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10 Liverpool gigs that the city will never forget

4 years ago

10 Liverpool gigs that the city will never forget

When you find yourself in the presence of a certain kind of greatness, it brings the whole city, not just a whole venue together. Beyond personal preference, here’s a vault of great music memories the city shares.

1.The Beatles – The Cavern Club (9 Feb 1961)

The Cavern welcomes the world’s most famous faces, but despite stars like Adele, legends like Stevie Wonder, and even a Halloween appearance by Queen, there’s only one band synonymous with the club. Local lads, who happen to be the biggest band in the world. 

The Beatles played their first Cavern gig one lunchtime. George was nearly denied admission for wearing jeans, the place was half-empty, but nevertheless, they were offered four slots a week. After a few shows, The Cavern introduced pre-purchased tickets to cope with the demand for our Fab Four. Wonder what happened to them?

2. The Clash – Eric’s (5 May 1977)

Home to Punk and New Wave, Eric’s opened in October ’76. Despite appearances by The Sex Pistols, Joy Division, The Ramones, Blondie and Buzzcocks, this is frequently cited as the pivotal gig by the city’s underground collective.

Ian McCulloch was there, celebrating his 18th with mate, Pete Wylie. Pete Burns opted for a PVC look, including vinyl quiff. This was the night when plans were made, bands were formed, and the fate of the next wave of sound was sealed. 

3. Michael Jackson: Bad tour – Aintree Racecourse (11 Sept 1988)

Sponsored by Pepsi, supported by Kim Wilde, Wacko played to 125,000 fans at £16.50. That day, an 18-song setlist drifted through windows, bringing Moonwalks to Merseyside. 

“I’ve always considered Liverpool the home of contemporary pop music,” Jackson said. “By virtue of it being the birthplace of the incomparable, Beatles.” This was to be the second and final time M.J. played Liverpool. The first with The Jackson 5 at the Empire in ’72.

4. Lennon: A Tribute – Pier Head (5 May 1990)

This might’ve slipped your minds, but it’s too surreal not to share. Lou Reed performed Jealous Guy. Al Green sang Power to the People. Kylie dished up a Disco version of Help! Christopher Reeve, (no idea why, but hey, he was Superman), introduced global legends.

Initially promising to showcase Scouse talent, The Christians were the only Liverpool band to play. Half the expected 45,000 crowd attended. The show aired in the U.S, proceeds from a VHS going to Yoko and John’s Foundation, and little spoken of this gig since…

5. Rock the Top: The Hillsborough Justice Concert – Anfield Stadium (10 May 1997)

Hosted by John Peel, televised a week later, raising funds for the Hillsborough Family Support Group were Frank Skinner, The Lightning Seeds, Space, Holly Johnson, The Manics, Beautiful South, Dodgy and Stereophonics, with all artists performing for free.

In September 2011, the campaign for justice continued. Pete Wylie, John Power and Peter Hooton played Don’t Buy the Sun at The Olympia, followed by the UK Justice tour that December, with The Clash, Primal Scream and Stone Roses onboard. A legacy, indeed.

6. Summer Pops – Liverpool Docklands/Aintree/M&S Bank Arena (From June 1993)

We’re forever grateful to The Phil for dreaming this up, because from that pop-up, Liverpool had a month of hot dates with a big top. And who doesn’t love one of those?

An annual event of epic proportions, Summer Pops has welcomed icons including Diana Ross, Elton John, Eric Clapton, Bryan Ferry, James Brown, and even, Uncle Alice Cooper!

7. European Capital of Culture 2008: Opening Ceremony – St George’s Plateau (11 Jan)

2008 was huge, and expectations literally went through the roof as Ringo hit up his kit from the top of St George’s Plateau. Created by the visionary behind the Sydney Olympic Games, Ringo was joined by Dave Stewart of Eurythmics, The Wombats, and hundreds of performers including acrobats, who got 2008 off to a spectacular start.

Later that evening, Ringo & Co. joined the RLPO for Liverpool – The Musical, with Echo and the Bunnymen, The Farm, and a host of Scousers from school kids to city choirs.

8. Liverpool Number Ones – Liverpool Echo Arena (19 Jan 2008)

Liverpool Number Ones opened our new Arena and our continues the Capital of Culture celebrations with a cast of Merseysiders from Atomic Kitten to OMD, Sonia and The Scaffold. We christened the venue and celebrated the city’s record-breaking achievement of the most number one hit singles from one city ever!

9. MTV Europe Music Awards – Liverpool Echo Arena (6 Nov 2008)

Hosted by Katy Perry, we’d already had one hell of a year – and then, this! Beyonce’s first performance in the city. The Killers, P!nk and Take That played, while Britney scooped Best Album and Best Act.

Paul McCartney was awarded Ultimate Legend by Bono, Rick Astley named Best Act Ever following an online campaign. DJ Trevor Nelson held the after-show at the Carling Academy with R&B stars, including Craig David and Estelle.

10. Paul McCartney: Surprise Gigs – Philharmonic Dining Rooms (9 June 2019) The Cavern (26 July 2019)

So good, Sir Paul serenaded us twice. There were sightings, there were rumours. Paul was in town with James Corden? And then, he walks into The Phil, and plays! A month later, The Cavern welcomed back The Mac, playing to 200 starstruck Scousers for 2 hours.

These free gigs in Paul’s home town sent disbelief and delight throughout the city. There were tears, there was joy, but most of all, a reminder: We all call the same place home. Nice one, Macca.


There are thousands more to choose from and we want you to choose your most memorable. Let us know on Twitter and Facebook.


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