Cleveland rocks. As the home of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and birthplace of legendary industrial rockers Nine Inch Nails, that fact remains undeniable. There’s just no two drumsticks about it. Icons like Jimi Hendrix and Bruce Springsteen broke through to stardom under the stage lights during their concerts in Cleveland. Luckily, more than just the recordings remain.
So let’s unearth some fond memories; we’re going back in time to study the history of music and identify the most memorable concerts in Cleveland rock history.
The Beatles – August 14, 1966 @ Public Hall
There was much talk about the band’s 1964 show; however, it was the 1966 memorable concert that stuck in the ears and hearts of Cleveland rock fans forever. It was the height of Beatlemania. The show had to be shut down temporarily when thousands of rabid fans rushed the stage to get a closer look. Once the 12-song set was played and done, the band had to escape through a back door and directly to the airport to avoid the chaos.
David Bowie – 1972 @ Music Hall (3x)
Virtually unknown in 1972 America, the late David Bowie is a rock god. His first-ever U.S. concert was held at the 3,000-seat Music Hall in Cleveland. The crowd packed in to hear a slew of future hits, including “Changes, ” “Life on Mars,” and other future rock staples. Bowie played through much of his revolutionary 1972 glitter-rock masterpiece, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars. Bowie was so enamored by the sold-out audience and memorable concert that he returned for another two-show visit on the very same tour. The feeling was mutual, as he sold out the 10,000-capacity Public Hall on both nights.
The Moondog Coronation Ball – March 21, 1952 @ Cleveland Arena
To many esteemed rock historians, it was the original rock concert. Yes, Alan Freed’s Moondog Coronation Ball gave birth to a new era of musical expression. Furthermore, this memorable concert eternally made Cleveland a rock and roll city. The five-act show was headlined by Paul Williams and Tiny Grimes. Tickets were a whopping $1.50 a head.
The concert in Cleveland was greatly oversold, with ticket sales doubling the venue’s capacity. The highly-anticipated concert only lasted for one song, as authorities cut the show short to avoid rioting and stampeding. Despite its early end, the initial hype and post-show publicity opened the doors for a new sound that would change the world forever.
Concert for the Rock Hall – Sept. 2, 1995 @ Municipal Stadium
It was a concert fit for the grandest of openings. In 1995, with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum set to open, only the biggest names were called to christen this cultural gem. Al Green, Chuck Berry, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, James Brown, Bruce Springsteen, Sheryl Crow, and Johnny Cash were all on hand to perform during the guitar-strumming event. The Cleveland concert was 10 hours long. While other performers played short sets, The Boss and his E Street Band ripped countless hits for the massive waterfront audience.
Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band – August 9, 1978 @ Agora
Rock legend Bruce Springsteen knows how to put on a memorable show. His best night of live music may very well have taken place in Cleveland on one warm August night. The E Street Band was firing on all cylinders, delivering a powerful performance at the height of their glory. Springsteen just recently released the full recording of the show.
Lollapalooza – Aug. 5, 1991 @ Blossom
Lollapalooza is synonymous with legendary live performances. Now a weekend-long festival in Chicago, Lollapalooza got its start as a touring mega event. That first year, it was headlined by founding band Jane’s Addiction. When hometown rock heroes Nine Inch Nails took the stage in Cleveland, the audience went wild, tearing out pavilion seats and chunks of lawn in the process.
The White Stripes – July 18, 1998 @ Pat’s in the Flats
In 1998, The White Stripes were yet to release a single album. But people still talk about the show at Pat’s. Jack and Meg White, then secretly married, rocked the tiny venue with their raw and authentic sound. The duo became fast legends of the rock world in the early 2000s, putting out six great albums and selling out arenas.
Jimi Hendrix – March 26, 1968 @ Public Hall
A year before his rock-altering show at Woodstock in the summer of 1969, Jimi Hendrix came to Cleveland’s Public Hall for back-to-back sold-out concerts. Among other acts of brilliance, Hendrix played the guitar with his teeth. Dressed in a rainbow jacket and black hat, the rocker ripped guitar solos from every corner of the stage. Of course, he played from his knees on numerous occasions during his two-night visit, earning applause from an army of fanatics.
Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins, Red Hot Chili Peppers – October 26, 1991 @ Cleveland Music Hall
What happens when you combine three of the best 90’s bands? A once-in-a-lifetime grunge fest. Fresh off releasing their most successful albums, Pearl Jam and Red Hot Chili Peppers were on top of their game. Smashing Pumpkins, while years away from super stardom, held their own among their greatest contemporaries. Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam ripped the stage with mega hits “Alive” and “Even Flow,” while the Chili Peppers ran off hits from Blood Sugar Sex Magik, including “Under the Bridge” and other instant rock classics.
Chicago – April 7, 2019 at the Rocksino
What was your favorite concert in Cleveland? The future is bright for Rock ‘n’ Roll and its founding city. Next time you’re in Cleveland, stop by Hard Rock Rocksino to check out the wide collection of Hard Rock gear. And don’t forget to pay a visit to Hard Rock Live. Chicago will be taking the stage on April 7th. Get your tickets before the show sells out!