10 Iconic Final Concerts Plus The End Of Beatlemania
The Beatles' concert at San Francisco's Candlestick Park 46 years ago today was the end of an era for the band. Except for a famously unannounced appearance on top the Apple building two and a half years later, it would be the final live performance that the Fab Four would ever play together.
It was hardly the biggest show of the Beatles' career, barely holding a candle(stick) to the group's legendary Shea Stadium concert the previous year. The ballpark's capacity was 42,500, but only 25,000 tickets were sold, and the local promoter took a loss on the event. That seems incredible today, but fans in attendance and around the world had no reason to suspect that this would be the final concert the Beatles would ever play.
The band, on the other hand, had already made up their minds before they stepped onstage. Throughout the group's 14-date U.S. tour that year, they'd been worn down by controversy and death threats stemming from John Lennon's much-publicized claim that the Beatles were "more popular than Jesus." Everywhere they went in the States, the lads were hounded by those who loved and hated them alike.
Additionally, the stadium-rock machine hadn't quite caught up to the Beatles' phenomenal popularity. Few, if any, rock and roll sound systems existed yet that could amplify the band's music enough to be heard over the screams of tens of thousands of screaming fans.
Playing inaudibly on top of second base behind a six-foot wire fence was not the Beatles' idea of a good time. When the gig was over, they retired from touring and focused on an astoundingly creative career as recording artists.
They did, however, make sure to mark the occasion for posterity's sake. Lennon and McCartney snapped photos of the crowd and the band from the stage, and bade press officer Tony Barrow to tape record the performance. That tape has since been widely bootlegged, and rightly so: It was a momentous occasion in a historic career. But it was far from the only memorable concert finale in pop history.
Whether due to the untimely death of a band member, an acrimonious breakup or some other reason, the final performances of some of the beloved acts in music history have become legendary over the years. Here are 10 more of the most memorable.
10. Stevie Ray Vaughan
Final Performance: August 26, 1990
One of Texas' top guitar heroes, Stevie Ray Vaughan's incendiary playing won him fans all over the world. On August 26, 1990, he played the second night of two gigs supporting Eric Clapton at the Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy, Wisconsin. A day later, he was dead, the victim of a helicopter crash that also killed the pilot and three other passengers.
By all accounts, Stevie was playing on another level during his final performance, closing his set with a fiery version of Hendrix's "Voodoo Chile." He reappeared onstage during Clapton's finale, alongside brother Jimmie, Buddy Guy, Robert Cray and Slowhand himself for endless soloing on "Sweet Home Chicago." As final sign-offs go, he could have done a hell of a lot worse than that.