10 Concert Performances that Rocked the World

Music is known as the universal language. It engages people’s emotions, whether it’s happiness, inspiration, or even sadness. Either way, anyone can relate to music and how it makes you feel. One the greatest things about music is its power to start a movement. It brings together ideas and inspires people to make a change. Here are ten performances that changed the world.

Live 8 by Darcie Tanner via Flickr
Live 8 by Darcie Tanner via Flickr



Live Aid

On July 13, 1985, the worldwide rock concert kicked off its tour at Wembley Stadium that was organized to raise money for the relief of the famine-stricken people of Africa. The 16-hour “superconcert” was the creation of Bob Geldof, the singer of Irish rock group, Boomtown Rats. An estimated 1.4 million people tuned into the event. At one point in the show, almost 95 percent of the world’s television sets were watching Live Aid. This was before the age of the smartphones, tablets and the Internet. Audiences watched performances by Elton John, Madonna, Santana, Tom Petty, Queen and U2. The event raised more than $125 million for  famine relief for Africa.


Farm Aid

This twelve hour concert was held at Memorial Stadium on the Campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign on September 22, 1985 with the mission to keep family farmers on their land. It started as an idea a the Live Aid concert when Bob Dylan said on stage, “Wouldn’t it be great if we did something for our own farmers right here in America?” The first Farm Aid concert raised over $9 million for America’s family farmers. Artists that performed in front of a crowd of 80,000 people included Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, B.B. King, Loretta Lynn, and many more. Today, Farm Aid is the longest running benefit concert series in America.


Amnesty International Human Rights Now!

Human Rights Now! was a worldwide tour on behalf of Amnesty International, a non-governmental organization focused on human rights, over a six-week period in 1988. The concert was held to raise awareness of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the work of Amnesty International. Featured performers were Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Peter Gabriel, Tracy Chapman, and guests artists from each of the countries where the concerts were held. Human Rights Now! was more than just a music concert, though. At each stop, a press conference was held to discuss human rights and concert-goers were all given copies of the Universal Declaration in their language. It was a movement.


Tunnel of Love Express Tour

During a July 19, 1988 concert, Bruce Springsteen performed for Communist East Germany behind the Berlin Wall. According to author, Erik Kirschbaum, Springsteen’s ground-breaking concert contributed to the tear down of the Berlin Wall just 16 months following his performance. The four-hour concert consisted of 32 songs and drew in an estimated 300,000 people from all over the German Democratic Republic. In the middle of his gig, Bruce Springsteen delivered a passionate speech in which he said, “I’m not here for any government. I’ve come to play rock’n’roll for you in the hope that one day all the barriers will be torn down.”


The Concert for New York City

Known as The Night The Who Saved New York, the Concert for New York City was held at Madison Square Garden on Oct. 20, 2001, just a few weeks following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. The massive marathon concert was organized by Paul McCartney to raise funds and pay tribute to the firefighters and police officers for putting their lives on the line on 9/11. The efforts raised over $30 million for the Robin Hood Relief Fund. In addition to raising money, the event was used to pay tribute to those who lost their lives in the tragedy. The all-star lineup included Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Melissa Etheridge, The Who, Bon Jovi and others. Appearances were made comedians, actors, politicians and filmmakers.


46664 Concerts

The 46664 concerts were a series of shows that were a part of Nelson Mandela’s campaign to help raise global awareness of HIV/AIDS. 46664 aims to highlight the emergency of HIV/AIDS through live events and music initiatives. Mandela realized that in order to get the attention of the youth he needed to engage them with the power of music and celebrity to educate them. Performers included Bono, Roger Taylor of Queen, Annie Lennox, Beyonce, and a slew of others. The first 46664 concert was held in Cape Town at Green Point Stadium. The inspiration for the name of the concert came from Mandela’s prison number from the 25 years he was incarcerated.


Tsunami Aid: Concert of Hope

This worldwide benefit was held for the tsunami victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake. The two-hour broadcast raised funds to help support the American Red Cross International Response Fund. The event was broadcasted on numerous American television channels, as well as several radio stations across the nation. To collect funds, viewers were able to purchase digital downloads of performances by Madonna, Stevie Wonder, Sheryl Crow, Lenny Kravitz and Maroon 5. An estimated $5 million was earned and donated to ease the suffering help rebuild the lives of those affected.


Live 8

Live 8 was a string of benefits concerts that took place July 5, 2008, in the G8 states and South Africa and coincided with the 20th anniversary of Live Aid. Bob Geldolf, the man who organized Live Aid, put together Live 8. Ten simultaneous concerts were held with performances by 1,000 musicians, which were broadcasted on 182 television networks and 2,000 radio networks. The shows served as a call to action to increase foreign aid to the world’s poorest countries. An estimated 3 billion people tuned into the event. The goal across the globe was not to ask for people’s money, but for their names.


Hope for Haiti Now

The global telethon was held to raise funds after a horrific earthquake struck Haiti. On January 22, 2010, the world’s biggest music stars lent their tunes as the soundtrack for the telethon and helped raise $58 million. Hope for Haiti Now was presented by MTV pulled in an audience of 83 million viewers. Musicians included Alicia Keys, Shakira, Coldplay and an original song was performed by Bono, The Edge, Jay Z, and Rihanna. In addition to the musical performances, more than 100 actors and celebrities donated their time to answer phone calls.



The fundraising concert named “12-12-12” was held to aid the victims of Hurricane Sandy on Dec. 12, 2012. The concert held at Madison Square Garden featured performances by Bon Jovi, Eric Clapton, Chris Martin, The Rolling Stones, Kanye West, Eddie Vedder, and many other artists. Proceeds went toward the Robin Hood Relief Fund, an independent poverty fighting organization in New York City. More than 260,000 people donated money during the concert. The event was broadcasted live across six continents and released on DVD and CD. A documentary film was also made about the concert.


  1. You might want to look up the Concerts for Bangladesh organized by George Harrison in the 70’s. It could be the forerunner of the concerts you mentioned in your article.

  2. I had no idea there have been so many concerts for causes. What a successful way to gain awareness and raise donations! 

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