'This is history' - 10 top gigs held at Knebworth House

Rammstein on the Apollo stage at Sonisphere Festival 2010 at Knebworth.

Rammstein on the Apollo stage at Sonisphere Festival 2010 at Knebworth. - Credit: Alan Davies

Queen, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Oasis, and Robbie Williams are just some of the acts to have headlined Knebworth House over the years.

The first Knebworth festival was held back in the summer of 1974, and nearly 50 years later it is still a badge of honour to have played the Hertfordshire stately home of rock. 

Knebworth Park is the largest single stage venue in the country. 

The Oasis stage at Knebworth in 1996 seen from Knebworth House

The Oasis stage at Knebworth in 1996 seen from Knebworth House - Credit: Supplied by Knebworth House - Henry Lytton Cobbold

While current restrictions mean that Knebworth can't host huge shows to thousands of fans at the moment, live music will hopefully return one day.

Who doesn't want to say they've headlined Knebworth?

As Noel Gallagher said during Oasis' 1996 concerts: "This is history, this is history, right here, right now. This is history."

Liam Gallagher chipped in: "No, this is Knebworth!"

The sleeve for Pink Floyd Live At Knebworth 1990. The album is released on April 30, 2021.

The sleeve for Pink Floyd Live At Knebworth 1990, which is released on April 30. - Credit: Warner Music

With Pink Floyd set to release a live album of their 1990 Knebworth performance at the Silver Clef Awards Winners Concert, here we look at 10 momentous gigs held at Hertfordshire's stately home at rock. 

Most Read

The gigs are listed in chronological order only.

Did you attend any of the following gigs at Knebworth? Send us your memories of concerts and festivals at Knebworth House over the years. Email alan.davies@archant.co.uk with your recollections and pictures with 'Knebworth' in the subject field.


1. THE BUCOLIC FROLIC

While music has featured throughout Knebworth House’s long history, Saturday, July 20, 1974 was the date of the Herts venue's first major rock festival.

Put on by promoter Freddy Bannister, Led Zeppelin were initially approached to headline.

They dropped out and the bill that summer's day eventually included Van Morrison, the Doobie Brothers, and American group The Allman Brothers Band, who closed the event with a mammoth set.

Tickets were £2.75 in advance and £3 on the day.

For those that haven't heard of the Allmans, the Top Gear theme tune Jessica is by them. 


The poster for Pink Floyd's concert at Knebworth Park in 1975.

The line-up for Pink Floyd's concert at Knebworth Park in 1975. - Credit: Knebworth House

2. PINK FLOYD

Following the previous year's success, rock promoter Freddy Bannister returned to Knebworth Park on July 5, 1975 with Pink Floyd headlining this time.

The gig caused huge tailbacks along the motorway as thousands turned up.

Pink Floyd's set opened with two Spitfires flying overhead and the band later played the whole of The Dark Side of the Moon album.

The day's line-up also included the Steve Miller Band, Captain Beefheart, and members of Monty Python!


Knebworth House's Henry Lytton Cobbold with the red underpants left by Mick Jagger at the Hertfordsh

Knebworth House's Henry Lytton Cobbold with the red underpants left by Mick Jagger at the Hertfordshire stately home. Picture: Danny Loo - Credit: Archant

3. KNEBWORTH FAIR - THE ROLLING STONES

Promoter Freddy Bannister got the Stones to headline Knebworth in 1976.

Lynyrd Skynyrd and 10cc were also on the bill that August day, but most people were there to see Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Co, even though they didn't come on until gone 11pm and left the stage around 2am.

Stones frontman Mick Jagger later left his red underpants at the bottom of the bed at Knebworth House.


4. KNEBWORTH FESTIVAL - LED ZEPPELIN

Rock giants Led Zep played successive Saturdays at Knebworth back in August 1979.

They were the final gigs on UK soil for the hard rock foursome of singer Robert Plant, guitarist Jimmy Page, drummer John Bonham, and bassist/keyboardist John Paul Jones.

John Bonham died the following year and the band broke up. Plant and Page did play Knebworth again 11 years later when they teamed up on stage at the 1990 Silver Clef Award Winners Concert.

Led Zep's 1979 Knebworth gigs featured classic tracks such as Kashmir, Stairway to Heaven, Rock and Roll, and Whole Lotta Love.


The inside sleeve of Queen album Live Magic features a picture of the band's helicopter above Knebworth Park.

The inside sleeve of Queen album Live Magic features a picture of the band's helicopter above Knebworth Park. - Credit: Alan Davies

5. QUEEN

Saturday, August 9, 1986 will go down in music history as the final gig featuring the original Queen line-up of frontman Freddie Mercury, guitarist Brian May, bassist John Deacon, and drummer Roger Taylor.

Tagged on the end of the rock group's massive Magic Tour in support of album A Kind of Magic, Queen rocked 120,000 fans packed into the park that summer's day 35 years ago.

An iconic picture of the band’s helicopter above Knebworth was later used as part of the gatefold sleeve for a live album of the 1986 tour.

Of that A Night of Summer Magic concert, Knebworth's Henry Lytton Cobbold told this paper: “We didn’t know at the time, but sadly it was Freddie Mercury’s last show.

"But boy, to arrive in style with that helicopter shot and to give that performance... and to have 120,000 people all singing along to those chants, We Will Rock You and Radio Ga Ga."

Queen, with Adam Lambert taking on singing duties, were due to return to Knebworth to headline the ill-fated 2012 Sonisphere.

That Sonisphere Festival was cancelled just weeks after tickets had gone on sale.


The great gig in the park... Pink Floyd on stage during their performance at Knebworth in 1990.

The great gig in the park... Pink Floyd on stage during their performance at Knebworth in 1990. - Credit: Pete Still / Hipgnosis

6. SILVER CLEF AWARD WINNERS CONCERT

Take a Beatle, a couple of Led Zep members, Pink Floyd, and a host of legendary 70s and 80s performers and you have the 1990 Silver Clef Award Winners Concert – Knebworth Park's answer to Live Aid.

The stellar charity line-up featured Paul McCartney, Elton John, Cliff Richard and The Shadows, Genesis and Phil Collins, Robert Plant with Jimmy Page, Status Quo, Tears for Fears, Mark Knopfler and Dire Straits, Eric Clapton, and Pink Floyd. 

"There is something special about Knebworth," reminisced Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason.


An Oasis poster for the band's Knebworth concerts

An Oasis poster for the band's Knebworth concert on Saturday, August 10, 1996. It quickly sold out, with a second date the following day added. - Credit: Archant

7. OASIS

Following the release of album (What's the StoryMorning Glory?, more than three million people applied for tickets when Oasis announced they would be playing Knebworth.

The high point of Britpop? Definitely! No maybe about it.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of those era-defining gigs by the Gallagher brothers on Saturday, August 10 and Sunday, August 11.

Oasis Knebworth gig ticket for Saturday, August 10, 1996

Oasis Knebworth gig ticket for Saturday, August 10, 1996 - Credit: Archant

Oasis Knebworth gig ticket for Sunday, August 11, 1996

Oasis Knebworth gig ticket for Sunday, August 11, 1996 - Credit: Archant

Oasis' setlist included tracks Some Might Say, Wonderwall, Supersonic, Cigarettes & Alcohol, Don't Look Back in Anger, Roll With It, Whatever, and Live Forever.

The Stone Roses guitarist John Squire also joined the band on stage for the encore of Champagne Supernova.

The Definitely Maybe band even debuted two new tracks – My Big Mouth and It's Gettin' Better (Man!!) – that later appeared on third album Be Here Now.

Oasis album Be Here Now

The special three CD re-release of Oasis album Be Here Now included My Big Mouth recorded live at Knebworth Park in 1996. - Credit: Alan Davies

Show times for the first Oasis gig at Knebworth on August 10, 1996.

Show times for the first Oasis gig at Knebworth on August 10, 1996. - Credit: Alan Davies

Oasis show times for the band's Knebworth gig on August 11, 1996.

Oasis show times for the band's Knebworth gig on August 11, 1996. - Credit: Alan Davies

With tickets costing £22.50, fans certainly got their money's worth with the supporting cast over the two days including Ocean Colour Scene, Manic Street Preachers, The Chemical Brothers, The Prodigy, Cast, and The Charlatans.

The Oasis stage at Knebworth in 1996

The Oasis stage at Knebworth in 1996. - Credit: Supplied by Knebworth House - Henry Lytton Cobbold


8. ROBBIE WILLIAMS

While Oasis played two nights at Knebworth, Robbie went one better by adding a third date on the Friday when he entertained fans in Hertfordshire back in August 2003. 

The then former Take That singer performed to an estimate 375,000 fans over three consecutive nights, having caused huge tailbacks on the A1(M) during rush hour on the Friday evening.

Crowds gather for the Robbie Williams concert in the grounds of Knebworth House in 2003

Crowds gather for the Robbie Williams concert in the grounds of Knebworth House in 2003 - Credit: Archant

Ever the showman, Robbie made a dramatic entrance, recreating the cover of album Escapology by dangling upside down above the stage as the curtains parted, before launching into opening track Let Me Entertain You.

Of course, Robbie also played Angels and was even joined on stage by Take That's Mark Owen on the third day to perform Back for Good.

A live DVD, What We Did Last Summer – Robbie Williams: Live at Knebworth, and an album Live at Knebworth were later released as souvenirs of the gigs.


Rammstein on the Apollo stage at Knebworth's Sonisphere Festival 2010.

Rammstein on the Apollo stage at Knebworth's Sonisphere Festival 2010. - Credit: Alan Davies

9. SONISPHERE 2010 - RAMMSTEIN

A huge German flag unfurled across the entire stage.

An industrial metal band from Berlin singing in German to thousands of music fans on British soil.

And more pyrotechnics than your average fireworks night bash.

Rammstein on the Apollo stage at Sonisphere Festival 2010 at Knebworth.

Rammstein on the Apollo stage at Sonisphere Festival 2010 at Knebworth. - Credit: Alan Davies

You simply had to be there for Rammstein's first ever outdoor UK performance to understand its scale and significance. 

When they were announced, Rammstein said they were "looking forward to putting on a show that no-one will ever forget”.

Rammstein on the Apollo stage at Sonisphere Festival 2010 at Knebworth.

Rammstein on the Apollo stage at Sonisphere Festival 2010 at Knebworth. - Credit: Alan Davies

They lived up to their word. Rammstein’s display of fire, flames and special effects contained a total of 22 tonnes of pyrotechnics, and the group’s 200 tonnes of kit required nine articulated lorries to ship it to Knebworth.

After the show, Knebworth House's Henry Lytton Cobbold said: “We like breaking records at Knebworth and that was a record amount of pyrotechnics.”

Iron Maiden headlined the festival the following night.

But Rammstein stole the show that weekend.

Rammstein headlining the 2010 Sonisphere Festival at Knebworth

Rammstein headlining the 2010 Sonisphere Festival at Knebworth. - Credit: Alan Davies

Rammstein on the Apollo stage at Sonisphere

Rammstein on the Apollo stage at Sonisphere - Credit: Archant


Metallica's equipment outside Knebworth Barns during the Sonisphere Festival

Metallica's equipment outside Knebworth Barns during the Sonisphere Festival. - Credit: Alan Davies

10. SONISPHERE 2011 - THE BIG 4

Metallica closed the Sunday night of the opening Sonisphere rock and metal festival at Knebworth in 2009.

The Enter Sandman legends headlined the 2014 Sonisphere alongside British heavy metal icons Iron Maiden.

However, it was the American group's 2011 appearance at Knebworth that metal fans will remember most.

James Hetfield of Metallica on stage at the 2011 Sonisphere Festival at Knebworth.

James Hetfield of Metallica on stage at the 2011 Sonisphere Festival at Knebworth. - Credit: Thomas Clark / Archant

The opening Friday of that festival was 'Big Four' day when thrash metal's genre-defining foursome – Anthrax, Megadeth, Slayer and Metallica – all played on the same bill in the UK for the first time.

It was loud. It rocked. And all four groups got on stage to jam together. 

Metallica's James Hetfield on stage at Sonisphere Festival 2011.

Metallica's James Hetfield on stage at Sonisphere Festival 2011. - Credit: Thomas Clark / Archant.

Were you at any of these gigs at Knebworth? Do you have a favourite Knebworth show? Send us your memories of concerts and festivals at Knebworth House. Email alan.davies@archant.co.uk with your recollections and pictures.

Sonisphere 2011. Crowds listening to Metallica performing.

Crowds listening to Metallica performing at Sonisphere 2011. - Credit: Daniel Wilson

Flames and fireworks during Metallica's explosive 2011 Sonisphere headline set at Knebworth

Flames and fireworks during Metallica's explosive 2011 Sonisphere headline set at Knebworth - Credit: Alan Davies

Fireworks explode above the Apollo stage during Metallica's headline set at Sonisphere 2011 at Knebworth

Fireworks explode above the Apollo stage during Metallica's headline set at Sonisphere 2011 at Knebworth - Credit: Alan Davies


Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter
Comments powered by Disqus