The final gigs by legendary artists: Sex Pistols, Nirvana and more

14 April 2023, 20:05 | Updated: 12 January 2024, 17:24

Sid Vicious, Johnny Rotten and Steve Jones of The Sex Pistols perform live at The Winterland Ballroom in 1978
Sid Vicious, Johnny Rotten and Steve Jones of The Sex Pistols perform live at The Winterland Ballroom in 1978. Picture: Richard McCaffrey/Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images)

Someday, it's all got to come to an end. Sometimes the artist will know the final curtain is coming down on a great career, other times it's all down to fate.

  1. The Beatles - Monday 29 August 1966

    This lacklustre end to a particularly gruelling US tour was The Fab Four's last PAYING gig, amid dwindling audiences and death threats from the Ku Klux Klan over those "We're more popular than Jesus" comments . They of course played on the rooftop of Apple Studios in January 1969, but that was so they had an ending for their Let It Be film. The last song played at Candlestick Park was a cover of Little Richard's Long Tall Sally. “It’s been wonderful being here,” said Paul.

    Rock and Roll music Candlestick Park 1966 the Beatles

  2. The Stone Roses - Saturday 24 June 2017

    “Don’t be sad it’s over, be happy that it happened.” Ian Brown appeared to lower the curtain on the Roses reunion at this show at Glasgow’s Hampden Park - while no official announcement about this being the Manchester legends’ final show was forthcoming, it seems pretty final to us.

    Stone Roses - I am the Resurrection - Hampden Park 24/6/2017

  3. David Bowie - Thursday 9 November 2006

    On 25 June 2004, at the Hurricane Festival in Germany, Bowie finished singing Ziggy Stardust as the final number in a 21-song set and then collapsed backstage. He’d had a heart attack and the rest of his tour was cancelled. He returned to the stage a year later to perform three songs for a fashion show in New York (including one song with Arcade Fire) and then appeared at a charity show, again in NYC.

    The three songs he played at the Black Ball for Save A Child at the Hammerstein Ballroom would be his final public performance before his death ten years later. He was accompanied by Alicia Keys and long-time collaborator Mike Garson on piano. Sadly, only shaky phone cam footage exists of the show; Garson recalled that the gig wasn’t filmed because “maybe he was a little gunshy, because he’d not sung for a while.”

    David Bowie + Alicia Keys - Changes

  4. The Smiths - Friday 12 December 1986

    This show at London's Brixton Academy was the band's last public paying show to date, apart from a few TV appearances. Bassist Andy Rourke and drummer Mike Joyce supported Morrissey at his first solo show in December 1988 at Wolverhampton's Civic Hall, but the original four members still haven't played together onstage.

    The Smiths - Hand In Glove - Brixton Academy, 12th Dec 1986

  5. Oasis - Saturday 22 August 2009

    V2009 - Could this be the last ever live performance featuring Liam and Noel together on stage? Only time will tell.

    Oasis - I am the Walrus (Live at V Festival, Staffordshire, 2009) (Last Ever Live Song Performed)

  6. Beastie Boys - Friday 12 June 2009

    The tragically early death of Adam "MCA" Yauch in 2012 brought the career of the NYC hip hop trio to a premature end. Their last show was at the Bonnaroo Festival in Manchester, Tennessee, where they ended their set with Sabotage, dedicated to MCA's cousin Eric Yauch.

    Beastie Boys Bonnaroo Friday June 12th 2009 "Sabotage" Live

  7. Nirvana - Tuesday 1 March 1994

    A month before Kurt Cobain's death, the band bowed out forever with a performance of Heart Shaped Box at Terminal 1 at the old Munich Airport. Earlier in the gig, the power had failed, prompting bassist Krist Novoselic to comment: "Grunge is dead". Kurt had bronchitis that night and his voice was all but gone by the end of the show, which was curtailed. They cancelled the next night's gig and the singer was hospitalised three days later after a suicide attempt.

    Nirvana - Drain You (Live In Munich, Germany/1994) (Official Music Video)

  8. Sex Pistols - Saturday 14 January 1978

    "Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?" The famous last show with Sid Vicious was on 14 January 1978 at Winterland in San Francisco, which ended a turbulent and chaotic US tour. The original line-up - with Glen Matlock on bass - got back together for a reunion show on 23 June 1996 at Finsbury Park.

    The Sex Pistols - No Fun - 1/14/1978 - Winterland (Official)

  9. Joy Division - Friday, 2 May 1980

    The legendary Manchester band performed their last show at High Hall in Birmingham University shortly before they were due to head to America to promote their second album, Closer. Singer Ian Curtis was tired and affected by his epilepsy and stumbled off stage after performing the song Decades live for the first and last time. He returned to the stage and the last song Joy Division ever played was their debut track for the Factory label, Digital. Two weeks later, Curtis committed suicide. The gig was released on the 1981 album Still.

    Joy Division - Digital (Live Birmingham Uni 1980)