In a survey of musicians, journalists and (disclaimer alert) record industry executives, Queen's performance at the original Live Aid concert in 1985 has been named "the world's greatest rock gig." The band's career-reviving appearance before 75,000 fans at Wembley Stadium in London achieved instant legendary status at the time, with Freddie Mercury and co. widely hailed for their "show-stopping performance." Not bad for a 20 minute set.
Coming in second was Jimi Hendrix's performance at 1969's Woodstock Festival, which included his now iconic version of "The Star Spangled Banner", and which is all the more remarkable given that somewhere in the region of 400,000 people had already split by the time he went on.
Third on the list was The Sex Pistols' infamous performance at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in Manchester in June 1976, a sparsely attended but highly influential gig immortalized in the movie 24 Hour Party People. Among the attendees? Joy Division, Tony Wilson of Factory Records and one Steven Patrick Morrissey.
Below is the entire Top 20 list compiled, by the way, for a TV special to air on the UK's Channel 4 network. Please note the distinct lack of any shows by a little group called The Beatles. Just saying.
1. Queen - Live Aid - July 13, 1985
2. Jimi Hendrix - Woodstock - August 18, 1969
3. The Sex Pistols - Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall - June 4, 1976
4. Bob Dylan - Manchester Free Trade Hall - May 17, 1966 (Dylan goes 'electric')
5. David Bowie - Hammersmith Apollo, London - July 3, 1973 (Bowie retires the Ziggy Stardust persona to the surprise of the sold-out crowd and, indeed, the Spiders From Mars, whom he had neglected to tell)
6. Bob Marley - One Love Peace Concert - April 22, 1978
7. Bruce Springsteen - The Roxy - July 7, 1978
8. U2 - Red Rocks - June 5, 1983
9. Rolling Stones - Hyde Park, London - May 7, 1969
10. Radiohead - Glastonbury Festival - June 28, 1997
11. Rock Against Racism - Victoria Park, London - May 7, 1977
12. The Who - Isle of Wight Festival - August 29, 1970
13. Pink Floyd - Earl's Court, London - June 17, 1981 ('The Wall' show, also Pink Floyd's final UK appearance until this year's Live8 concert)
14. James Brown - The Apollo, Harlem - October 24, 1962
15. Oasis - Maine Road, Manchester - April 27, 1996 (80,000 people at Britpop's tenuous height)
16. Beastie Boys - Brixton Academy, London - May 24, 1987 (hip-hop invades the UK)
17. Johnny Cash - San Quentin Prison - August 29, 1969
18. Brian Wilson - Royal Festival Hall - February 20, 2004 (the 'Smile' concert)
19. Elton John & John Lennon - Madison Square Garden, New York - November 28, 1974 (John Lennon's final live performance)
20. Nirvana - Reading Festival - August 30, 1992
Writer: Neil McDonald