When One Direction, Ed Sheeran, The Police and Led Zep played Herts gigs

Ed Sheeran. Credit: Greg Williams

Ed Sheeran filmed the video for single Lego House at a concert in Hatfield. - Credit: Greg Williams

Ed Sheeran being 'stalked' in Hatfield by Harry Potter star Rupert Grint. One Direction's Harry Styles walking through St Albans carrying a chicken on his way to a fish and chip shop. Mick Jagger leaving his red underpants in Knebworth.

These are just some of the weird and wonderful rock and pop anecdotes from the county's musical archives.

Hertfordshire has hosted some of music's biggest ever UK gigs thanks to Knebworth House. Oasis, Robbie Williams and Queen all played huge outdoor shows to more than 120,000 fans on the Knebworth estate.

Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones have also headlined concerts at the Hertfordshire stately home of rock.

But did you see Mick Jagger and Co play a slightly smaller show in Stevenage town centre?

Were you in the crowd when Led Zep rocked what is now a Waitrose supermarket in Welwyn Garden City?

Or did you see David Bowie in Herts before he became Ziggy Stardust?

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While we await the return of live gigs, here's eight big name acts playing much smaller concerts in the county before they were arena and stadium filling outfits.


Were you at any of the gigs listed below? If you were, email your memories and pictures to alan.davies@archant.co.uk 


1. The Police in Hatfield

Back in the 1970s and early 80s, the BBC recorded concerts at various universities, polytechnics and colleges up and down the country, imaginatively calling the radio broadcasts and subsequent TV shows 'Rock Goes to College'.

One such gig in Hatfield featured trio The Police.

Yes, The Police played Hatfield Polytechnic back in February 1979, with the concert shown on BBC2 later that year.

This classic early live performance from Sting, guitarist Andy Summers and drummer Stewart Copeland has been bootlegged countless times.

For the show includes the first live public performance of the then new track Message in a Bottle, which would later that year give the group their first UK number one hit.

Other songs in The Police's set list that night were Roxanne, So Lonely – with Sting adapting the lyrics to sing "I feel So Lonely... here at Hatfield Polytechnic" – and Can't Stand Losing You.


2. Led Zeppelin in Welwyn Garden City

Ten years before the Stairway to Heaven rock giants played two concerts at Knebworth Park, Led Zep played a much smaller gig at The Cherry Tree in WGC.

Now the site of a Waitrose supermarket, vocalist Robert Plant, guitarist Jimmy Page, bassist John Paul Jones, and drummer John Bonham played the Bluesville '69 Club at the town centre pub on Tuesday, April 8, 1969.

The set that night included Dazed and Confused from the band's just released eponymous debut album.

Led Zep enjoyed a meteoric rise following that tiny gig in WGC.

Fast forward to August 1979 and Zeppelin played two massive gigs on successive Saturdays at Knebworth Park.

Those were the band's final shows on UK soil with the late great John Bonham on drums. He died the following year.


3. One Direction in Hatfield

Ten years ago this month, boy band 1D – Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Louis Tomlinson and Liam Payne – sent screaming fans wild at a sold-out show at the University of Hertfordshire.

Fresh from finishing third on The X Factor just a few weeks earlier, One Direction-mania hit Hatfield.

One Direction topped the bill at the uni's College Lane Campus on January 2, 2011, as part of The Forum’s Got The X Factor show.

The group's short Forum set included covers of Coldplay's Viva La Vida, Snow Patrol song Chasing Cars, Only Girl (In the World) by Rhianna, Forever Young, and Natalie Imbruglia hit Torn.

However, some fans were left disappointed after a planned One Direction meet and greet signing session was cancelled on the day due to "scheduling difficulties".

Three years ago, Harry Styles returned to Hertfordshire to shoot a promotional campaign for a fashion house.

Bizarrely carrying a chicken and wearing a dressing gown over a smart suit, Styles filmed a Gucci advert at The Camp fish and chip shop in St Albans. As you do.


4. The Rolling Stones in Stevenage

The Stones were one of the first acts to headline Knebworth's music festivals.

Two years after The Allman Brothers had headlined The Bucolic Frolic in 1974 – the first festival at Knebworth House – the greatest rock 'n' roll band in the world arrived in August 1976. 

Henry Lytton Cobbold with the underpants left by Mick Jagger at Knebworth House.

Henry Lytton Cobbold with the underpants left by Mick Jagger at Knebworth House. They were left at the bottom of the four poster bed in the Queen Elizabeth Room after The Rolling Stones had played Knebworth in the summer of 1976. - Credit: Danny Loo

Mick Jagger even left his red underpants in one of the bedrooms at Knebworth House afterwards. 

Twelve years earlier, The Rolling Stones had performed at Stevenage's Locarno Ballroom – now Mecca Bingo hall in the town centre – on April 1, 1964.

Just over two months after appearing in Stevenage, the Stones topped the UK singles chart with It’s All Over Now, giving them their first number one hit.


Did you see Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts rock the Locarno back in 64? Or were you in the audience for The Who when they played there? Email alan.davies@archant.co.uk with your Locarno memories and any pictures you took.


5. David Bowie in WGC and Stevenage 

While the late David Bowie never played Knebworth, much to current custodian Henry Lytton Cobbold's regret, the Starman did play gigs in WGC and Stevenage before he was famous.

Bowie played two shows in Stevenage 55 years ago. One featured Bowie’s early band, The Lower Third, at the old Town Hall in Orchard Road on January 28, 1966.

A couple of weeks later, on February 12, he was back in town, appearing at Bowes Lyon House.

David Bowie advert

An advert for David Bowie's Welwyn Garden City gig from the Welwyn Hatfield Times in September 1966. - Credit: Archant

David Bowie & The Buzz later played Woodhall Community Centre's 'The Hop' in WGC on Monday, September 12, 1966.

At the time Bowie was just 19 and was still relatively unknown.

It was not until 1969 that Space Oddity became Bowie’s first UK hit.


Did you see David Bowie in Herts? Who else did you see play Herts in the 1960s. Email alan.davies@archant.co.uk with your musical memories of Herts gigs.


6. U2 in St Albans

Huge rock bands have to start somewhere, often playing small music venues and pubs on their journey to fame.

U2 were one such group in their early days.

Before Bono, The Edge, Larry Mullen Jr and Adam Clayton became stadium-conquering rock giants selling out Wembley Stadium, they played the likes of St Albans' City Hall. 

U2's official website U2.com lists the Irish quartet as playing St Albans – misspelt St labans – on Saturday, January 31, 1981, as part of the European leg of their Boy Tour in support of the band's debut album. That record featured single I Will Follow

The Horn's website also lists U2 as having played there.


Did you see U2 perform live in St Albans? Email you memories to alan.davies@archant.co.uk


7. Dire Straits in St Albans

Before Money for Nothing, MTV and the multi-million selling Brothers in Arms album, the Sultans of Swing came to St Albans.

Mark Knopfler and Co played the Civic Hall – now The Alban Arena – on Saturday, July 8, 1978 as part of a tour to promote the band's debut album.

Earlier that year they had also supported Talking Heads on the American band's UK tour.


8. Ed Sheeran in Hatfield

Before he headlined multiple nights at Wembley Stadium, Ed Sheeran brought The A Team to Hatfield 10 years ago.

The Suffolk-based singer-songwriter played The Forum Hertfordshire on October 8, 2011, in support of his debut album +.

Ed Sheeran album cover

The cover of Ed Sheeran's debut album +. The singer recorded the video for single Lego House at a gig in Hatfield. - Credit: Atlantic Records

The music video for Sheeran's Lego House single was also filmed during his performance at the College Lane venue.

The video features Hertfordshire actor Rupert Grint, who played Harry Potter's best friend Ron Weasley in the hit films.

He plays an obsessed fan in the promo, stalking the singer at one of his gigs and taking the stage in front of the Hatfield crowd.



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