May 30, 2023 - News

15 greatest concerts in Cleveland history

Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen perform on stage together.

Bobby and The Boss. Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage

Ever since Cleveland disc jockey Alan Freed coined the term rock 'n' roll in the early 1950s, the amazing music and performances haven't stopped in Northeast Ohio.

Why it matters: We ranked the 15 greatest concerts in Cleveland history, revisiting the area's most memorable performances.

State of play: The list features shows by Michael Jackson, Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and more.

What's next: You can read our features on each show below.

No. 15: Michael Jackson's Bad Tour

Michael Jackson performs on stage.
Who's bad? Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

By the time Michael Jackson's Bad Tour descended upon Richfield Coliseum in October 1988, it was well on its way to becoming one of the biggest in music history.

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No. 14: Lollapalooza 1991

Trent Reznor performs on stage.
Trent Reznor gets down in it. Photo: Ebet Roberts/Redferns

The first-of-its-kind touring rock festival was already halfway through its inaugural run when it descended upon Blossom Music Center on Aug. 5, 1991.

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No. 13: The Pretenders seek revenge

Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders plays guitar and sings on stage.
Welcome to Chrissie Hynde's 1980 revenge tour. Photo: Paul Natkin/Getty Images

On March 17, 1980, The Pretenders' Chrissie Hynde returned to Northeast Ohio with revenge on her mind.

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No. 12: Rush's Time Machine

Geddy Lee of Rush raises his hands in the air during a performance.
Geddy Lee gets "Rushified" in Cleveland. Photo: Paul Warner/WireImage

Rush performed in Northeast Ohio more than 30 times, but it was the band's April 15, 2011, concert that would forever be immortalized.

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No. 11: The Black Keys' secret show

Members of The Black Keys perform on stage.
Patrick Carney and Dan Auerbach in all their thickfreakness glory. Photo: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

The Black Keys' concert at Beachland Tavern on May 7, 2008, was about getting back to the Akron duo's roots.

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No. 10: Pink Floyd's stadium flyover

Pink Floyd's Roger Waters plays bass on stage in the 1970s.
Roger Waters of Pink Floyd on the In the Flesh Tour in 1977. Photo: David Redfern/Redferns

Even by Pink Floyd standards, the band's June 25, 1977, World Series of Rock concert at Cleveland Municipal Stadium was a wild ride.

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No. 9: Nine Inch Nails reunion

Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails performs on stage.
Reunited and feels so angsty. Photo: Scott Legato/Getty Images

Nine Inch Nails' reunion concert at Blossom Music Center saw Trent Reznor bring back former band members, some of whom hadn't played with the band in nearly 20 years.

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No. 8: The Rolling Stones' 1975 stadium gig

Ronnie and Mick. Photo: Tom Hill/WireImage

The Rolling Stones' June 14, 1975, concert at Cleveland Municipal Stadium drew an estimated 82,000 people — the largest concert crowd seen in Northeast Ohio up to that point.

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No. 7: Led Zeppelin's Destroyer

Robert Plant and Jimmy Page on stage together with Led Zeppelin.
Plant and Page. Photo: Richard McCaffrey/ Michael Ochs Archive/ Getty Images

Led Zeppelin's April 27 performance was recorded from the soundboard at Richfield Coliseum and would make the rounds as "Destroyer," one of the most popular bootlegs in music history.

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No. 6: Beatlemania

The Beatles perform on stage in 1964.
The Fab Four. Photo: Les Lee/Express/Getty Images

The Fab Four's concert on Sept. 15, 1964, at Public Hall sparked two days of fan frenzy unlike anything Northeast Ohio had ever seen.

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No. 5: American Music Masters

Bruce Springsteen plays his acoustic guitar on stage.
The Boss honors Woody Guthrie. Photo: Ebet Roberts/Redferns

In 1996, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame launched its American Music Masters concert series with a tribute to folk music icon Woody Guthrie.

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No. 4: Moondog Coronation Ball

Black and white photo of a 1950s rock show.
Moondogs of rock 'n' roll. Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Cleveland's claim to being the birthplace of rock 'n' roll goes back to one event — the Moondog Coronation Ball.

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No. 3: David Bowie's debut

Davie Bowie performs on stage as Ziggy Stardust.

When David Bowie took the stage in Cleveland in 1972, he was a British musician still looking for his big break in the United States.

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No. 2: Springsteen at the Agora

Bruce Springsteen plays guitar on stage.
Light in the darkness on the edge of town. Photo: Larry Hulst/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Bruce Springsteen might hail from New Jersey, but Cleveland has felt like his home away from home since a famous 1978 concert at the Agora.

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No. 1: Concert for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Chuck Berry duck walks on stage.
Duck walk to history. Photo: Ebet Roberts/Redferns via Getty

When the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame opened in September 1995, it did so not just with the biggest concert in Cleveland history, but with one of the greatest music showcases of all time.

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