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The Most Iconic Rock Concerts in Italy

The roar of the delirious crowds, the incessant rhythm, and the unrestrained shouts of passionate fans. This has been the essence of Italy every time the giants of world rock music stepped onto its stages for rock concerts in Italy. Italy was not always a fixed stop on the tours of major stars, except in rare cases in Milan, the commercial heart of Northern Italy, or in Rome, the eternal capital. Italian rock enthusiasts hold vivid memories of the rare occasions when legends like the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, or U2 performed on the peninsula.

Beatles in Rome – 1965

From Liverpool to Italy, it was the only tour that also reached us, with stops in Milan, Genoa, and Rome. Still at the top of the “Rolling Stones” list of the 100 greatest artists of all time. Four young men just over 20 years old, with much more to say and, above all, arriving in Italy with a hint of the fame they would achieve in the years to come.

The Beatles in Rome
Crowd outside the theater for the performance of the Beatles | Credit

At the Teatro Adriano in Rome, tickets reached prices of up to 7,000 pounds. At the end of the brief 35-minute performance, drummer Ringo Starr threw his drumsticks into the crowd, sparking a huge Roman debate as many still swear to own them!

Jimi Hendrix in Rome – 1968

The world’s most famous guitarist delighted Italians in May 1968, just two years before his death. Unkempt hair and a guitar neck held upside down as a good left-hander were the key ingredients to his delight, as only he knew how.

Jimi Hendrix concert in Rome
Jimi Hendrix in Rome – 1968

In an economically difficult context (the ticket price was considered too high), and with many empty seats at the Teatro Brancaccio, Jimi Hendrix certainly lived up to the audience’s expectations. An interesting anecdote, still cited today to remember the great falls of Italian journalism, was an article written for Il Giornale by a journalist sent to Rome to cover the event. He described the artist’s performance as follows, “Horror at the Brancaccio… Jimi Hendrix’s ugliness is such that it surpasses common aesthetic concepts.”

Rolling Stones in Turin – 1982

It was certainly not an easy time for outdoor performances and rock concerts in Italy. The 1980s were challenging, to the point where Florence refused to host the Rolling Stones for a concert. The public disorder was frightening, and the political climate was extremely tense.

In this context, the Rolling Stones performed on a scorching afternoon at the Comunale Stadium in Turin on July 11, 1982.

A fascinating anecdote to tell is Mick Jagger’s prediction on the occasion of the World Cup final between Italy and West Germany, which would be played later that evening. It seems that the frontman of the group predicted, hitting the mark, the clear result of the match, shouting to the crowd, “You will win 3-1.” Italy became world champions for the third time, thanks to goals from Rossi, Tardelli, and Altobelli.

Metallica in Milan – 1987

One of the greatest bands in heavy metal and contemporary rock history, during the Damage tour they arrived at the Palatrussardi in Milan.

Pink Floyd in Venice – 1989

A concert without precedents in the Italian landscape. The unique floating stage on the Venetian lagoon facing Piazza San Marco, with over 200,000 spectators, is enough to understand its international relevance. However, the event was more controversial than celebrated, with limits set at 60 decibels to protect the Byzantine mosaics of the cathedral (although peaks of 92 decibels were reached) and a ban on installing public bathrooms for aesthetic reasons.

Floating stage on the Venetian lagoon - Pink Floyd concert in Venice
The unique floating stage on the Venetian lagoon facing Piazza San Marco | Credit

The Pink Floyd concert went down in history not only for these heated debates but also for the unexpected global interest via cable for rock concerts in Italy. In the United States, 27 million citizens followed the entire concert, paying $10. The event was even broadcast in the two Germanic countries and the Soviet Union. In addition to the 200,000 spectators in Venice, it is estimated that another 3.5 million Italians watched the event on television, bringing the total number of spectators to about 100,000 worldwide.

U2 in Reggio Emilia and Rome – 1997

During the PopMart Tour, U2 held a total of 93 shows, including 2 in Italy (Rome and Reggio Emilia). Both shows sold out, with 56,392 tickets sold for the Rome concert and 150,000 for the Reggio Emilia concert, totaling $7,284,190 in revenue.

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