The Final Performances Of Iconic Bands Before They Disappeared
Bands come and go, as none of them have the ability to stay relevant or keep playing music forever (unless you’re the Rolling Stones.) While some bands may have created more of an impact or are more successful and popular than others, they all have one thing in common: They all have their first show and they all have their last show. While sometimes bands know that it’s going to be their last show, other times, they don’t. So, learn about the last shows of these iconic bands and keep on praying for a reunion.
The Talking Heads
Although the Talking Heads officially broke up in 1991, they hadn’t toured together as a group since their Stop Making Sense tour in 1983. Things became tricky when the group reformed as the Heads without David Byrne in 1996 for the album No Talking.
This upset Byrne and even led him to threaten to sue the group. Yet, against all odds, the Talking Heads reunited in 2002 after they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Byrne agreed to play a three-song set with the band and the group played one last concert.
Creedence Clearwater Revival
While guitarist John Fogerty left the original Creedence Clearwater Revival lineup in 1971, the band continued on as a three-piece group up until calling it quits in 1972. Yet, around 11 years later, the band came together once again (except for Tom Fogerty) and played under the name of the Blue Velvets at their 20th-year high school reunion.
They played the reunion once again five years later this time with only John Fogerty and the drummer Doug Clifford. This was the last time that Creedence Clearwater Revival ever played together as a “band.”
Although the classic rock group Cream may have reunited for a short set at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, the band didn’t perform together since their show at the Royal Albert Hall in 1968 up until their four-night reunion in 2005.
While the band played at New York’s Madison Square Garden in October of 2005, Eric Clapton commented that “In many ways, I wish we had left it at the Albert Hall […] But the offer we were made was too good to refuse . . . We sounded small and tiny . . . For me, the heart had gone out of it, and also a certain amount of animosity had crept back in.”
Although there were rumors that Sting was going to reunite with the Police, the band had officially broken up at their height in 1984. Yet, the group realized that a reunion tour would make them enough money to be comfortable in their later years, so they decided to get back together.
The trio then toured the world numerous times between 2007 and 2008, with their final show being on August 7, 2008 at Madison Square Garden.
Although Journey went on to tour with Arnel Pineda acting as the lead singer, the band reunited with original lead singer Steve Perry in 1996 for their album Trial By Fire. Unfortunately, Perry injured his hip, which prevented the band from going on tour to promote their new album.
The band last toured with Perry in 1986 although they performed at an all-star concert in San Francisco 1991 in honor of Bill Graham. The band reunited with Steve Augeri in 1998 who acted as lead singer until 2006 until he was replaced by Arnel Pineda.
The original lineup of R.E.M., which included Bill Berry, last played together at their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. Then, Michael Stipe, Peter Buck, and Mike Mills played a full concert in Mexico City in November of 2008, telling the crowd that it was the band’s last time playing together for “a long time.”
Yet, in March, the group came together once again at a tribute for the band at Carnegie Hall where they played along with Patti Smith. This was the band’s final time playing on stage with one another.
In 2007, after a year of hype and anticipation, the group did a “reunion concert.” However, this was essentially just one big tease with the band only having one performance and refusing to play any other shows.
Fans had a long wait to see a recording of the show. Celebration Day wasn’t released until 2012. As far as the future, it sounds like Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones are willing to go on tour again, yet Robert Plant has been hard to convince.
It’s no secret that Pink Floyd has the ability to sell out tickets of every concert they decide to play, even without keyboardists Richard Wright. However, David Gilmour doesn’t have plans to do that anytime soon. This leaves Roger Waters to tour solo, playing Pink Floyd’s own songs.
However, the band did reunite at Live 8 in 2005 and once again in London in 2011. At the show, David Gilmour performed “Comfortably Numb” and “Outside the Wall” with Nick Mason joining the band for the song.
Unfortunately, the last show that Jimi Hendrix ever played was on September 6, 1970, on the Isle of Fehmarn in West Germany. The concert was for the German Love and Peace Festival, which has since grown into legend being Hendrix’s final performance.
Only a few videos of the show survived, although they’ve been edited together to capture most of the concert. This was Hendrix’s last time on stage, as he passed away less than 2 weeks later on September 18, 1970.
Sadly, the R&B star, Aaliyah, was killed on August 25, 2001, on her way back from the Bahamas filming the music video for her song “Rock the Boat.” The crew’s twin-engine Cessna crashed after it was overloaded with passengers and baggage.
However, a month earlier, Aaliyah had performed on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno which was her last-ever performance before her untimely death. Luckily, the show was filmed, so there’s actual documentation of her last performance.
On May 18, 2017, Chris Cornell played his final show with Soundgarden in downtown Detroit at the Fox Theater. Unfortunately, later that night, he was discovered by his bodyguard dead in his hotel room with the cause of death appears to have been suicide by hanging.
According to his widow, Vicky Karayiannis, “When we spoke after the show, I noticed he was slurring his words; he was different. When he told me he may have taken an extra Ativan or two, I contacted security and asked that they check on him.” RIP.
Black Sabbath, credited as the godfather of heavy metal, hasn’t released a studio album with their original lineup since Never Say Die! in 1978. However, they continued touring, particularly with Ozzfest from 1997 through 2005. Their final live performance was on February 4, 2017, in their home town of Birmingham, UK.
They came back together when they were inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame two months later where they performed their song “Paranoid.” The group hasn’t played together on stage since.
On July 15, 2003, country singer Johnny Cash or The Man In Black gave his last live performances in a series of surprise shows in rural Virginia. Many of the songs were dedicated to his wife, June Carter, who had recently passed away.
He stated that “The spirit of June Carter overshadows me tonight with the love she had for me and the love I have for her […] We connect somewhere between here and heaven. She came down for a short visit, I guess, from heaven to visit with me tonight to give me courage and inspiration like she always has.” He, in turn, passed away on September 12.
The Beatles went out in style on January 20, 1969, when they gave one of the most memorable final performances of any band. They performed on the roof of the Apple office building at 3 Savile Row in London. The concert was announced and surprised pedestrians and the people working in the surrounding office buildings.
The whole performance lasted for 42 minutes before it was shut down by the police. Luckily, it was filmed, with some of the footage being used in the Let It Be documentary.
Towards the end of the band’s career, The Doors’ performances had the reputation of being less-than-good with Jim Morrison being almost completely out of his mind. That was the case for their last show on December 12, 1970, at the Warehouse in New Orleans.
Jim Morrison was particularly out of control that night, messing up even the simplest song and deliberately ruining other songs. However, three months after the release on L.A. Woman in the spring of 1971, he was found dead in his bathtub in Paris from what appeared to be an overdose on alcohol and heroin.
Rock and roll outfit Lynyrd Skynyrd played their final show with the band’s original members on October 19, 1977, at South Carolina’s Greenville Memorial Auditorium. The concert was set two days after their album Street Survivors.
Tragically, the day after the concert, the band suffered a major loss when their plane crashed, killing lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, and backing vocalist Cassie Gaines. After taking some time to grieve, the band reunited in 1987 with Ed King and Johnny Van Zant taking his brother’s place.
After being at the top of the music industry, the Band decided to call it quits on November 25, 1976. However, they wanted to make their last show one to remember and decided that they would host it on Thanksgiving at the Winterland in San Francisco.
They invited many of the members’ close friends including other musicians such as Bob Dylan, Muddy Waters, Van Morrison, and more. The concert was also recorded and filmed by Martin Scorcese and was released in 1983 as The Last Waltz.
While most people claim that Unplugged for MTV was the band’s last performance, that’s not the case. In reality, on March 1, 1994, the band unknowingly played their last concert at Terminal 1 in Munich, Germany.
During that time, Cobain was diagnosed with bronchitis and laryngitis and urged him to take a long break, but he ignored their advice and continued to perform. Yet, that was the last show the band ever played, as Cobain’s body was found in his house in Seattle on April 8, 1994, even though it was estimated that he took his own life on April 5.
Technically, John Lennon’s last live concert was on November 28, 1974, where he appeared as a special guest during an Elton John concert in Madison Square Garden. However, his last time playing in front of an audience was for a television special for the entertainment company Lew Grade.
Not long after, he retired from music after the birth of his son, Sean. Years later, he released his comeback album Double Fantasy. Yet, he was assassinated by Mark David Chapman on December 8, 1980.
Just two and a half weeks before Lemmy Kilmister’s death, Kilmister was still playing his heart out on stage. The band’s final gig was on December 11, 2015, in Berlin. The show was expected to be one of the last for Motörhead’s 40th-anniversary tour, who would return to Europe for more shows in January.
However, Kilmister’s cancer was getting more severe until he eventually succumbed to his various illnesses on December 28, 2015. Even though his diagnosis was terminal, he refused to stop touring or recording with the band.
One of the great masters of soul, Otis Redding has been labeled as one of the greatest singers in American popular music for being way ahead of his time regarding his musical style. Many soul artists both during and after his time were highly influenced by his accomplishments which still resonate today.
His last performance, however, was Decemberember 9, 1967, in Celeveland, Ohio. There, he performed a rendition of the track “Respect” for an episode of the regional music show. Unfortunately, he died four days later in a plane crash that also took four members of his backing band, The Bar-Keys.
It’s no secret that the King of Rock and Roll made contributions to music that shaped what we know today. One of the most significant cultural icons of the 20th century, he continued to make and perform music for the better part of his career.
Yet, his final performance was on June 26, 1977, in Indianapolis, Indiana. Only a few months later, he was found dead in his bathroom on August 16, 1977, after years of prescription drug abuse. He was scheduled for another round of tours not long before his death.
Sid Vicious, born John Simon Ritchie, was the bassist and a vocalist for the iconic punk rock band Sex Pistols. A known heroin addict, he was accused of stabbing and killing his girlfriend Nancy Spungen on October 12, 1978.
Ten days after her death, Vicious attempted suicide by slitting his wrists with a shattered light bulb and once again when he attempted to jump out of a hospital window. He was arrested and charged with assault on December 9, 1978, and after making bail, was found dead of a heroin overdose on February 1, 1979. His last show had been on January 14, 1978 in San Francisco.
There’s no doubt that Queen, and especially Freddie Mercury, is one of the most influential bands of all time. Touring all around the world in the 1980s, Mercury was eventually diagnosed with AIDS and the group was forced to stop touring.
Yet, his last performance in front of a live audience was on August 9, 1986, in Knebworth, England. There was a crowd of over 120,000 people at Cricket stadium with the performance being considered one of the bands greatest.
A singer, actor, and producer, Frank Sinatra is hailed as one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. Selling more than 150 million records worldwide, he has also garnered the title as one of the best-selling musicians of all time. He released numerous albums over his career and even had a residency at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas where he played many of his shows.
At 70 years old, his final concerts were at the Fukuoka Dome in Japan in December 1994. However, his final show was on February 25, 1995, in Palm Springs at the Desert Classic golf tournament. He died in May 1998.
Born Lesane Parish Crooks, Tupac Shakur is considered to be one of the greatest hip hop artists of all time. He was the icon of West Coast hip hop integrating social issues into his music, bringing awareness about the problems with race and poverty.
His final show was at the House of Blues in Los Angeles on July 4, 1996. He was later shot in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas on September 7, 1996 and died 6 days later. Unfortunately, the gunman was never captured, although people believe it was someone from the East Coast hip hop scene.
George Harrison is best-known as the lead guitarist of the Beatles and earned the nickname of the “Quiet Beatle” both during and after his time in the group. While he wasn’t the primary songwriter for the Beatles, he is credited for writing songs such as “Taxman,” “Within Without You,” “Here Comes the Sun,” and more.
He had a successful solo career after the Beatles disbanded with his last show being on January 23, 1998, in Jackson, Tennessee. There, he performed “Your True Love” at the memorial service for Carl Perkins, with his performance being recorded.
While Elvis Presley may be the King of Rock, Michael Jackson is the King of Pop, and is arguably just as influential as Presley himself. Beginning his career at a young age in the Jackson 5, he grew to become a global figure and one of the greatest entertainers of all time.
Unfortunately, his last show was on June 23, 2009 in Los Angeles in which he was filmed performing for his This Is It tour in London, He died just two days later although his final performance was used in a film released after his death.
Christopher Wallace, also known as Notorious B.I.G. or Biggie Smalls, was an East Coast rapper who was in competition with Tupac in the 1990s. Regarded as one of the greatest rappers of all time, he is also credited with putting hip hop in New York on the map as West Coast was considered the holy land for the genre.
His last show was on March 7, 1997, at the 11th Annual Soul TrainMusic Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. He was fatally shot in a drive-by shooting just two days later while still in Los Angeles.
One of the best-selling musicians of all time, Whitney Houston has also been recognized by Guinness World Records as the most awarded female artists ever. Whitney Houston performed for the last time on February 9, 2012, where she performed with her friend Kelly Price.
Two days later, she was found dead in her room at the Beverly Hills Hilton on February 11. Her death was especially mourned considering that the 2012 Grammy’s were hosted the very next day,.
Glenn Frey With The Eagles
The founders of the classic rock group included Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Bernie Leadon, and Randy Meisner They eventually became one of the most successful groups of the 1970s and are now ranked No. 75 in Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Bands of All Time.
Although the Eagles still tour today, their last show with original founding member Glenn Frey was on July 29, 2015, the last show of a tour. Frey died unexpectedly on January 18, 2016, at the age of 67.
Although there were many famous rock and roll musicians during her time, few women were as successful and popular as Janis Joplin. During her time, she released three albums with her fourth album, Pearl, was released posthumously and reaching No.1 on the Billboard charts.
She was also posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995. Her final show was at Harvard Stadium in Boston for a sold-out audience on August 7, 1970. On October 4 of that year, she would die of an accidental heroin overdose.
Stevie Ray Vaughn
Stevie Ray Vaughn was a guitarist who was influential in the revitalization of blues in the 1980s. He’s commonly referred to as one of the greatest if not the best guitarists of all time. Unfortunately, his life was cut short by a horrible accident.
On the evening of August 27, 1990, Vaughn performed with his band Double Trouble as special guests at the Alpine Valley Musical Theater in Wisconsin along with Eric Clapton, Robert Cray, and Vaughn’s brother. After the show, Vaughn and some others boarded a helicopter back to Chicago which crashed and killed Vaughn.
Riley B. King, or B.B. King, was a blues singer, songwriter, electric guitarist, and record producer. He is credited with helping progress the evolution of electric guitar. Nicknamed the “King of Blues,” King was known to average around 200 concerts a year and in 1956 managed to play 342 shows.
His last performance was at the House of Blues in Chicago on October 3, 2014, where he had to stop playing because he didn’t feel well. He died several months later on May 14, 2015.
Brian Jones was a founding member of the Rolling Stones, yet by 1968, his drug and alcohol problems had begun to spiral out of control. Then, on December 11, 1968, the group performed for a planned television special titled the “Rock and Roll Circus.”
The band was set to go onstage at 5 AM although the footage was never released as it didn’t meet standards. Little did they know, but this was Brian Jones last show with the band. He was then fired from the band not long after and ended up drowning in his pool on July 3, 1969.
In 2004, musician and music icon David Bowie was on a European tour where he played the Hurricane Festival in Scheessel, Germany. However, immediately after after his performance, we went to be treated for what he thought was just a pinched nerve in his shoulder.
What actually was wrong was that he had an acutely blocked artery that required immediate treatment. Because of his failing health, this was the last tour he ever played. He did make a few brief appearances, with his last performance being in November 2006 with Alicia Keys.
“The First Lady of Song,” Ella Fitzgerald first began her singing career in 1934 after she won a competition at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. Throughout her career,she collaborated with some of the other great artists of her time including Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, Dizzy Gillespie, and more.
Her last concert was on June 27, 1991 at New York’s Carnegie Hall, the 26th time that she had performed there. She sang sitting down and felt a little under the weather. She then succumb to her diabetes in 1996 at her home in Beverly Hills.
Jerry Garcia is best remembered as the lead guitarist and partial vocalist for the iconic psychedelic jam band the Grateful Dead. Jerry was a founder of the group and played with them for thirty years while also becoming involved in various side projects.
However, his last performance was for a Grateful Dead show on July 9, 1995, at Soldier Field in Chicago. Unfortunately, he passed away a month later in a drug rehabilitation facility from a heart attack in August 1995 at the age of 53.
Paul Simon wasn’t very open about when his final performance was going to be, hinting at retirement for over a year and a half. However, after touring for his album Stranger to Stranger, he told New York Times, “Showbiz doesn’t hold any interest for me … I am going to see what happens if I let go. Then I’m going to see, who am I? Or am I just this person that was defined by what I did?”
He then announced his retirement on February 5, 2018, saying that after his upcoming tour he would call it quits. His last show was on September 24, 2018.
Ronnie James Dio
Ronnie James Dio was a prominent figure in the metal genre who founded or fronted numerous groups such as Black Sabbath, Heaven & Hell, Dio, Rainbow, and Elf. He was a highly influential individual in the genre and is even responsible for popularizing the “devil horns” hand symbol which has become iconic for rock and toll in general.
His last ever concert was with the group Heaven & Hell which took place on August 29, 2009. Dio passed away from stomach cancer on May 16 2010.