The most iconic Manchester gigs of all time

We cast our minds back over the last 60 years to bring you some of the most legendary Manchester gigs.

Hannah Starkie Hannah Starkie - 23rd September 2020
The Stone Roses at Heaton Park. Image: Gigs and Tours

They can take away our pubs, gyms and cinemas. But one thing’s for certain, they can’t take away our music. And definitely not our memories. 

Life’s hard at the min, right? That’s why it’s good to reminisce about the good times.

With such a rich creative history, it’s no surprise Manchester has been home to some of music’s greatest moments. 

During a time when everyone is revelling in nostalgia – craving for live music – we’ve decided to look back at some of the most iconic gigs to grace the Manc stage.

The Beatles at the Oasis Club – 1962 

Beatles ticket. Image: MDM Archive

The Oasis Club gig in 1962 was the first professional scheduled gig outside of Merseyside that The Beatles ever performed.


They’d visited Manchester before, but this was the first time on official band business.

An entry ticket cost the equivalent of £3.60 in old money. 


Just before the gig, their new manager gave them a swift rebrand. He chucked out their scruffy jeans and leather jackets and got the boys suited and booted and looking the part – just as we recognise them now.  

The owner of the Oasis Club at the time claims she doesn’t even remember the band. Back then, they were just another group of lads to play at the club.

Little did she know she’d helped plug the band’s success.


David Bowie at B&Q – 1972

The Hardrock flyer

Okay, okay, it wasn’t a B&Q at the time. But let’s agree it’s an amusing thought. 

Bowie played on the opening night of The Hardrock in Stretford, just around the corner from Morrissey’s house.

The venue was turned into the DIY store in later years. Now, the site on Greatstone Road is derelict.

Oddly enough, David Bowie died in the same month that the B&Q closed down in January 2016. 

The Sex Pistols at the Lesser Free Trade Hall – 1976

The Sex Pistols at the Lesser Free Trade Hall

This Sex Pistols gig has been widely documented as changing the UK music scene forever.


Only 40 people attended the show at the Lesser Free Trade Hall. Amongst the 40 people was a lesser known Morrissey, now with fire in his belly. He formed The Smiths shortly after. 

Elsewhere in the crowd was a young Peter Hook who decided to form the band Joy Division that very night.

The bunch of students that organised the gig were also left wanting more. They got to work on forming their own band, Buzzcocks, after first seeing the Pistols.

Six weeks later, Ian Curtis, the Fall’s Mark E. Smith and a pre-Factory Records Tony Wilson all attended a second Sex Pistols show. They caused more ripples in this thriving local music scene that night.

To think, without the Pistols we could be without the Madchester scene that helped shape the city…


True, some say Sex Pistol’s Johnny Rotten experienced a slight fall from grace owing to his Country Life butter adverts a few years ago. But we’ll let that slide. 

Madonna at The Hacienda – 1984

Madonna at the Hacienda

This was Madonna’s first appearance in the UK. It was recorded live and broadcast on The Tube, a popular rock music TV show at the time. In the performance, Madonna can be seen prancing around the dancefloor between the iconic hazard painted pillars. 

But some say that the pop star was actually shit. There were even accusations that she mimed. Her pop sound, flailing arms and swinging hips were lost on the punk rock music lovers in the crowd. 

She left the venue shortly after her performance, despite reports that she was asked to sing again later in the evening. Wrong crowd. Sorry, Madge.

But the wider UK public received the performance well.


Despite flopping with the Hacienda heads, Madonna has gone on to become one of the biggest pop stars in history. Props to her.

The Stone Roses at Heaton Park (The Reunion Tour) – 2012

The Stone Roses at Heaton Park. Image: Gigs and Tours

This iconic tour was the homecoming for The Stone Roses, nearly 20 years after their last tour.

They played three dates at Heaton Park in June and July 2012. 

The shows became the fastest-selling rock gigs in UK history. A massive 150,000 tickets for the initial two shows sold out in 14 minutes.

Demand was that high that they added a third date to the bill straight away.


This took ticket sales to 220,000 in just 68 minutes.

One Love Manchester at Old Trafford Cricket Ground – 2017

One Love Manchester. Image: Getty Images/Dave Hogan

The fundraising concert One Love Manchester was held two weeks after the Manchester Arena bombing where 22 lives were taken and 500 people were injured. 

55,000 people attended the gig and more than £17m was raised through donations, ticket sales and fundraising. 

Performances from Take That, Coldplay, Liam Gallagher, Black Eyed Peas and Justin Bieber were broadcast all around the world, along with video messages from other notable musicians such as Paul McCartney, U2, Rita Ora and Chance the Rapper. 

It was the perfect tribute to the lives lost. 


What was the most iconic gig of your life? Let us know!