Site-Specific Gigs To Remember

With Van Morrison's Cyprus Avenue concert set for August 31, we recall other gigs in unusual places, from Pink Floyd live at Pompeii to the Beatles atop Apple Records

Belfast's most famous musical son, Van Morrison, famously sang about the tree-lined street of his dreams, East Belfast's Cyprus Avenue, on one of the most enduring tracks from his seminal 1968 album, Astral Weeks.

To mark Morrison's 70th birthday, East Belfast Partnership have cannily organised what is sure to be the most memorable gig of the year, when Morrison will perform on Cyprus Avenue itself as headline act of the 2015 Eastside Arts Festival on August 31.

'It wasn't far from where I was brought up and it was a very different scene,' Morrison said after news of the concert was announced. 'To me, [Cyprus Avenue] was a very mystical place. It was a whole avenue lined with trees and I found it a place where I could think.'

Cyprus Avenue may sound like an unusual setting for a concert, but in the grand rock and roll scheme of things, it's a relatively mundane live music arena when compared to these four gigs to remember.

The Beatles' Apple Records Rooftop Concert

'Of course, none of us had the vaguest idea that it would be the last time the Beatles would ever peform in public...'

Producer George Martin had it right – although by that stage in their career (January 30, 1969), it was a miracle that John, Paul, George and Ringo even managed to make it onto the rooftop of their Apple Records HQ, such was the unease within the band after months of arguments over money, musical direction and women.

But make it they did, despite the fact that their creative relationship – so productive in the years previous, having spawned albums like Revolver and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band – was perilously close to splintering for good. By 1970, in fact, the Beatles were no more.

Thankfully, however, the Fab Four had the cameras rolling on that cold afternoon in January when they decided to plug in one last time. It may have been chilly out, but the band soon warmed up, and went on to deliver a blistering 42-minute set several stories above street level, and joyfully free of the maddening din of 60,000 screaming fans. 

Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii

Phallic graffiti, lifeless bodies frozen in the fetal position, broken bottles scattered in the sand – and that's just the green room!

As if the 1970s weren't weird enough, in 1972 prog rock giants Pink Floyd decamped from dreary London (which may well have influenced their leaden sound) to the sunny shores of southern Italy (where their leaden sound remained leaden) to perform a full concert in a Roman ampitheatre in the heart of Pompeii, the ancient Roman town devastated – and wonderfully preserved – by ash spewed forth from the nearby volanic Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.

Featuring performances of 'Echoes, Part 1', 'Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun' and more, Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii is certainly one of the more unusual gigs ever peformed. It didn't win the band any new admirers, but the director's cut of the live film recording of the concert has since become a must-have for all diehard Floyd fans. 

David Hasselhoff on the Berlin Wall

Anodyne – it's a word worth looking up, in this context. 'Not likely to cause offence or disagreement and somewhat dull.' The perfect word, then, to describe the terribly-titled 'Looking for Freedom', the song chosen by hirsute American actor, television producer, writer and singer David Hasselhoff to perform during one of the most momentous international occasions of the 20th century – the official destruction of the Berlin Wall.

As communist East met capitalist West in the heart of Germany's capital city, many tears were shed, many broken hearts mended, many dreams fulfilled as David Hasselhoff strutted his stuff atop the crumbling wall, dressed in black leather and flashing Christmas lights, to the uplifting, aspirational sounds of a Eurobeat dance track. That the Cold War was also at an end was another reason to celebrate. Not that Hasselhoff needed an excuse for a party.

Thankfully, this performance is rarely mentioned or even recalled by any of those physically present on the day, or the millions of television viewers who witnessed it from afar, and it is therefore left to the Internet to open old wounds...

Chris Hadfield (from the ISS) and Barenaked Ladies

Canadian Chris Hadfield is undoubtedly the most popular astronaut of his generation, having documented his way around Earth (and above Ireland) by posting pictures to his Instagram account, filmed various experiments sans gravity and released a video of himself singing a pre-recorded version of David Bowie's 'Space Oddity' while peering down on his home planet from the International Space Space.

On February 8, 2013, Hadfield again made history by performing his original song 'ISS (Is Somebody Singing) live on CBC Music radio from the ISS itself, with fellow Canadians, Barenaked Ladies, assisting from the studio below.

So the lyrics may have lacked a certain panache – 'This rocket's burning bright, we'll soon be out of sight, and orbiting in space' – and the saturnine tone of the track may have jarred with Hadfield's everyman good humour, but haters are always gonna hate. As live concerts go, this collaboration was truly out of this world.

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