Rock of ages: 'This is history' - five decades of memorable concerts at Knebworth Park

Knebworth Park has hosted some of the UK's biggest ever gigs including Oasis in 1996.

Knebworth Park has hosted some of the UK's biggest ever gigs including Oasis in 1996. - Credit: Alan Davies

On Stevenage's doorstep is one of most famous and greatest rock venues in the world.

The name Knebworth has become synonymous with classic concerts by the biggest bands on the planet.

Knebworth House in Hertfordshire.

Knebworth House in Hertfordshire. - Credit: Robert James Ryder

During the era-defining 1996 Oasis concerts, Noel Gallagher told the Knebworth Park crowd: "This is history.

"This is history. Right here. Right now.

"This is history!"

Oasis' Noel Gallagher on stage at Knebworth Park on Saturday, August 10, 1996. Picture by Jill Furmanovsky

Oasis' Noel Gallagher on stage at Knebworth Park on Saturday, August 10, 1996. - Credit: © Jill Furmanovsky

It's been almost 50 years since the first rock music festival was held at the Hertfordshire stately home.

Here we look back through the decades at five landmark Knebworth gigs, from The Rolling Stones to Led Zeppelin and Oasis to Robbie Williams, and what lies ahead in 2022 with the return of Liam Gallagher.

Pictured on August 10, 1996, Liam Gallagher performing with Oasis at Knebworth Park in Hertfordshire. 

Pictured on August 10, 1996, Liam Gallagher performing with Oasis at Knebworth Park in Hertfordshire. - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images


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1970s

1976: Knebworth Fair - The Rolling Stones 

"I can't get no satisfaction..."

The first Knebworth music festival in 1974, entitled the Bucolic Frolic, featured the likes of the Allman Brothers Band and the Doobie Brothers, while the following year saw Pink Floyd headline.

However, 1976 was the year when the greatest rock 'n' roll band in the world swaggered into the stately home of rock.

The Rolling Stones – Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood – took to the Knebworth stage featuring a huge pair of blow up red lips on Saturday, August 21, 1976.

Jagger later left his underpants in the Queen Elizabeth bedroom and they are now part of Knebworth House's memorabilia. 

Henry Lytton Cobbold with the underpants left by Mick Jagger at Knebworth House.

Henry Lytton Cobbold with the underpants left by Mick Jagger at Knebworth House. They were left at the bottom of the four poster bed in the Queen Elizabeth Room after The Rolling Stones had played Knebworth in the summer of 1976. - Credit: Danny Loo


1979: Led Zeppelin at Knebworth

"There's a lady who's sure all that glitters is gold..."

After failing to capture Led Zeppelin as the first Knebworth headliner back in 1974, promoter Freddy Bannister finally brought the world's biggest hard rock group to the park five years later to close the decade.

The Whole Lotta Love and Stairway to Heaven legends played successive Saturdays in August 1979 and the comeback gigs have gone into music folklore as the final shows on UK soil featuring the classic Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and John Bonham line-up.

Drummer John Bonham died the following year and the remaining members decided to disband.

Plant and Page did play Knebworth again 11 years later when they teamed up on stage at the 1990 Silver Clef Award Winners Concert.


1980s

1986: Queen Magic at Knebworth 

"We will, we will rock you!"

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

Following the early 80s jazz years at Knebworth, rock royalty arrived in style in 1986 when Queen added a Knebworth date at the end of their massive Magic Tour.

The show on August 9 is another that will forever be etched in the memories of the 120,000 fans there as it was the final Queen concert with singer Freddie Mercury in all his pomp.

Queen with Adam Lambert were due to headline the 2012 Sonisphere Festival at Knebworth but that event was cancelled.


1990s

1996: Oasis at Knebworth

Oasis pictured August 9, 1996, ahead of their performances at Knebworth Park in Hertfordshire. 

Oasis pictured August 9, 1996, ahead of their performances at Knebworth Park in Hertfordshire. - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

"You gotta roll with it..." 

There was only one place to be on Saturday, August 10 and Sunday, August 11, 1996 and that was in Knebworth Park for the high point of the Britpop era.

More than two million people applied for tickets to see Oasis play hits Wonderwall, Don't Look Back in Anger and Live Forever over two nights in Hertfordshire.

Of the concerts, Liam Gallagher said: “Knebworth for me was the Woodstock of the 90’s.

"It was all about the music and the people. I can’t remember much about it, but I’ll never forget it. It was Biblical.”

Last year saw a documentary film, live album and a DVD/Blu-ray of the Knebworth gigs released to mark the 25th anniversary of the shows – bringing back memories for millions of fans.

Oasis Knebworth 1996 will be released in cinemas worldwide from Thursday, September 23.

Oasis Knebworth 1996 will be released in cinemas worldwide from Thursday, September 23. - Credit: Sony Music Entertainment / Black Dog Films

Pictured August 9, 1996, Liam Gallagher from Oasis driving a golf cart ahead of their performances at Knebworth

Pictured August 9, 1996, Liam Gallagher from Oasis driving a golf cart ahead of their performances at Knebworth Park in Hertfordshire. - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Oasis pictured August 9, 1996 ahead of their performances at Knebworth Park in Hertfordshire.

Oasis pictured August 9, 1996 ahead of their performances at Knebworth Park in Hertfordshire. Documentary Oasis Knebworth 1996 will debut in cinemas worldwide on Thursday, September 23. - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Live album Oasis Knebworth 1996 is released via Big Brother Recordings Ltd on Friday, November 19, 2021.

Live album Oasis Knebworth 1996 is released via Big Brother Recordings Ltd on Friday, November 19, 2021. - Credit: Big Brother Recordings Ltd.


2000s

2003: Robbie Williams at Knebworth

Robbie Williams at Knebworth in 2003

Robbie Williams at Knebworth in 2003 - Credit: Archant

"Let me entertain you..."

Next year marks the 20th anniversary of Robbie's Knebworth gigs.

While Oasis played two nights at Knebworth, the former Take That star went one better in 2003.

The Let Me Entertain You and Angels singer packed out the largest single field venue in the country for three consecutive nights with 375,000 there to witness the gigs over the weekend.

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

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


2020s

2022: Liam Gallagher returns

Liam Gallagher has added extra UK dates for 2022.

Liam Gallagher has added extra UK dates for 2022. - Credit: Tom Beard

"Tonight I'm a rock 'n' roll star..."

There's few acts today who can fill Knebworth Park – or are willing to give it a go.

Coldplay and Ed Sheeran are both playing multiple shows at Wembley Stadium instead this summer, while Adele is performing two dates at London's Hyde Park.

Enter the swaggering Liam Gallagher, who will play the biggest solo shows of his career to date at Knebworth over the Queen's Platinum Jubilee Bank Holiday weekend.

Never short of confidence, Liam declared on Chris Moyles' Radio X show: "It's gonna be 'This is history - Part Two', mate!"

Liam Gallagher will play Knebworth Park on Saturday, June 4, 2022.

Liam Gallagher will play Knebworth Park on Saturday, June 4, 2022. - Credit: Live Nation Entertainment

On returning to Knebworth 26 years after Oasis graced the same stage, Liam added: "I think the time is now or never."

Knebworth Park has hosted gigs by Oasis and the Sonisphere Festival over the years

Knebworth Park has hosted gigs by Oasis and the Sonisphere Festival over the years - Credit: Alan Davies