The Most Famous Concerts in the History of Red Rocks Amphitheatre
Spring is in the air, and you can already feel summer starting to wake from the long slumber of a Colorado winter. Without getting too excited too soon, it means barbecues, brewery patio days, and flip-flop weather is ahead.
It also means it's time to start getting ready for some outdoor live entertainment again; specifically speaking, more amazing summer shows at Red Rocks Amphitheatre.
For starters, let's clarify one thing. It's "amphitheatre" with an "RE," not "amphitheater" with an "ER" - which is to say they use the technically British or Canadian way to spell the word, but does it really matter? When you've got the most naturally beautiful concert venue on the planet Earth, you could spell amphitheater any way you, please.
I personally have seen many shows at Red Rocks, though my favorites are more about who I was with and whatever fun we were having that day than the show itself, in many cases.
For example, the Steve Miller Band was always a personal favorite for me at Red Rocks - a show I've seen many times there - just because of the friends I was with each summer.
I met and saw The Killers and Colorado's own The Fray there in 2005, which was a phenomenal show. Counting Crows, Goo Goo Dolls and more - all great shows. But would I trade a few of those to have seen Hendrix or the Beatles there back in the 60s? You betcha.
At any rate, with amazing shows on the horizon, it's time to review a few of the most awesome and, at the very least, most famous shows in the 81-year history of the picturesque venue.
The Beatles - August 26, 1964
Don't most lists about "the greatest" of something related to music always include the Beatles? In fact, the Fab 4 did play Red Rocks back in the early months of their meteoric rise in America, playing Red Rocks before - shockingly - a not sold out crowd just six months after they "arrived" in the United States to make that famous appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.
Jethro Tull - June 10, 1971
Probably the most controversial show in the history of Red Rocks - unless you count the time fans of the band Phish crashed all over the town of Morrison and got the band, um, banned from playing the venue for many years - was British rock band Jethro Tull in 1971. A few thousand people without tickets showed up to the sold-out show to try and listen from the area around the venue. And when they tried to crash the gates, the resulting clash with police on hand resulted in a riot and likely the most famous concert "incident" in Colorado history.
Jimi Hendrix - September 1, 1968
Blown amplifiers and an otherwise upset Jimi made this likely not the best Hendrix concert to have ever seen, but for $4.50 a ticket, who could complain today if you got to see him and his band the one, sole time they played the historic venue back in 1968? One highlight of the tour stop is that after the show, which Hendrix called "groovy and nice," he went back to his hotel and wrote the now-famous liner notes for his Electric Ladyland album.
Blues Traveler - July 4, 1993
The 4th of July in 1993 marked the first time the sound of John Popper's harmonica echoed off the slabs of Red Rocks, starting an Independence Day tradition in Colorado that has endured since 1995, with the exception of 2020 when life stopped for everyone and everything. Blues Traveler on the 4th at Red Rocks is a Colorado rite of passage, and is back on the schedule again this year for - you guessed it - July 4th.
Pearl Jam - June 20, 1995
If you weren't there on June 20, 1995, you missed your one and only chance to see the Seattle legends play our most historic and awesome venue in Colorado. It was a memorable show, marked by the band playing a few songs live that haven't actually been played live anywhere else over their storied history. The theory as to why Pearl Jam never returned to the venue is simple: they draw too big of a crowd, and Red Rocks only seats about 9,500 patrons.
Any of the numerous John Denver shows over the years
Through the '70s and '80s, there was no greater ambassador for the State of Colorado than folk artist John Denver, who played many, many, many shows at Red Rocks through the peak of his career. Many of those shows were televised to a worldwide audience, showcasing the state's natural beauty to people near and far. Denver, of course, sadly perished in a plane crash in 1997.
Any James Taylor Show in the last 30+ years
Taylor, who is again on tour this year but will not be playing Red Rocks, opting for Fiddler's Green in July instead, has referred to Red Rocks as "no better place in the universe to play a show." Every time he's played the venue, it's been an epic showcase of his numerous hits and a memorable experience.
U2 - June 5, 1983
Perhaps the single most famous Red Rocks moment came in a serendipitous way - the perfect combination of weird weather, a foggy glow, a huge crowd and an Irish guy waving a flaming torch in the air as he screamed "Sunday Bloody Sunday" into the red, rain-filled sky. I wasn't there, but people knew they were witnessing something special: the defining moment of what became one of the most successful rock bands in history and the most iconic moment ever at Red Rocks Amphitheatre.