Thanks to their loud, brash, and nocturnal nature, rock concerts are often held in dark bars and nightclubs designed to withstand the abuse of rowdy fans and guitar-smashing rockers. But as musicians earn a following, they eventually graduate from beer-soaked basements to prestigious theaters, outdoor amphitheaters, arenas, and stadiums. For performers and music fans alike, playing or attending a show in a space like Carnegie Hall, the Royal Albert Hall, Madison Square Garden or Colorado’s Red Rocks Amphitheater can be a momentous, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that ties together the sublime power that great music and architecture can both evoke. As rare as these opportunities are, an exclusive group of iconic musicians have managed to reach an even higher level of prestige by organizing one-off performances amid humanity’s most treasured historical sites—from the Acropolis and ancient Mayan cities to the Colosseum and the Eiffel Tower.
While these special concerts have given fans the chance to experience music history firsthand, many have also been mired in scandal as local officials and residents have raised concerns about potential damage to the sites or inappropriate commercial misuse of treasured cultural landmarks. Despite these legitimate and often justified concerns, these nine iconic sites have hosted some of the most ambitious concerts in the history of popular music: