Knebworth has been the home of the Lytton family since 1490, and – as one of the world’s most iconic outdoor music venues, has contributed a great many chapters to the annals of rock history since 1974, when The Allman Brothers Band hired the location to play the first ever concert there, attracting over 60,000 fans.
Since then, Knebworth’s legacy has grown, due to a series of gigantic, seminal concerts which – more often than not – went down as as milestone events in the respective performers’ careers. Pink Floyd was next to play in 1975, followed by The Rolling Stones, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Genesis and Frank Zappa in subsequent years. Each band brought a horde of new fans to the historic location. Notably, in 1979, Led Zeppelin chose to play their first shows in the UK for five years at Knebworth. Sadly, these two colossal dates would mark their last ever British appearances (O2 reunion not withstanding). They remain the most famous – and bootlegged – concerts of the band’s career.
Since then, notable events at the venue have included Queen’s final concert with Freddie Mercury in 1986 and Deep Purple’s first gig since reformation in 1985. In 1996, Britpop took over the grounds with Oasis setting a new record by playing to over 300,000 people over two nights of concerts at Knebworth. This was topped by Robbie Williams in 2003, who played to 375,000 people.
In 2009, Sonisphere put hard rock back on the menu at Knebworth where the close of this year’s event will have seen it host such headliners as Metallica, Iron Maiden, Rammstein, Slipknot and Biffy Clyro. 2011 sees the mighty venue carving out fresh rock history, as it accommodates the first ever appearance by The Big Four on British soil.
A unique location with an unrivalled legacy, what better home than Knebworth – the original home of rock – for Sonisphere?
By Alex Eperon of the Sonisphere fan writers’ team.