10 Biggest Rock New Year’s Eve Concerts of All Time


Motley Crue performing in 2015.

Motley Crue has one of rock’s biggest New Years Eve concerts – Author Anne Erickson, Photo via Ken Settle

New Year’s Eve is a great time to see a rock show. I mean, what better way to kick off a new year than by experiencing some fantastic music? The same could actually be said for any kind of live entertainment. One of my favorite New Years Eves of all time was going to a hole-in-the-wall comedy club and watching some super funny up-and-coming talent do their thing. So, what are the biggest rock New Year’s Eve concerts of all time?

You’d think some of these guys and gals would take a break on New Year’s Eve, but there’s no rest for a rock star. Here are some of the most legendary rock concerts that took place on New Year’s Eve. Have a show we missed? Contact me on Facebook here.

Jimi Hendrix at Gypsys

Remember Jimi Hendrix’s power trio, Band of Gypsys? If not, that’s okay, because it didn’t last long. That said, Hendrix debuted his Gypsys during a pair of gigs on Dec. 31, 1969, and Jan. 1, 1970, at New York City’s Fillmore East. They were legendary shows, but by the end of January, the Gypsys had already broken up. Wow. That’s shorter than most romantic relationships.

The Beach Boys at Long Beach Auditorium

The Beach Boys performed their first paid concert before a live audience on Dec. 31, 1961. They actually performed with the famed Ike and Tina Turner at the Long Beach Auditorium. The show was a tribute to the late Ritchie Valens.

AC/DC Plays Their First Concert

Can you believe that AC/DC played their first concert on New Year’s Eve? The show took place in Sydney, Australia, at the Chequers nightclub in 1973. That was before I was born. Brothers Malcolm and Angus Young were there, but not the late Bon Scott, who didn’t join the band until the next year.

Journey Plays Their First Concert

What is it with rock bands debuting on New Year’s Eve? Journey also played their first concert on New Year’s Eve in 1973. This one took place in San Francisco, California. Like AC/DC, Journey were without their soon-to-be frontman, Steve Perry. Neal Schon and Gregg Rolie performed at the Winterland Arena.

The Cars Play Their First Concert

Here’s another first. The Cars, featuring Ric Ocasek and Benjamin Orr, performed their first gig on Dec. 31, 1976, at an Air Force base in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Ocasek and Orr also welcomed drummer David Robinson into the fold at this gig.

The Grateful Dead at Winterland

Deadheads know that Dec. 31, 1978 is a special date. That was the night the band performed at San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom to help close down the venue. The concert lasted for more than eight hours and the Dead performed for six of those hours.

Motley Crue Pretend to Retire

It didn’t last long. Like, really, it just lasted a few years. But, Motley Crue played their “farewell” show on Dec. 31, 2015, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The guys even signed an agreement legally barring members from touring as Motley Crue again. But, just a few years later, they ripped up that agreement. We all know how this story ends.

Gene Simmons Sets His Hair on Fire

Have you noticed how many legendary concerts took place on New Year’s Eve in 1973? That was before I was born, but I wish I could have been a fly on the walls at those shows. One big show that took place on that date is when Gene Simmons set his hair on fire during a gig at the Academy of Music in New York City. That’s not super uncommon for Simmons, but the fact it was on New Year’s Eve makes it more legendary.

Bruce Springsteen at the Richfield Coliseum in Cleveland

Bruce Springsteen closed out his tour in support of “Darkness on the Edge of Town” on New Year’s Eve in 1978. A scary thing happened during the show. On the second-to-last-night of the tour, Springsteen got hit in the face with a lit firecracker. He was okay, though, and even returned to finish off the set. That’s why Bruce is king.

Bob Dylan’s Surprise Appearance

On Dec. 31, 1971, Bob Dylan made a surprise appearance at The Band’s residency at the Academy of Music. Dylan performed four songs at the gig with his old bandmates. What a thrill for the audience, right?

Check out the 10 best classic rock bands of all time, as judged by Audio Ink Radio, here.

Anne Erickson
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Posted by Anne Erickson | Features, Music, Rock