Jeff Beck’s final gig was full of fire and fury

The Telegraph recalls 20 legendary final performances

Mathures Paul Published 27.01.23, 03:48 PM
(L-R) Jeff Beck, Amy Winehouse, John Lennon

(L-R) Jeff Beck, Amy Winehouse, John Lennon The Telegraph


Guitar legend Jeff Beck passed away on January 10 after contracting bacterial meningitis but only a couple of months ago he was seen on stage. His last gig was at the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno on November 12, 2022, and Johnny Depp was there on stage. The pair played a 20-song set, which included This Is a Song for Miss Hedy Lamarr, ’Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers and A Day in the Life. Beck was at his best and ended the set with The Death and Resurrection Show.



June 18, 2011. Amy Winehouse’s well-wishers wanted her to cancel a 12-leg European tour but her management continued with the bookings. The first night of that tour in Belgrade, Serbia, turned out to be her final show. It was an infamous night as the singer was unable to recall the lyrics of her songs, mumbling her way through hits like Valerie and Just Friends. By the time it was time for Some Unholy War, singer Zalon whispered them into her. The boos were clear and Winehouse had a vacant look, holding back tears. Soon it was time for You’re Wondering Now and it was Zalon who came through while Winehouse seemed in a hurry to bring the curtains down. The next two shows were cancelled, followed by the remaining nine gigs. A few weeks later, Winehouse made her final stage appearance at her goddaughter Dionne Bromfield’s concert at the Roundhouse in Camden, singing (well, it was more of an appearance while Dionne did all the singing) a version of Mama Said.


The Beatle appeared with Elton John at Madison Square Garden in 1974 but that wasn’t his last performance for the audience. A few months later — on April 18, 1975 — he gave a three-song set as part of the TV special A Salute to Sir Lew Grade: The Master Showman. The track that closed the performance was Imagine. The song was very close to him and the best feature of the track remains its simple approach. It’s as simple as the moment he sat at an upright Steinway piano at his Ascot studio (in Tittenhurst Park) in June 1971 where he recorded the song (the album was released in September 1971) and in three takes it was over while keeping him company was drummer Alan White and German bassist Klaus Voormann. The writing process was equally simple. It was all in a morning’s work at his bedroom in Ascot while his wife Yoko Ono looked on. There was a bit of rewriting on New York Hilton stationery during a trip but the wisdom of the original 22 rhyming lines remained.

(L-R) Elvis Presley, Freddie Mercury, Queen, Whitney Houston

(L-R) Elvis Presley, Freddie Mercury, Queen, Whitney Houston


By the time it was the summer of 1977, Elvis Presley had put on a lot of weight and was visibly unwell, yet there were no compromises on his performance. The audience at Indianapolis on June 26, 1977, expected the King of Rock ’n’ Roll to deliver his classics, which he did, finishing with a rendition of Can’t Help Falling in Love. He offered a chunk of nostalgia before returning to Graceland where he died a few weeks later.


We Are the Champions and We Will Rock You are signature Queen songs that are considered anthems for giant stages and singalongs. On August 9, 1986, God Save the Queen closed the set as usual but Freddie Mercury used the track to speak to the audience. The final song he performed with the group was We Are the Champions and it was a moving, powerful rendition, packed with flamboyance.


The multimillion-selling singer is remembered as one of the most influential R&B voices but years of substance abuse and an abusive marriage cut her life short in 2012 at age 48. As the music industry was preparing for the Grammy, she was staying at the Beverly Hilton hotel to attend a pre-Grammy party hosted by Clive Davis, who had been her pop mentor. Two days before her death, she was last seen on stage. On February 9 she joined R&B singer Kelly Price on stage. Price said: “I wasn’t expecting Whitney to take the stage, but she came up. She got on the stage, and while I was talking to her, she grabbed the microphone and started singing. So that’s kind of cool.”

(Clockwise rom left) The Beatles, Glenn Frey, Tom Petty

(Clockwise rom left) The Beatles, Glenn Frey, Tom Petty


Glenn Frey will always be remembered for his wistful love ballads and observations of the outlaw life. By the time it was July 31, 2015, Eagles had wrapped its long-running History of the Eagles tour and their final performance with Frey was before 300-odd people at CBC High School in St. Louis. The set closed with In the City and Frey died less than six months later. Frey took lessons at the piano from the age of five but he switched to guitar after seeing the Beatles perform live in downtown Detroit while the girls in the audience went wild.


Tom Petty was a giant when it came to rock radio, thanks to hits like I Won’t Back Down, Free Fallin’ and American Girl. He sold millions of albums and headlined the Super Bowl in 2008. The last of his three performances at Hollywood Bowl was on September 25, 2017, and he closed the final show with American Girl, the 1976 classic with iconic lyrics that references Route 441. A few months later he died from an accidental drug overdose as a result of mixing medications that included opioids.


The rooftop performance will never be forgotten. The Fab Four went up on the rooftop of Apple Corps in London and performed nine takes of five Beatles songs before police shut the show down. Their third take of Get Back on January 30, 1969, turned out to be their final song together. What we keep hearing is the bitterness that got to the four legendary musicians in the years that followed but the rooftop show highlighted a friendship between Paul McCartney and John Lennon that was still emotional and unbroken.

(Clockwise from left)The Police, Kurt Cobain, Nirvana, Johnny Cash

(Clockwise from left)The Police, Kurt Cobain, Nirvana, Johnny Cash


MTV Unplugged wasn’t the Nirvana’s final show; they headed over to Europe in February and cellist Melora Creager joined the band for this leg, replacing Lori Goldston who spent the previous year on the road with the group. Meanwhile, Courtney Love didn’t join Kurt Cobain on the tour and the latter was diagnosed with bronchitis and laryngitis. Cobain was not a person who would rest. His last concert took place at an airplane hangar in Munich on March 1, 1994, but his voice was strained. The final song of the night was Heart-Shaped Box.


Johnny Cash lived for his wife of 35 years, June Carter, who passed away on May 15, 2003. He was heartbroken and soon after he gave his last performance on July 5, 2003, dedicating all his songs to her: “The spirit of June Carter overshadows me tonight with the love she had for me and the love I have for her…. We connect somewhere between here and heaven. She came down for a short visit, I guess, from heaven to visit with me tonight to give me courage and inspiration like she always has.” He delivered many of his hits — I Walk The Line, Folsom Prison Blues and Ring of Fire, to name a few. His final song of the set was a big surprise Understand Your Man, which he performed live for the first time in 25 years.


The Police disbanded in 1986 and since then there have been several rumours of a reunion. They finally got together to play Roxanne at the 49th Annual Grammy Awards in 2007 and they played their final gig at Madison Square Garden on August 7, 2008. They opened with a cover of Cream’s Sunshine Of Your Love and then came their catalogue. Sting was in a good mood and he said: “The real triumph of this tour is that we haven’t strangled each other.” The final song of the concert was Next To You.

(L-R) Jim Morrison, The Band, Otis Redding

(L-R) Jim Morrison, The Band, Otis Redding


On December 12, 1970, Doors played the Warehouse concert hall on Tchoupitoulas Street in New Orleans and it turned out to be the band’s final concert with Morrison. Morrison was drunk and it was a mess. Before his death, Ray Manzarek spoke about why people were fascinated by Morrison: ”I love the fact that people love the Doors. When you say ‘The Doors’, it’s very important to know the psyche of Jim Morrison. America cannot figure out the psyche of Jim Morrison. And they are having a marvelous Freudian struggle trying to figure out who he was, why he was that way, and they just can’t figure it out. So I understand completely why they’re so intrigued with him. And want more and more and more.” The final song of the 1970 concert was The End.


Five-thousand fans came from all over the world and paid $25 each for a night of holiday dining and listening to five hours of The Band at Winterland Arena in San Francisco (November 25, 1976), complete with such guest performers as Bob Dylan, Ringo Starr, Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell, Neil Diamond, Neil Young and Muddy Waters. “It was more than we expected it to be,” said Robbie Robinson, The Band’s guitarist, after the final encore that left the group exhausted but still charged with energy. The final encore featured Baby Don’t You Do It and Greensleeves.


The iconic musician was only 26 when died in a plane crash is Otis Redding. His final performance was on December 9, 1967, in Cleveland, Ohio. Redding and his band the Bar-Keys performed for Cleveland’s Upbeat television show, as well as two performances at Leo’s Casino. He teamed up with Mitch Ryder for a rendition of Knock On Wood.

(L-R) Jimi Hendrix, Frank Sinatra, Janis Joplin, Prince, George Michael

(L-R) Jimi Hendrix, Frank Sinatra, Janis Joplin, Prince, George Michael


Jimi Hendrix played on the Isle of Fehmarn for the German Love and Peace Festival on September 6, 1970, and died on September 18. He took the stage with his band The Experience. The concert was inspired by the Isle of Wight festival in England and the organisers of the Love and Peace Festival picked out the island of Fernham in German as the location, hoping to attract 300,000 visitors.


Ol’ Blue Eyes tried retiring many times but he just couldn’t stop himself from being before an audience. Sadly, his February 25, 1995 appearance was his last. The Frank Sinatra Celebrity Invitational gala in Palm Desert was a tradition and he often sang one or two songs before sending everyone off to the bar, according to his drummer Gregg Field. His closing song for 1,200-odd people was The Best is Yet to Come and it brought to an end a six-song set list.


Two months before joining the infamous Club of 27 from a heroin overdose, the raspy-voiced singer played her final gig at Boston’s Harvard Stadium on August 12, 1970. Almost 40,000 people turned up, paying $2 each to see her newly formed Full Tilt Boogie Band. The short 30-minute set featured Me and Bobby McGee, Piece of My Heart and Mercedes Benz.


The multihyphenate singer song writer was found dead at his Paisley Park home in Minnesota on April 21, 2016, a week after his final concert. He played two shows that night in Atlanta, the first at 7pm and the other at 10pm, each lasting a little over an hour. In the first show he was restrained and played songs like Little Red Corvette, Heroes and A Case of You. During the late show he decided to let loose, kicking off with When Will We Be Paid. The final song of the night was a three-part medley that combined Purple Rain, The Beautiful Ones and Diamonds & Pearls.


The iconic voice died in 2016 but his last public performance was at Earls Court, London, on October 17, 2012. He was always careful about each of his performances and how his image was presented. Michael was one of pop’s biggest stars in the 1980s and ’90s, going from a teenpop idol to pop sex symbol. Soon he became uncomfortable with stardom and started presenting mature statements through songs. “I never minded being thought of as a pop star. People have always thought I wanted to be seen as a serious musician, but I didn’t, I just wanted people to know that I was absolutely serious about music.”

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