11 of the most iconic gigs at the National Bowl in Milton Keynes

    41 years ago, the National Bowl in Milton Keynes was born - and since then it has seen world-renowned artists coming to play in the heart of our city.

    With the news this week that Sigala, Beverly Knight, Kaiser Chiefs, Dizzee Rascal and more are coming to the Bowl for drive-in gigs this Summer - we thought we would look back at some of the venues most iconic moments.

    1982: Queen

    Just three years after opening in 1979, Queen was the concert that first put the National Bowl on the map. As part of their Hot Space Tour, Milton Keynes was one of 69 tour dates for the group. Interestingly, it wasn't always meant to be in Milton Keynes either.

    The Bowl tour date was originally scheduled to take place at Arsenal's Highbury Stadium in London - but was moved to our city due to potential noise complaints from residents. London's loss was Milton Keynes gain!

    Fast forward 22 years and a DVD of the gig was released to the public - called 'Queen on Fire - Live at the Bowl'. The DVD has been sold worldwide and truly helped put Milton Keynes on the map.

    1982: Genesis

    Later that year in October, The National Bowl was host to the reunion concert of rock band Genesis - called Six Of The Best. Original lead singer Peter Gabriel and former guitarist Steve Hackett took to the stage in a rainy Milton Keynes (some things never change!).

    Support included John Martyn, The Blues Band and Talk Talk.


    1983: David Bowie

    The Serious Moonlight Tour from the legend David Bowie hit the Bowl in July 1983 - his longest, largest and most successful tour ever. It's not surprising given the success of the Let's Dance album - and over 2.6m tickets were sold worldwide.

    Bowie himself helped design the set for the tour - including the memorable giant columns, large moon and giant hand.


    1986: Simple Minds

    Scottish rock band Simple Minds were next to hit Milton Keynes in 1986 - and with a massive amount of support too with Doctor and the Medics, Lloyd Cole and the Commotions, Big Audio Dynamite and The Waterboys all performing live.

    England were playing in the World Cup Quarter Final at the same time and - in a time before 4G - it was left to lead singer Jim Kerr to provide live score updates to the crowd during the gig.


    1988: Michael Jackson

    60,000 people descended upon Milton Keynes for Michael Jackson's legendary Bad World Tour in 1988. It was his first solo concert tour and spanned a massive 16 months across the world with 123 dates.

    He kicked off the gig with an incredible performance of Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' and ended with an encore including The Way You Make Me Feel and Man In The Mirror.


    1993: Metallica

    Following the release of their fifth studio album 'Metallica' (The Black Album), in 1993 it was the turn of Metallica to arrive in Milton Keynes on their 'Nowhere Else To Roam' global tour.

    Milton Keynes was their only UK tour date and so fans from across the country descended on the Bowl to see them play live. Support included Megadeth, The Almighty and Diamond Head.


    1993: Bon Jovi

    Bon Jovi were next to take to the stage of the National Bowl in 1993 for the 'I'll Sleep When I'm Dead' tour. With three sell out dates, it was their only UK venue for the tour.

    The group kicked off with an amazing performance of I Believe and wrapped up with a second encore of I'll Be There For You.


    2005: Green Day

    Being able to sell out a 65,000 capacity venue is a great achievement - but being able to sell it out two days on the run is special. Green Day performed in front of a combined 130,000 people in Milton Keynes in June 2005. It was one of the two biggest shows Green Day have performed in their career.

    The group also filmed their video album Bullet In A Bible at the gig, with support from Jimmy Eat World, Taking Back Sunday, and Hard-Fi.


    2006: Take That

    After 11 years without a tour, Take That finally re-grouped for their Ultimate Re-Union Tour in 2006. With 32 dates across the UK and Ireland, Gary Barlow, Howard Donald, Jason Orange and Mark Owen performed for an amazing Milton Keynes crowd.

    Just like Queen's 1982 gig, this was never meant to be in Milton Keynes. Construction delays at Wembley Stadium in London meant that the date had to be moved to our city - not that we minded!


    2012: Swedish House Mafia

    Confirmed as their last ever UK gig before splitting up, expectations were high in 2012 for Swedish House Mafia and they did not disappoint. Don't You Worry Child was played to a crowd of 60,000 people and footage now features in the official music video.

    Support acts included Calvin Harris and rising electronic star Madeon. 


    2015: Foo Fighters

    After the cancellation of their planned appearances at Glastonbury and Wembley Stadium earlier that year, the Foo Fighters appeared at the Bowl in September 2015.

    The 2.5 hour show included a cover of Queen and David Bowie’s ‘Under Pressure’ with the group joined by Queen’s Roger Taylor and Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones.


    And there are so many more we could have included as well!

    What are your memories of the National Bowl in Milton Keynes? Let us know via Facebook or email news@mkfm.com.

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