Five incarnations of the festival were in Rio de Janeiro, in 1985, 1991, 2001, 2011 and 2013, five in Lisbon, in 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012, 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.
Future editions of the festival will intercalate an international edition with one in Brazil, returning in Lisbon in 2012 and Rio de Janeiro in 2013. Pre-sales for the 2013 tickets started during the 2011 edition, and have already reached 15,000 orders. Its name is derived from Rio de Janeiro City and alluding to "Rock in Roll".
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 "Cidade do Rock" (City of Rock), the place where the event was held (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 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.
Rock in Rio 2
The second edition was held from January 18–27, 1991 at the Maracanã stadium. Headliners were Guns N' Roses, Prince and George Michael, each being top billed for two of the event's nine nights. INXSNew Kids on the Block and A-ha also got top billing, for one night each. But a-ha took the most audience, with 198.000, something that still stands as a world record today.
Full list of artists who performed at Rock in Rio 2:
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 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:
Bon Jovi: This was the third presentation of Bon Jovi in Brazil and in Rock in Rio, but the first participation in the festival’s Brazilian version, for the madness of thousands of fans that were at the City of Rock. But one fan drew the best lot. Rosana Guedes, from Campinas, was picked out by Jon Bon Jovi to come up to the stage. She received a kiss on the mouth and even performed backup vocal in "Who says you can't go home?". Jon thanked the affection of the Brazilian fans and paid tribute to the drummer Tico Torres, who suffered from appendicitis a few days before the show in Rock in Rio.
Nickelback: For the first time in Brazil, Nickelback was the evening’s next attraction. Extremely competent on stage, the Canadian band gave the fans a present with a list of hits, which included "Too Bad", "Someday", "T-Shirt Cannon", "Gotta Be Somebody" and "How You Remind Me". The public did not treat the band for less and supported it from beginning to end.
Matchbox Twenty: With over 30 million records sold worldwide and five Grammy nominations, Matchbox Twenty made its debut at Rock in Rio favored with hits like "3 A.M.", "Unwell" and “Push” all known to the public. The band reserved a surprise for the end: a version of "Jumpin' Jack Flash", by the Rolling Stones.
Frejat: This was the fourth time that Frejat plays in the festival – the first two were with Barão Vermelho, in 1985 and 2001, and already in solo career, in 2011. He transformed the City of Rock into an immense dance party with privilege to Tim Maia ("Não quero dinheiro"), Jorge Ben ("A minha menina"), Rita Lee ("Mania de você") and Caetano and Gil ("Divino maravilhoso"). The show marked the launching of "O amor é quente", Frejat’s new song.
Bruce Springsteen: Roberto Medina had already planned that this would be one of the greatest shows of this edition. But what he could not even imagine is that Bruce would open the show with Raul Seixa’s “Sociedade Alternativa”, which led the whole Rock in Rio to ecstasy. The atmosphere was that of a party on a show that has been running for 2 hours and 40 minutes. In "Dancing in the dark", Bruce called five fans to come up the stage. The Italian Sara Tersetti, was one of these fans. She has been travelling since 2005 to keep track with The Boss’ shows.
John Mayer: John Mayer made a presentation for the first time in Brazil. And if it depends on the fantastic show in Rock in Rio, he can return whenever he wants. Having full control of the guitar which only a few do, and inspired by the great masters of the Blues, Mayer led the audience in a singular way, which sang tracks like "Slow dancing in a burning room", "Half of my heart" and "Waiting on the world to change", the same audience that can choose between "Vultures" (which was in the setlist) and "Stop this train".
Phillip Phillips: Phillip Phillips showed at Rock in Rio why it was the winner of the 11th edition of the reality show, American Idol. Owner of a remarkable voice, the artist opened the show with "Get up get down". Then he played "Man on the moon" with the citation of "Give it away", by Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Thriller" (Michael Jackson), "Let’s get it on" (Marvin Gaye) and "Home", which caused cheer from the public, also were part of the repertory.
Skank: The house’s silver, Skank got up the Palco Mundo (World Stage) for the second consecutive Brazilian edition of Rock in Rio. The surprises of this edition remained on account of the participations of Nando Reis and Emicida. Aside from the crowd’s sheer, which accompanied the band’s entire show, the version of “Mais que nada”, by Jorge Ben Jor, also made its way into the repertory.
Iron Maiden: Iron Maiden’s debut on Brazilian lands was exactly at Rock in Rio, 1985 – a show that went into the history of world music. It is for this reason that the band’s comeback to the festival is always something special. And speaking of 85, time has not seem to run out for Bruce Dickinson, who runs all the time through the whole stage and conducts the public like a maestro. The rest of the band also continues sharp with slick and smart fingers, something which the fans know well.
Avenged Sevenfold: The demand of fans for other bands with respect to a “new” band like Avenged is always very great. It was no different in Rock in Rio, but A7X (how they are known) passed the test with flying colors. Watch out for M. Shadows, vocalist of the band, who declared during the show that “he had a CD when he was a boy called Iron Maiden live in Rock in Rio” and that he was excited to play in front of Iron Maiden.
Slayer: It was a debut at Rock in Rio. With a show of big stars, Slayer marked its place in the annals of the festival with the speed, weight and aggressiveness that the public wanted. Milestones of the band’s story were in the show’s repertory, like the tracks "Raining Blood" and "Angel of Death", which also served as soundtrack of the band’s tribute to guitarist Jeff Hanneman, who died in May 2013, aside from tracks from the most recent album.
Kiara Rocks: One of the main bands of the new wave of national rock, the band carried to the stage an enormous reinforcement: Paul Di'Anno, former vocalist of Iron Maiden. With him, Kiara played versions for "Highway to Hell", by AC/DC, "Blitzkrieg Bop", by Ramones and "Wrathchild", from his Iron Maiden times. Marcão, of Charile Brown Jr, also participated in the show. At the end, the crowd shouted “Kiara, Kiara”.
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: