The Greatest-Ever Festival Performances Part 2
Nirvana, Reading, 1992
The band’s performance in front of 50,000 fans was something of a revelation. For Dave Grohl, however, it was a relief. As the drummer revealed years later, there was tension in the band, partly as a result of Kurt Cobain’s rehabs stints, and they’d only managed one rehearsal prior to the performance- the night before. There were no signs of rust, though, as they put in a 90-minute performance with numerous tracks from their first two albums. Bootleg recordings of the show were in circulation for years prior to Live at Reading’s official release in 2009. The album isn’t merely a superb album, it’s a snapshot of the last significant rock band at the top of its game.
Paul McCartney, Bonnaroo, 2013
You might have a fair idea of what you’re going to get out of Paul McCartney, but it doesn’t take anything away from his stunning performances. In 2002, the former Beatle provided close to three hours of classic hits, with an emphasis on The Beatles’ back catalogue, along with some Wings hits and deep cuts. The set ended with Live and Let Die and a singalong of Hey Jude. That was before the additional eight songs he treated the audience to in the encore.
Pearl Jam, Lollapalooza, 2007
Some 15 years after their daytime slot on the second Lollapalooza, Pearl Jam appeared at Grant Park like the champions of stadium performances they were. In their lone major show of 2002, the grunge survivors from Seattle combined hits such as Do the Evolution and Even Flow with covers of Neil Young and Pink Floyd hits. It was a moment for both the festival and the band to take stock of the fact that they were living in a different world since the alt-rock revolution.
Joan Osborne, Lilith Fair, 1997
When an all-female festival arrived in Houston in 1997, the bosses of the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion placed a ban on operating planned parenthood information booths. Joan Osborne and festival founder Sarah McLachlan weren’t impressed with the move and held a press conference to get the venue to change its mind. It worked. Although, her arriving on stage in a t-shirt that referenced the incident was apparently one step too far, as it resulted in the singer receiving a lifetime ban from the venue.
The Who, Woodstock, 1969
On a morning at Woodstock, the Who ensured that the crowd was awake by making their way through a large part of their rock opera Tommy, as well as older hits such as My Generation and I Can’t Explain. In one part of the set, Pete Townsend decided to whack activist Abbie Hoffman with his guitar and later tossed it into the crowd. Bass player John Entwistle referred to it as his worst-ever festival experience. However, the wakeup call is still one of Woodstock’s defining moments.