Top 10 Most Iconic Gigs Ever

The votes have been counted, and we're proud to present your official UG top live shows ever, complete with videos. Enjoy!

Ultimate Guitar

As usual, you were masters at picking out the best performances, and it's made for a seriously hot top 10 this week.

With that in mind, it's time to sit back, hook up your TV to your laptop, and enjoy watching the most iconic live shows ever. Enjoy!

10. Led Zeppelin at Royal Albert Hall (1970)

In the words of Jimmy Page, the Royal Albert Hall (which usually plays host to orchestras and operas) was "at the time the largest and most prestigious gig in London." We're glad their manager Peter Grant arranged to film the performance, even if it wasn't released at the time, because its epic DVD release in 2003 introduced a whole new generation to the wonders of Led Zeppelin.

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9. Rage Against The Machine on Wall Street (2000)

When the band decided to play on Wall Street for the video to "Sleep Now In The Fire", they gathered 300 fans and stormed the doors of the New York Stock Exchange. "Our protest stopped trading at the stock exchange for the last two hours of the day," said guitarist Tom Morello who returned to Wall Street more recently to support the Occupy movement.

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8. Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison (1967)

Ever since writing "Folsom Prison Blues" in 1955, Cash always wanted to perform at a prison. By 1967 his career had taken a downturn because of his drug abuse, and in a bid to rebrand himself the label arranged a performance at Folsom prison itself. The resulting album was a huge success and went Gold in 1968.

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7. The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show (1964)

The British musical invasion on the US began when The Beatles first appeared on the Ed Sullivan show. It drew 73 million viewers - a figure modern TV producers can only dream of. The audience went so wild that there was a crush as they pushed towards the stage, and set a precedent for young women to scream at their musical idols for decades to come.

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6. Nirvana Unplugged on MTV (1993)

With Kurt Cobain suffering from drug withdrawal at the time, this legendary acoustic set almost didn't happen. "There was no joking, no smiles, no fun coming from him... everyone was more than a little worried about his performance," said one observer. With two days rehearsal practise, the band pulled together a 14-song set featuring six covers, and asked that the stage be decorated like a funeral. Cobain's version of songs like David Bowie's "The Man Who Sold The World" and "Where Did You Sleep Last Night" by Lead Belly often rank high in charts of the best covers ever.

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5. Iron Maiden "Live After Death"

The "World Slavery" tour lasted 331 days, prompting the band to request the rest of 1985 off to take a break before continuing recording. "I never thought it was going to end ... I began to feel like I was a piece of machinery, like I was part of the lighting rig," said frontman Bruce Dickinson. The "Live After Death" shows, which were later released as a live album, were recorded in London in England and Long Beach in California.

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4. Pink Floyd "The Wall"

The Wall was Roger Waters' brainchild, basing the character in this theatrical tale after himself and original singer Syd Barrett. Okay, so like the Iron Maiden entry it's not one show, but the staging and effects are so spectacular that any appearance of The Wall is historic.

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3. Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock (1969)

This two-hour set was the longest of his career. Critics say this performance encapsulated the 1960s movement, and his masterful control of amp feedback to emulate the sound of falling rockets captivated fans. People thought the sounds were a political statement against the Vietnam War, but Jimi later clarified: "We're all Americans... it was like 'Go America!' ...We play it the way the air is in America today. The air is slightly static, see." Whatever that means.

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2. Metallica in Seattle (1989)

This was one of the first large arena concerts ever, but it was memorable for so much more that its size. It later appeared on their live album "Live Sh-t: Bing And Purge". This semi-documentary footage tells the story much better than we ever could:

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1. Marty McFly at School Dance

Oh you guys! Looks like Marty's performance of "Johnny B. Goode" is your favorite gig of all time. Guess you had to be there, right? But seriously, this scene was an interesting idea because Chuck Berry's song was such a powerful influence on the future of rock at the time. Having a nod from Hollywood like this was very cool indeed - but not as cool as Marty's hoverboard.

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Thanks for all your votes, that was an awesome list. We hope you enjoy watching the videos over the weekend.

Which shows do you think should have made the grade? Let us know if we missed anything in the comments.

190 comments sorted by best / new / date

    "Critics say this performance encapsulated the 1060s movement" Yeah, King Harold really dug his wah work.
    Bravo!) Thank you for your ingenious comment - I really laughed!))) Fixed)))
    I'm kinda surprised that Queen's Live Aid performance isn't there. Can't argue with the ones that made it though.
    Strummerboy Leo
    That Back to the Future clip doesn't have Marty's solo freakout at the end, which is half the reason that movie's so awesome.
    Metallica in Seattle in 89'.. excellent!
    one of my favorite concerts ever, but hardly "iconic", especially when Queen at Live Aid and the Beatles' Rooftop concert got snubbed.
    It's my favorite gig of all time.....but then this is only Ultimate Guitar, who cares whos gets snubbed.
    Not an "iconic" gig
    I was about to scold you for your blasphemy but seeing that you live up to your username for being a "Tool", I told myself... "huh, just a waste of time."
    So then you wasted even more of your time by creating a "clever" insult instead of sticking to a blunt one?
    "but not as cool as Marty's overboard ." Oh for God's sake, UG.
    An excellent list! I personally would have included a few more gigs, but then it would no longer Top 10) Great!
    again some retard made list,ram before zep,nirvana before beatles,metallica before hendrix FU retard who made this...gimme more - ill still win
    FUUUU. [Insert band from 40 years ago] is better than [Insert band from 10/20 years ago]. FUU "Classic Rock" is better than [insert any other genre of music].
    That Led Zeppelin Show is Awesome.
    So glad they've actually got that full gig up. I have the DVD but it's good to see that they have the full gig still.
    I'm also surpised that Queen's Live Aid performance isn't there, but there's a lot of great memorable gigs here. Also, I LOVE MARTY MCFLY!
    Dr. Knox666
    Haha McFly number 1! That's just great. And now I have to facepalm myself 'cause when I voted I completely forgot Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison, DAMN!
    Studebaker Hoch
    Same here...I would have voted for that also.
    Dr. Knox666
    Well I actually didn't vote for McFly I just think it's hilarious, I love that ****in movie! My vote actually was Metallica in Seattle and Pantera at Monsters of Rock 1991. That's a really great list IMO.
    In the Hendrix part: "Critics say this performance encapsulated the 1060s movement" Damn Hendrix was more influential then i thought.
    I knew he was influential after he became famous, I didn't know he was influential before as well!
    Can't believe you didn't include the Beatles rooftop concert at Apple Records just before breaking up.
    I grew up watching my older brother's Live Shit: Binge & Purge VHS box set, so Metallica in '89 still pulls my heart strings.
    No AC/DC at Donnington? Kinda surprised thats not on there, but other than that i have no complaints!
    I would've put the Beatles 1st Ed Sullivan appearance at #1. Without the Beatles kicking in the USA musical door, their would never have been any of the others in the list (except Johnny Cash at Folsom). If it weren't for the moptop, fab 4 we'd all still have crewcuts and be listening to Conway Twitty and Frankie Avalon :
    beatels were important. but no that important. you're talking shit
    The only gigs on this list that fit the title "iconic" is the Hendrix Woodstock gig, and The Beatles (not "beatels") on Ed o'Sullivan. If you don't think The Beatles were "that important", have a read through this: The Beatles should've been first; Hendrix second. They were truly seminal events.
    Great article. There's no arguing the world changing effect of The Beatles 1st appearance on Ed Sullivan and Jimi's Woodstock (at least if you were a conscious human alive at that time). Jimi's version of the Star Spangled Banner was so divisive..."straights" thought it was sacreligious, "heads" loved it. Of course when the "straights" heard that Jimi was actually a paratrooper in the army, they didn't know what to make of him. Just this past Tuesday was the 42nd anniversary of Jimi's death. Wonder what he'd be playing now???
    Sir Stoney
    I don't see how iconic The Beatles were. I know they made pretty good music but the only thing iconic is when you listen to them "shrooming"
    They have 27 number one hits that spanned 8 years. They played the first arena rock concert (Shea Stadium 1965). They influenced genres spanning Disco (first band using a Moog synthesizer) all the way to heavy metal (first harmonized guitar riff in and your bird can sing 1966). If that isn't iconic I really don't know what to tell you lol
    look at how many cultural references there are to the beatles everyday, how often there songs are covered and used, how many sales, their music was nothing like anything at that time and even up until now, most if not all bands that followed used or did something the beatles had already done, think about the world without the beatles? they did more than just change music they changed the world, the way people are today, youd be suprised how much impact they had, they are the most iconic band ever. noone else comes close, except woodstock in terms of an iconic moment.
    Face R1pper
    I don't even like Bob Dylan but I figured his first electric show (in Rhode Island right?) would have been high on the list.
    I love Led Zeppelin, but honestly the 1973 Madison Square Garden gig was much cooler than Royal Albert Hall.
    Beatles on Ed Sullivan should have been #1 because of the historical value, with Hendrix at Woodstock at #2. Otherwise, disregarding that it's not Chuck Berry actually at #1, pretty good list.
    I think when all is said and done, of the ones on this list, the beatles should be first. (or second with mcfly first)
    Also, The Ramones in London in 1976 deserves a spot on this list. Without that show, the English punk rock scene wouldn't have ever gotten its feet of the ground.
    I guess iconic gigs and important guitar gigs are different. I agree. But SRV @ the El Mocambo Eric Johnson Austin City Limits
    How about: Monsters Of Rock Moscow? The largest live show ever? Or ACDC Live at Donington? Why is this site just smothered in 14 year olds!?!?!?!?
    How about Monsters of Rock in Moscow? The largest show ever? Or ACDC Live at Donington? Why is this site smothered in 14 year olds?!?!?!?
    Live shit was big but Tushino airport was probably the biggest show in history! some estimates put over 1 million people, the soviet soldiers threw down there arms for the damn show
    if you wanna talk big shows, you should mention Jean Michel Jarre, no one does shows as big as he does
    Rammstein's Volkerball easily kills most of these entries. I also thought HAARP , Muse at Wembley was also really good. Glad to see everyone here played it safe by hyping up all the old dinosaur acts again like the beatles, led zeppelin and Pink Floyd. I was almost fooled into reading a rolling stone magazine list again...
    Queen Live at Wembley has to be on this list, i couldn't give two shits about nirvana, it's an insult to even have them on the list and not freddie and crew.