Voices: The Top 10 concerts that changed the world

·3-min read
Voices: The Top 10 concerts that changed the world

Thanks to Elliot Kane for the idea. He started with Woodstock (New York state, 15-18 August 1969) and Live Aid (Wembley stadium and JFK stadium, Philadelphia, 13 July 1985), but was sceptical that there were eight more. He should not have doubted the power of Twitter, whose denizens provided an excellent list, without even including the original two.

1. John Banister’s house, Whitefriars, 30 December 1672. What may have been the first commercial musical concert. The composer charged one shilling entry, and the audience could demand which musical pieces were performed. Nominated by Robert Boston.

2. The Concert of Europe, after the Congress of Vienna, 1815. Semi-formal consensus to preserve the balance of power among the European powers after the Napoleonic wars. Very good, Tom Doran.

3. La Muette de Portici, opera by Auber, in Brussels, 25 August 1830. Triggered a riot, which became the Belgian Revolution and led to independence from the Netherlands. Thanks to Philip Redhair and Peter Graham.

4. Newport Folk Festival, 25 July 1965, when Bob Dylan first went electric. Nominated by Martin Stott and Conor Downey.

5. Altamont Free Concert, California, 6 December 1969. Featured Santana, Jefferson Airplane, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and the Rolling Stones. “Security” provided by Hell’s Angels caused violence and one murder. It signalled (and maybe even caused) the end of the Hippie era. Another from Conor Downey.

6. The Concert for Bangladesh, Madison Square Garden, New York, 1 August 1971. Set the template for Live Aid and numerous star-studded benefit events in decades to follow, said No Ordinary Cat.

7. Zaire 74: music festival in Kinshasa, Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), 22-24 September 1974. Originally promoting the boxing match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, which was postponed by six weeks because of an injury to Foreman. Featured the best African musicians along with James Brown, BB King and Bill Withers. “It firmly put Africa, African music and Zaire on the world stage,” said Robert Boston.

8. The Sex Pistols at Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall, 4 June 1976. Legend has it that every audience member went home and started a punk band. Thanks to PD Anderson and Tom Doran.

9. The Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute, Wembley stadium, 11 June 1988. Worldwide audience of 600m. The list of performers and speakers was a Who’s Who of the music world. Added to pressure for Mandela’s release, which happened in 1990. Nominated by Robert Boston. Phil Riley nominated the opposite: the protests against concerts at Sun City, the South African resort, that played their part in helping bring down apartheid and culminated in Stevie Van Zandt’s “(Ain’t gonna play) Sun City” in 1985.

10. Pussy Riot at the Cathedral of Christ The Saviour in Moscow, 21 February 2012. Led to the arrest, conviction for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” and imprisonment for three years of three members of the group. Brought Putin’s true nature home to a wider and younger audience. A third from Conor Downey.

There is always one: Conor Downey also nominated Marty McFly performing at his parents’ prom dance in 1955 in Back To The Future where he “invented” rock’n’roll by playing “Johnny B Goode”.

Sometimes there are two: Ian Reeve suggested the Ugly Rumours gigs in Oxford circa 1974 “… if only someone had signed up the band”.

Next week: People who have been compared to Caligula’s horse, such as Andrew Johnson, US president 1865-69, “an insolent drunken brute in comparison with which Caligula’s horse was respectable”.

Coming soon: Buildings that are named after MPs (that people don’t know are named after MPs), such as Quibell Park Stadium, Scunthorpe.

Your suggestions please, and ideas for future Top 10s, to me on Twitter, or by email to top10@independent.co.uk