whole new generation of fans who were previously unacquainted with The Rolling Stones’ sound. The performance might turn out to be the last free or festival gig the band ever perform in their home country, but if so then what a way to connect with the adoring public one last ime.

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