Nine of the most iconic gigs in Edinburgh music history
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Edinburgh has staged countless gigs with many legendary acts – how many have you seen?

Some of the best live bands of all time have visited Edinburgh, touring iconic albums to appreciative crowds at music venues across the city.

Thanks to Edinburgh Gig Archive, you can discover a list of many concerts that took place through the decades – it’s enough to make music fans of today instantly envious that they weren’t born a few years earlier.

Here are just nine of the best.

Nirvana at Calton Studios

Nirvana didn’t just play Calton Studios (now Studio 24) once in 1990, they played it again after the release of seminal album Nevermind in 1991.

The second appearance at the venue was their most symbolic when they ripped through a selection of songs from their debut, Bleach, a couple of covers and b-sides, and a few from their new album. Even ‘All Apologies’, which was to be released nearly two years later on In Utero, sneaked its way into the set.

After their performance, Kurt Cobain and Dave Grohl travelled up the road to Clerk Street to perform a rare acoustic set at Southern Bar, which is still open to this day.

Led Zeppelin at King’s Theatre

Led Zeppelin fans at the King's Theatre
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Led Zeppelin were probably one of the biggest bands in the world in 1973. They had four albums under their belt, they were about to release a fifth and had a chunk of unreleased music to unveil that would eventually appear on Physical Graffiti.

So before the release of Houses of the Holy, the masters of classic rock commenced on a UK tour that featured a rare Edinburgh date at King’s Theatre (above you can see fans queuing to buy tickets in November 1972).

They played four songs from their new album that night, including fan favourites from their first four albums. And yes, they played ‘Stairway to Heaven’.

Pink Floyd at Usher Hall

In November 1974, Pink Floyd played two dates at the prestigious Usher Hall. Dark Side of the Moon had been released a year prior and the band were touring the UK and France in preparation for studio time in the new year that would eventually lead to the release of the awe-inspiring Wish You Were Here album.

They played the same set both nights, including Dark Side of the Moon being performed in full from start to finish, early versions of ‘Sheep’ and ‘Dogs’ that wouldn’t be released until three years after, and the entire lengthy behemoth that is ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’.

Blondie at Odeon Cinema

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Blondie’s Debbie Harry in 1978 – Getty

Blondie played a UK tour on the month of release of their most popular album Parallel Lines in 1978, an album that straddled new wave and punk, and gave rise to the band’s huge popularity.

There isn’t a known setlist of the show that night, but predictably it would have featured the majority of their latest album. Notably, punk outfit Buzzcocks supported.

Arctic Monkeys at The Exchange

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The ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’ single was released two days before this gig was staged in 2005, so the hype was enormous.

When tickets went on sale most people had no clue about Arctic Monkeys – it was a video with an aged effect that turned people’s attentions to this Sheffield four-piece.

With everyone buying the single, it was the couple of hundred people attending this gig that forever have the right to gloat. Arctic Monkeys went to number one in the UK singles chart four days later and didn’t take long to become global superstars.

Ramones at Clouds

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When punk exploded in 1977 in both the UK and US, several gigs were staged at Clouds – which is now Cav – including The Jam, The Clash and The Damned, all with phenomenal debut albums.

But travelling across from New York were the unmistakable Ramones.

With three albums under their belt, the quartet would rattle off 28 songs in just under an hour. They were a force to be reckoned with, playing with a ferocity that was documented on their live album, It’s Alive, recorded days after this gig, in London.

The Smiths at The Playhouse

The Smiths weren’t around for long but they did manage to release four albums in four years. It was only after album two, Meat is Murder, that they were playing venues like The Playhouse.

In their third appearance in Edinburgh, Morrissey, Marr & co rattled through unreleased songs – soon to be released on The Queen Is Dead – and a mixture from their two albums. The band gave the audience what they wanted with a jaw-dropping three encores.

Oasis at La Belle Angele

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It had only been a year since Oasis were signed by Alan McGee at King Tut’s in Glasgow. At this point, Oasis were close to releasing their debut album Definitely Maybe along with being projected into the world of continuous exposure.

Here, you would have got the majority of that debut album, perhaps a cover of ‘I Am the Walrus’, and probably a brotherly disagreement.

Pixies at The Queens Hall

Pixies Edinburgh

Pixies had only just released their wondrous second album, Doolittle, when they hit Edinburgh, making it the perfect time to see them live.

With a jumble of esoteric yet audaciously brilliant tracks in their arsenal, Pixies were one of those bands that could rattle off two dozen songs in just over an hour.

Their no-nonsense approach was what made their stalwart fan base keep coming back for more.

More:

Nine long-gone Edinburgh nightclubs we haven’t forgotten

The Sound of Edinburgh: 15 tracks that define the city’s musical spirit

Nothing Ever Happens Here? Neil Landstrumm defends the Edinburgh music scene