From Taylor Swift to Ed Sheeran: Were you at East Anglia's greatest ever gigs?

Taylor Swift live at Radio 1 Big Weekend in Norwich 2015 - Paul Bayfield

Taylor Swift played Radio One's Big Weekend in Norwich in 2015 - Credit: Paul Bayfield

Carrow Road 
They’ve rocked all over the world, and when Status Quo played to 15,000 fans at Carrow Road back in 1997, it was the biggest concert ever to be held in Norwich. 

Since then, the football ground has gone on to welcome a host of other huge names to the city. 

In 2005, the Rocket Man himself, Elton John, played a huge show with a support act to Shout about - Lulu.  

And in 2007, Carrow Road scored a coup when it netted an appearance by pop legend George Michael, supported by Sophie Ellis-Bextor.  

The stadium was chosen to host one of five UK dates on his 25 Live anniversary tour, and he treated fans to a medley of his biggest hits, including Careless Whisper, Faith, Outside, Freedom 90 and Wham hits I’m Your Man and The Edge Of Heaven. 

One of the best-selling artists of all time, Rod Stewart has played Carrow Road twice – in 2011 and 2016, when crowds sang along to Sailing and Maggie May. 

And the venue certainly proved that it had the X-Factor in 2011, when it also hosted a poptastic show by the TV talent show’s graduates JLS and Olly Murs. 

Take That, Carrow Road, Norwich, 2019. Picture: Jamie Honeywood

Take That, at Carrow Road in 2019 - Credit: Jamie Honeywood

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Thousands of gig goers will Never Forget (boom, tish) how the ultimate man band, Take That, rounded off their spectacular Wonderland tour with two nights at Carrow Road in 2017, supported by All Saints. And in 2019 they returned to celebrate their 30th anniversary, with Rick Astley and Lulu joining them for the fun.  

After a two-year delay, on Thursday night Las Vegas rockers The Killers finally brought their Imploding the Mirage tour to Carrow Road, with a setlist packed with hits including When We Were Young, Human and, of course, their anthem Mr Brightside - accompanied by confetti cannons and pyrotechnics.  

Elton John performing on the piano on stage at Carrow Road singing to thousands of people. Picture:

Elton John performing on the piano on stage at Carrow Road in 2005. - Credit: James Bass

The music will continue this Wednesday, June 15, when Elton John makes a welcome return to the venue.

He’ll take concert-goers on a journey through his greatest hits as he plays the first UK date of his Farewell Yellow Brick Road world tour.  

Portman Road 
The home ground of Ipswich Town has been hosting concerts since the early 1990s. 

Tina Turner at Portman Road in 1990

The Best - Tina Turner at Portman Road in 1990 - Credit: Archant

Proving that she really is The Best, Tina Turner rocked the stadium in 1990, while in 1991 it was Rod Stewart’s turn to take to the stage, supported by Status Quo and Joe Cocker. Sir Rod has actually scored a hat-trick of appearances, having returned to Portman Road in 2007 and 2019.  

Part of the audience watching Rod Stewart in concert at Portman Road, Ipswich. july 2007Some of

Part of the audience watching Rod Stewart in concert at Portman Road, Ipswich in 2007 - Credit: Ashley Pickering

In 1992, the football ground hosted both Bryan Adams (still riding high on the record-breaking chart success of (Everything I Do) I Do It For You) and Dire Straits, but then music fans had more than a decade to wait before the next big show. 

Elton John headed to Portman Road in 2004, when he was supported by singer-songwriter James Blunt, whose own career was just going stellar thanks to the release of You’re Beautiful. Sir Elton made a welcome return in 2017. 

Neil Diamond played an epic 30-song set – including Sweet Caroline, of course – when he brought his world tour to Ipswich in 2005.  

Mike Mills, Michael Stipe and Peter Buck of REM on stage at Portman Road in 2005

Mike Mills, Michael Stipe and Peter Buck of REM on stage at Portman Road in 2005 - Credit: Clifford Hicks

The same summer REM frontman Michael Stipe read out a statement about celebrating life through music before the band poignantly started their set with Everybody Hurts - their concert was held the day after the 7/7 bombings on the London transport network.   

The following year, Los Angeles-based rockers Red Hot Chili Peppers got the sold-out crowd moshing along to hits including Can’t Stop, By the Way, Under the Bridge and Californication and in 2009, superstar Pink and her Funhouse Carnival tour rolled into town. 

Anthony Kiedis, lead singer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers

Anthony Kiedis, lead singer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers at Portman Road - Credit: Phil Morley

Could It Be Magic? It certainly was when Barry Manilow turned back the years at Portman Road in 2014.  

And last summer Ipswich Town's most famous fan, Ed Sheeran, played on the pitch – albeit to an empty stadium and an online crowd.  

The virtual gig was streamed on TikTok as part of the Euro 2020 celebrations.   

Soaking up the vibes at Latitude

Soaking up the vibes at Latitude - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Latitude Festival 
In 2006, a new festival came to Suffolk. Held on the rolling Henham estate, near Southwold, Latitude called itself more than just a music festival, with a lively and thought-provoking mix of stand-up comedy, theatre, dance, literature and poetry also on the bill. 

It was one of the first of a new generation of mid-sized, boutique family-friendly festivals which tapped into a burgeoning market: the indie kids who now had children of their own, but hadn’t grown out of spending a weekend in a field - and couldn’t start the day without an oat-milk latte. 

So, to keep younger visitors entertained, there was a family campsite, a kids’ area - and babies perched on their parents’ shoulders wearing ear defenders became a common sight. 

The first Latitude line-up included Snow Patrol, Anthony and the Johnsons, Mogwai, The Zutons, Paolo Nutini and Patti Smith. 

It’s gone on to become one of the biggest dates on the summer festival calendar. 
Alongside festival giants Glastonbury and Reading, a trip to Latitude is now a rite of passage for music fans.  

It’s won a host of awards – in 2017 it was named the Best Major Festival at the UK Festival Awards and Best Family Festival in 2018.  

And, with its magnificent lake and magical woodland, perfect for late night parties, if there was an award for the UK’s most picturesque festival site it would surely win that too. 

That’s why it continues to entice the world’s biggest music acts to this otherwise tranquil corner of Suffolk.  

Nick Cave headlining the main stage at Latitude

Nick Cave headlining the main stage at Latitude - Credit: Simon Parker

Over the years artists have included Chemical Brothers, Arcade Fire, Liam Gallagher, Florence and the Machine, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, New Order, George Ezra, The Killers, Mumford and Sons, Grace Jones, Portishead, Sam Smith, Kraftwerk, The 1975, Paul Weller and Vampire Weekend. 

This year's festival is being held from July 21-24, and the line-up includes Lewis Capaldi, Foals, Snow Patrol (making a long-awaited return to Henham Park), Phoebe Bridgers, Groove Armada and Fontaines D.C. 

BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend, Earlham Park, Norwich 
It was a pinch yourself moment when it was announced that the host city for BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend 2015 would be Norwich.  

The line-up for the two-day festival, which travels around the country, features some of the world’s biggest pop and rock acts – bona fide superstars.  

And it didn’t disappoint, with DJ Nick Grimshaw announcing that Muse, Florence + the Machine, Taylor Swift, Foo Fighters, Snoop Dogg and many more would be heading to Earlham Park.  

Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters on stage at Earlham Park for Radio One's Big Weekend

Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters on stage at Earlham Park for Radio One's Big Weekend - Credit: Paul Bayfield

There were 25,000 tickets available for each day which sold out within minutes – who remembers setting their alarms and having multiple devices running to try and bag their spot, butterflies in their stomach as they hit refresh again and again? 

Since then, Earlham Park has become the home of the Let’s Rock retro festival.  

And later this month The Ibiza Orchestra, Simply Red and Michael Ball and Alfie Boe will all play there. 

But will anything ever quite match the sight of Snoop Dogg resplendent in yellow and green wearing a Norwich City shirt?   

One Big Sunday, Chantry Park, Ipswich 
Of course, BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend wasn’t the first time that the pop station had rolled into the region.  

Between the 1970s and the end of the 1990s towns in the region including Hunstanton, Great Yarmouth and Ipswich were regular stops on the Radio 1 Roadshow’s annual tour of the UK – a sun or rain drenched extravaganza of pop performances, games and jokes about the DJs’ knobbly knees.  

Favourite features included Bits and Pieces, a forerunner of TV gameshow The Hit List, where contestants had to guess as many pop tracks as they could from snippets of music, and Smiley Miley’s Mileage Game, a quiz that could only have existed pre-internet where players had to guess how many miles the roadshow truck had travelled from the previous day’s venue.    

When the roadshow was axed, it was replaced by One Big Sunday, a series of mini festivals around the country, which visited Chantry Park in Ipswich twice – in 2000, when Muse, Texas, Five, Glamma Kid, JJ72 and Mansun played and in 2002, when there were sets by Natalie Imbruglia, Ms Dynamite, Liberty X, Kosheen and Idlewild.  

Ed Sheeran, Chantry Park, Ipswich  

It was a glorious homecoming for Suffolk’s global superstar Ed Sheeran in August 2019 when 150,000 people headed to Chantry Park in Ipswich for the last four nights of his Divide world tour. 

Ed Sheeran's second night at Chantry Park in Ipswich, performing to a crowd of more than 40,000 peop

Ed Sheeran's second night at Chantry Park in Ipswich, performing to a crowd of more than 40,000 people. - Credit: Zakary Walters

Fans travelled from as far afield as Australia to experience the extra special concerts – and his friend and collaborator Stormzy joined him on stage at the Sunday night show as a special guest.  

Ed grew up in Framlingham began his journey to fame on the East Anglian gig circuit – in 2008 he won Future Radio’s Next Big Thing competition in conjunction with the EDP and Norwich Evening News. 

After touring the globe for two years, Ed announced that he would be taking a well-earned break from music.

In December 2020 his hiatus came to an end with the release of the surprise single, Afterglow, with his fifth album, =, released in October last year.

He’s currently playing a string of UK dates as part of his Mathematics world tour, which is due to end in Perth, Australia, next year.  

As yet there has been no word about whether he’ll be adding any Ipswich dates, but fans will be keeping their fingers crossed.   

Thetford Forest 
If you go down to the woods...you might discover some of the biggest names in pop. High Lodge at Thetford Forest is another atmospheric setting for a summer evening of music and in past years the likes of Foals, Stereophonics, Billy Bragg, Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott, Gary Barlow, The Script, Olly Murs, Clean Bandit, Paloma Faith, Boyzone, Sam Smith, James, The Darkness, KT Tunstall, The Feeling, Scouting for Girls, Van Morrison, Fun Lovin’ Criminals and Pulp have played there as part of Forestry England’s annual Forest Live season. 

And the stage is set for this summer’s line-up. Rag’n’Bone Man plays this Thursday, June 16, followed by Keane, on Friday, June 17 with Madness going One Step Beyond for a sold out show on Saturday, June 18  

Bryan Adams, July 1992, in concert at Portman Road

Bryan Adams in concert at Portman Road in July 1992 - Credit: Archant

Blickling Hall 
The grounds of one of the region’s most famous stately homes, Blickling Hall, has been hosting music events since the late 90s, surely making it a trailblazer for what is now a quintessential summer night out – posh picnics mandatory. 

Chart-topper Chris de Burgh played the estate in 1998 and returned in 2001 and other highlights have included Bryan Ferry, Simply Red, Van Morrison, Simple Minds, Roger Daltrey, Cliff Richard, Meat Loaf and Peter Gabriel.

And with the line-ups of the Here and Now retro festivals reading like a who’s who of 80s pop, it makes you want to dig out your fluorescent legwarmers: Belinda Carlisle, Tony Hadley, The Weather Girls, Midge Ure, Banarama, Altered Images, Howard Jones, Nik Kershaw, Kim Wilde, Kid Creole and the Coconuts, ABC, Marc Almond, Go West – the list goes on.   

This year Bryan Adams is set to return to Blickling for a third time on July 8, followed by charismatic Canadian crooner Michael Buble on July 11.

And don’t miss Norfolk’s biggest summer dance party when Classic Ibiza returns on August 6. One of the most eagerly-anticipated dates on the calendar, the Urban Soul Orchestra will once more be transporting the glowstick-waving crowd to the White Isle with an evening of dance anthems as the sun goes down.  
 
There have been so many memorable summer gigs in our region that it’s impossible to mention them all. What have your favourites been? Email emma.lee@archant.co.uk and let her know.