Rock In Rio: A History in 10 Videos

Rock In Rio: A History in 10 Videos

Rock in Rio 2017

Rock in Rio 2017

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

33 years ago, a festival legend was born. The biggest in the world at the time, Rock In Rio brought around 1.4 million people to the custom built City of Rock in Rio De Janeiro's Barra de Tijuca, across the course of ten days.  

Since then, there have been six editions of the festival in Brazil, as well as a whole host of other versions in the USA and in Europe, predominantly in the Portuguese city of Lisbon.

With a seventh Brazilian edition just a matter of days away, we've looked back through the years at all of the previous Rock In Rio festivals to take place in the eponymous city, from the 1980s through to the present day. 

1985 - Queen Are The Champions

Along with their 1985 Live Aid performance, and their iconic 1986 gig at Wembley Stadium, Queen's headline appearance at the first ever Rock In Rio goes down not simply as one of the band's most iconic performances, but as one of the most famous rock shows of all time.

Their two headline sets were watched on TV by nearly 200 million people in over 60 countries across the world, in addition to the 350,000-500,000 people in the crowd each night.

1991 – An Unlikely Hero

The second edition of Rock In Rio, six years on from the first, took place in the iconic Maracanã Stadium rather than the City of Rock.

Another record breaking year, the festival reportedly earned itself a place in the Guinness Book of Records for the largest paying audience at a concert.

It wasn't Prince, Guns N' Roses or even pop megastar George Michael that drew this record-breaking audience, however, but rather Norwegian band A-ha. Apparently, their 198,000 strong crowd was more than the other three acts put together. Who'd have thought it?

No disrespect to the new-wave trio, but I know who I'd have been more excited to see...


2001 – A Brave New World

A decade passed before Rock In Rio returned, but it did so in some style. Back in its original home at the City of Rock for the new millennium, the festival welcomed Sting, R.E.M, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Neil Young, Guns N' Roses and NSYNC to headline.

Iron Maiden, who had appeared at the first edition back in 1985, also stepped up to challenge of topping the bill, recording their set and releasing it as a live album and video, which went on to be certified gold across the globe.


2011 – Back from Europe

Another ten years went by before the festival returned to its spiritual home in Rio De Janeiro, after four outings in Lisbon between 2004 and 2010, and Madrid editions in 2008 and 2010. And given that 700,000 tickets were sold in just four days, it's fair to say it was a welcome return.

The festival brought back former headliners Guns N' Roses and Red Hot Chili Peppers, while also marking a debut for music icons old and new:

From Elton John and Stevie Wonder... Rihanna and Coldplay...

2013 – The Boss goes Brazilian

Things were back with much more regularity now; no more waiting a generation between festivals. 

Iron Maiden were at the top of the bill once more, as was Justin Timberlake (only this time without the rest of the NSYNC boys), as well as Muse, Bon Jovi, Beyonce and Metallica.

The penultimate night, however, belonged to The Boss. Opening with a cover of Sociedade Alternativa by Raul Seixas, known by many as the 'Father of Brazilian Rock', Springsteen paid perfect tribute to Brazil's rich music history, before moving on to songs spanning his four decade career.

2015 – Queen Will Rock You (Again)

30 years on from their iconic appearance at the festival's debut, Queen were back at the City of Rock once more for a headline appearance at Rock In Rio. Of course, Freddie was sadly no longer present, with Adam Lambert ably taking on vocal duties.

Nonetheless, the performance was one to remember...

And after three decades, it was clear how much the festival still meant to people...


2017 – The Next Chapter

And here we are, a matter of days away from the latest edition of the iconic festival, held for the first time in the newly constructed City of Rock (built to replace the original that made way for the Olympic Village).

A few familiar faces return, with Red Hot Chili Peppers, Guns N Roses, Bon Jovi, Justin Timberlake and Maroon 5 all topping the bill once again.

They are joined by two iconic bands, making their Rock In Rio debuts: Aerosmith and The Who, as well as pop megastar Lady Gaga. 

Who knows which moments will be the most memorable this time round, but it's sure to be another unforgettable experience for those lucky enough to have a ticket.

Rock In Rio 2017 takes place from 15-17 and 21-24 September. Book tickets & packages here, and find out more on our guide.


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