Five incarnations of the festival were in Rio de Janeiro, in 1985, 1991, 2001, 2011 and 2013, six in Lisbon, in 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014, and three in Madrid in 2008, 2010 and 2012. Brazilian entrepreneur and advertiser Roberto Medina was responsible for the inception and organization of the festival, as well as moving the 2004 edition to Lisbon, while controversially keeping the brand Rock in Rio. In 2011, Rock in Rio returned to its original location, Rio de Janeiro, with a new line-up of singers and groups.
Rock in Rio is one of the largest music festival in the world, with 1.5 million people in the first edition, 700,000 in both the second and fourth editions, about 1.2 million in the third, and about 350,000 people in each of the 3 Lisbon editions.
The first edition of the festival was held from January 11–20, 1985. Queen, George Benson, Rod Stewart, AC/DC and Yes were the headliners, each occupying top spot for two nights (Benson, however, ceded it to James Taylor for their second night in the same bill, due to the huge delay Taylor's extended performance had caused to his concert two days before). About 1.4 million people attended the 10-day-long festival.
Rock in Rio in numbers
The City of Rock, which was built for the festival, covered an area of 250,000 m² (around 2.7 million square feet)
1,600,000 liters of beverages were served, using 4 million plastic cups.
Both Queen shows were filmed (on January 11 and January 18) and broadcast throughout Brazil by Globo. Each show was watched by nearly 200 million people in over 60 countries and in front of 350,000-500,000 people for each night setting a world record for the biggest paying audience ever at the time. It was later broadcast in the United States on MTV as "Queen: Live in Rio".
Iron Maiden was the only non-Brazilian act to play just one concert at the festival (on its opening night, headlined by Queen), due to other bookings, while every other international act performed twice. During the song "Revelations", lead singer Bruce Dickinson ran into guitarist Dave Murray and cut his face on Murray's guitar. Dickinson continued to sing in spite of heavy bleeding. They performed in front of a crowd of 350,000 people too.
The Go-Go's broke up after their two Rock in Rio performances, (headlined by Queen and Rod Stewart) though they would later reunite in the 1990s. The two Rock in Rio shows were the debut and swansong for short-tenured Go-Go's member Paula Jean Brown, who had replaced Jane Wiedlin. (Wiedlin would return to the reunited 1990s lineup.)
The January 20 appearance of the B-52's would turn out to be their last with guitarist Ricky Wilson, who died from AIDS in October of that year as the band was finishing their next album.
Nina Hagen was paid nothing for her two performances, since she had approached Roberto Medina, the festival's mentor herself, requesting a place in its bill. Queen were the highest-paid act, commanding US$600,000 for its two headlining performances, on January 11 and 18.
Initially, Def Leppard was scheduled to play at the festival. However, they dropped out about two months before the event, due to delays on the recording process of the album Hysteria. They were replaced by Whitesnake. Eleven days before the date Def Leppard would have played at the festival, drummer Rick Allen suffered an accident that cost him his left arm.
Some Brazilian acts had a bad reception by audiences: on the opening day, Erasmo Carlos was pelted with water cups and mud, and stones were thrown at Kid Abelha's stage - something that prompted Os Paralamas do Sucesso lead singer Herbert Vianna to advise the crowd to attend only to the performances of the artists they enjoy and "pick up instruments to get on the stage for the next edition". At the time, Kid Abelha's lead singer Paula Toller was Vianna's love interest.
In 1985, before the beginning of the festival, there a Nostradamus prophecy, that a disaster would happen in a gathering of young people in South America, the prophecy failed to materialize, one who remembers well, the power of the rumor is the actor Kadu Moliterno, master of ceremonies of the Rock in Rio I. "There was this rumor, which was very strong. I remember I was watching Rita Lee's show when some of bulbs began to sprout in the ceiling of the stage, short-circuit. I went into a paranoia that the world was ending. I got out of there running I took my motorcycle and I left home" he said laughing.
Guns N' Roses's January 20 concert was their first ever with then new drummer Matt Sorum and keyboard player Dizzy Reed. George Michael's second concert, on January 27, the festival's closing day, featured his ex-Wham! partner Andrew Ridgeley, who joined Michael for a few songs at the encore. Again a misplaced Brazilian act suffered from bad reception, with Lobão being pelted with beer cans and being forced to cut his performance short.
Iron Maiden recorded their set and released it as the live album Rock in Rio. The profits from the sale of the album were donated to the Clive Burr fund, which would help the former drummer pay mounting medical bills for treatment of his multiple sclerosis.
Another notable appearance at Rock in Rio 3 was that of American hard rock band Guns N' Roses, with a new line-up featuring guitarist Buckethead, original member Axl Rose (vocals), and longtime member Dizzy Reed (keyboards). Carlinhos Brown, the opening act on the day Guns N' Roses performed, was attacked by water bottles throughout his whole performance. Bassist Nick Oliveri of Queens of the Stone Age performed in the nude for part of their set and was arrested for indecent exposure after the concert, being released soon after.
Full list of artists who performed at Rock in Rio 3:
The Palco Mundo (World Stage) at the Rock in Rio 4
The Rock Street at the Rock in Rio 4
The fourth edition of Rock in Rio, back to its origins, was held on September 23, 24, 25, 29 and 30, and October 1 and 2, 2011, at an area (pt) to be built next to the old City of Rock - which is currently the site of the future Olympic Village of the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Three different stages were employed, with the headlining concerts at the Palco Mundo (World Stage), the secondary ones in Palco Sunset (Sunset Stage), and DJs playing at a specialized stage for electronic music. The closing acts, Guns N' Roses and System of a Down, entered following a poll on the festival's website.Maroon 5 was a last hour addition, following Jay-Z leaving for personal reasons.
Full list of artists who performed at Rock in Rio 4:
After the huge success of Rock in Rio 3 in Brazil, Roberto Medina decided to organize a festival of the same stature in Lisbon. The decision to maintain the name Rock in Rio was controversial, and detractors of the idea in Brazil started calling it Rock in Rio Tejo, after the Tagus river (rio Tejo, in Portuguese) which runs through the Portuguese capital.
The first edition of Rock in Rio Lisboa, as the festival was officially called, took place in 2004. Although the festival had a slight change of name, it kept the same structure as the Brazilian editions. An entire City of Rock, with an area of over 200,000 m² was erected at the Bela Vista park, with a large centre stage and several tents where different artists would perform, simultaneously.
Full list of artists who performed at Rock in Rio Lisboa: