Are these the biggest rock and pop names to have performed in Kent?

PUBLISHED: 17:41 26 April 2016




From Cliff Richard to Madonna, Prince to Elton John, the county has played host to a number of superstars over the years

Elton JohnElton John

While there is no denying Kent suffers due to its proximity to London when it comes to attracting big name musical headliners, there are perhaps more superstars who have performed here than you imagine.

From Madonna to Prince, the Beatles to David Bowie and plenty more besides, the county has developed an impressive list of talent.

In no particular order, we take a look at some of the biggest names, past and present, and reflect on when they rocked the county.

PiL with John LydonPiL with John Lydon


Mote Park, Maidstone

May 10, 2008

When Radio 1 announced its annual ‘Big Weekend’ event was coming to the county town, anticipation rocketed. But no-one can have imagined the superstar nature of its big headliner.

Prince @ Hop Farm Festival 2011Prince @ Hop Farm Festival 2011

With the likes of Adele performing on the undercard of the two-day event at Mote Park (long before she became the global icon she is now), it was Madonna’s topping of the Saturday night which pulled in all the headlines.

Tickets were free - but highly sought after after being awarded by ballot. With local postcodes getting priority, there were still an awful lot of disappointed fans unable to see her perform.

Playing under canvas, her focus was very much on promoting her Hard Candy album. Emerging on stage sat on a giant throne, she romped through the likes of 4 Minutes, Candy Shop and Music in a short but dynamic set.

The Beatles

Invicta Ballroom, Chatham

January 12, 1963

Just a month before they entered the studio to complete recording ahead of the release of their first album, Please Please Me, the Fab Four made their longest trip south to date to perform at the Invicta Ballroom in Chatham.

Rising rapidly following the success of debut single Love Me Do, the performance came in the week of the release of the album’s title track, which would fly up to number two in the chart - the last of their early releases not to rise up to the summit of the top 40.

Don’t expect to find the building though - it was demolished in 1987. The Beatles would also play in Margate as they were catapulted into global superstardom.

Elton John

St Lawrence Ground, Canterbury

June 3, 2006

A sure sign of the changing face of Kent County Cricket Club was when it confirmed that it was to start staging major outdoor concerts on its hallowed turf.

And the first was none other than Elton John and he bowled up a relentless series of big hits to a response crowd.

No stranger to the county, having sold-out three night at Leeds Castle in 1999, Sir Elton opened with Bennie and the Jets and then a romp through his back catalogue of hits, finishing off the night with Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on me and the memorable Your Song.

Hailed a success, he would next return to the county last summer - playing a show at the Kent Event Centre at the county showground in Detling.

David Bowie

Central Hall, Chatham

June 12, 1973

Arguably, Ziggy Stardust was the ultimate creation of Beckenham’s David Bowie - an iconic character wedding fashion, sexual ambiguity, and some sensational music to create an intoxicating mix.

And Kent was fortunate enough to see Ziggy in all his pomp and splendour.

As was often the case, the big acts would perform two shows in a day - and so Ziggy performed a matinee and then evening performance to sell-out crowds.

Just two weeks later he took to the stage at London’s Hammersmith Odeon for that famous, filmed, final Ziggy show.


Hop Farm, Paddock Wood

July 3, 2011

For years, there were rumours Prince was to headline Glastonbury. And every year they came to nothing. Then, out of the blue, he was suddenly booked to play in a field in Kent instead.

The Hop Farm Festival was desperately trying to make a name for itself, and what better way to do so than by serving up an iconic performer’s first - and now sadly only - UK festival performance.

The performance was a high-energy, hits-heavy two hour set which took place as the sun set on a warm summer’s day.

It would prove his final ‘big’ show in the south of England - London would receive visits in 2014 for a series of one-off ‘hit n run’ shows at small venues, and he played arena shows in Birmingham and higher, It proved a fitting farewell.

Nile Rodgers

Merton Farm, Canterbury

July 8, 2012

The Lounge of the Farm festival is mourned by many - and perhaps its lasting legacy was its ability to book bands on the cusp of greatness. Or, as was the case with Chic - featuring Nile Rodgers - on the brink of a remarkable revival.

As Nile Rodgers walked onto the stage the crowd was modest - by the end, everyone was on their feet and enjoying an amazing ride through some megahits which he had either performed or produced over the years.

By the time the performance was over, he leapt off stage and met and posed for photographs with those at the front of the stage. A few months later, his work with Daft Punk and Pharrell Williams catapulted him back into the mainstream again and saw him flying high at the top of the charts.

Simply Red

Bedgebury Pinetum, Goudhurst

June 12, 2010

Mick Hucknall is one of those Marmite performers - you either love or hate him. But he certainly knows how to belt out a tune and that was underlined by a big crowd for one of the increasingly popular Forest Live shows, where the Forestry Commission open up key sites for concerts.

This was part of the band’s farewell tour and featured a setlist festooned with hit singles.

However, they weren’t to stay split up for long. They announced they were reforming four years later and this summer they return to Kent to play a headline slot at Canterbury’s St Lawrence - home of the county’s cricket club. It is likely to be the county’s big show this year.


Quex Park, Birchington

July 24, 2010

The Nutty Boys have now been reformed for longer than their original incarnation. And it seems we still cannot get enough of them since they came together again back in 1992.

Their performance in Birchington six years ago was blessed with good weather and a supporting line-up which included the likes of the Lightning Seeds and The Blockheads. 
It certainly got the audience in the right mood - and they were dancing along to every song from start to finish.

For Madness lead singer Suggs, it was something of a homecoming show - his wife’s family live just up the road in Whitstable.

The band’s appetite for Kent reared its head last summer when they returned for another outdoor show - this time at the St Lawrence Ground in Canterbury.

Public Image Ltd

Rochester Castle

July 28, 2012

He is something of an acquired taste, but there is no denying the legendary status of John Lydon - better known to many as Sex Pistols’ frontman Johnny Rotten.

While his career trajectory has certainly taken him into more mainstream territory over recent years - I’m A Celebrity... anyone? - his musical catalogue remains highly cherished by legions of loyal fans.

And fresh off the release of This is PiL - his band’s critically acclaimed new album - he performed in Rochester. Tickets weren’t sold out, but the show was the normal high-energy, loud, performance that kept the fans happy and wrote another chapter in Kent’s live music book.

Cliff Richard

Leeds Castle

July 25, 2004

Sir Cliff is one of those performers whose nigh-on rabid fanbase will hear not a word said against him. Nor will they allow any concert at which he is performing remain anything other than sold out.

Little wonder, then, that this memorable performace at Leeds Castle was well attended. Not only that, but the performance lived on with a DVD release too.

The set-list was vintage Cliff, with hits such as the Young Ones, Move It, Summer Holiday, We Don’t Talk Anymore and Wired for Sound.

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