Five of the wildest artists to play a secret show

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Five of the wildest artists to play a secret show

secret concerts
Words by Harry Hartney

Secret concerts have brought forth some of the most fabled moments in music

Some artists play a secret show, are performed in public spaces where large audiences create mayhem, or others in living rooms that are only accessible by an exclusive invite. With many celebrated private shows, a secret concert can quite easily become a staple of a musician or band’s live catalogue.

Secret show

Often chaotic and controversial, these events spread by word of mouth, creating an organic audience of fans and onlookers who happened to be passing by.

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After punk rock band Gogol Bodello’s private gig for Ukraine soldiers, we look back at five of the most memorable secret concerts in history. 

The Beatles’ Apple rooftop performance

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: The Beatles rooftop performance is up there with the band’s most famous shows over their 10-year tenure.

Playing on the roofs of their Apple Corps headquarters at 3 Savile Row, the legendary group performed nine takes of five then-unreleased tracks, many of which featured on their final album, Let it Be.

‘Get Back’, ‘Don’t Let Me Down’, ‘I’ve Got A Feeling’, ‘One After 909’ and ‘Dig A Pony’ were all played, as well as a brief rendition of ‘God Save the Queen’ to boot. Peter Jackson’s acclaimed Beatles’ documentary, Get Back, features the performance as the film’s climax, and the audio was subsequently uploaded to streaming services after a surge in popularity.

Unfortunately, the show was shut down just 42-minutes into the performances, by police concerned with both noise disturbances and crowd control.

John Lennon famously closed the show with the line: “I’d like to say thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves, and I hope we’ve passed the audition”.

Prince at Bennett’s Lane Jazz Club, Melbourne

Those who stuck around after the Allan Browne trio at Bennett’s Lane Jazz Club in Melbourne were treated to an intimate Prince performance at 2am in 2012.

With word eventually leaking out over social media, 70-80 Prince fans paid $200 to a private two-hour set, filled with deep cuts, classics, and covers. The musical maestro famously played ‘Sexy Dancer’, ‘Love 2 the 9s’, as well as Rihanna’s ‘Rude Boy’ and Parliament’s ‘Tear the Roof off the Sucker’.

Prince manually turned off every light in the venue, playing in pitch black, with NPG vocalist Shelby G also featured in the performance.

This was not Prince’s first rodeo at Bennett’s Lane, with his first sighting at the jazz club revelling a few selective Melbournians nine years earlier in 2003.

The Sex Pistols down the Thames

There might be no band more infamous for a public nuisance involved stunt than the Sex Pistols.

To ‘celebrate’ the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, this iconic punk outfit roared down the Thames in a fury, famously blaring ‘Anarchy in the UK’ as they passed Parliament.

The concert was shut down soon-after, with manager, Malcolm McLaren, having some words for the disturbing police officers that lead to his arrest and a bit of a beat-down to go with it, according to Richard Branson, who signed the band in 1977.

Their disdain for the royal family was no private secret, with the release of ‘God Save the Queen’ coming earlier in the year.

Fred again Melbourne 2024

Revs, 2024

In February, Fred again… began to share vague, clue-ridden posts about appearances in Melbourne and Sydney, surrounding the official announcement that he’d be doing a string of stadium shows in February and March! While conversations with podcasts Tape Notes and Hanging Out With Audiophiles (HOWA), Fred again frequented the famous Berghain nightclub in Berlin, and even made an appearance at Melbourne’s own Berghain… Revs.

Rolling in at 9am, those who’ve frequented the venue knowing there’s just about no down time there, Fred again played to a packed house, sunshine blaring through the windows of the upstairs Chapel Street venue.

This came after a 7am post with the clue “One place is open”.


Delilah at 9am 🔥 @Fredagainagain #fredagainsydney #fredagainaustralia #revolver #melbourne #actuallife

♬ original sound – fredagain.oioioi

Nirvana St Vitus, 2014

After their induction into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame at Barclays Center, Dave Grohl, Pat Smear, and Krist Novoselic headed to a small Brooklyn bar by the name of St Vitus, with a cap of 350 people.

The show was invite-only, with a setlist spanning the band’s entire career, and an amalgamation of artists fit to perform Kurt Cobain’s vocals. These included Joan Jett, who opened the set with ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, J Mascis (Dinosaur Jr) who shredded to ‘Penny Royal Tea’, Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth), Annie Clark (St Vincent) and John McCauley (Deer Trick).

Of note was Annie Clark’s performance of ‘Heart-Shaped Box’ and Kim Gordon’s closing act, which included ‘Aneurysm’, ‘Negative Creep’, and ‘Moist Vagina’.

Nineteen songs later at 4am, Nirvana wrapped up what was certainly one of the most epic after-parties in history almost 20 years after their last performance.

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