In 1964, Beatlemania swept American shores and into Norwood’s Cincinnati Gardens. What some thought was a fad proved to be the beginning of the most popular and enduring musical legacy in the history of rock and roll. The Beatles and their members continued to visit Cincinnati for decades to come, and here’s a brief overview of their time in town:
August 27, 1964- The Beatles at Cincinnati Gardens
The Beatles’ first Queen City appearance with the seventh date on their first full American tour. The quartet took less than 30 minutes to barrel through 12 songs, nearly half drawn from that year’s A Hard Day’s Night, in front of 14,000 screaming fans. A short bit of choppy film footage from “You Can’t Do That” survives, but beyond that it’s all photographs and memories.
August 21, 1966- The Beatles at Crosley Field
The Beatles returned two years later on what would prove to be their last tour prior to retiring from the road. This concert was scheduled for the evening of Saturday the 20th, but a torrential downpour put a quick end to things at the fabled West End ballpark. The band returned on Sunday for a noon set, knocking out 11 songs before zipping off to Lunken Airport to make their flight to St. Louis for an evening show at Busch Stadium. They would only perform live six more times after their Crosley matinee.
May 27, 1976- Wings at Riverfront Coliseum
It took a decade for a Beatle to grace the Cincinnati stage again. Wings Over America, documented by a triple-LP of the same name, was McCartney’s first American tour with his new band. Wings performed a 29 song setlist, including their hits “Band on the Run” and “Jet,” with a healthy portion of Beatles songs mixed in.
February 12, 1990- Paul McCartney at Riverfront Coliseum
McCartney didn’t tour again for nearly fifteen years, but when he did, it was a monster: 103 shows around the world, including one right here. This tour set the template for all that would follow, a nostalgia-charged evening skewed heavily towards classic Beatles numbers. He closed his main set with the perennial singalong “Hey Jude,” and encored with the climax of the Abbey Road medley.
June 9, 1992- Ringo Starr & His All Starr Band at Riverbend
In 1989, drummer Ringo Starr formed his first All Starr band, a diverse and ridiculously talented group that included Levon Helm, Nils Lofgren, Joe Walsh, Clarence Clemons, and more. They returned for a second tour three years later with a slightly different configuration, but Walsh and Lofgren were still in the band, joined by Todd Rundgren and Burton Cummings of The Guess Who. Every member took a turn singing their own hits, but surely the highlight of the night came with Starr’s renditions of “Yellow Submarine” and “With A Little Help From My Friends.”
May 5, 1993- Paul McCartney at Riverfront Stadium
Back again, this time outdoors. This stop on The New World Tour once again featured a crowd-pleasing slate of Beatles tunes, launching with “Drive My Car” and an extensive grouping from Magical Mystery Tour and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. This would be McCartney’s last tour before his wife and keyboardist Linda lost her brave battle with cancer five years later.
July 31, 1995- Ringo Starr & His All Starr Band at Riverbend
Ringo rolled back around with the third iteration of the All-Starr Band, once again featuring Billy Preston, now joined by The Who bassist John Entwistle and Randy Bachman from The Guess Who. This Riverbend appearance featured a similar format to the 1992 concert but a very different setlist, including Entwistle’s star turns on “My Wife” and “Boris the Spider.” Ringo did several of the classic country covers for which he was known in his Beatles days, and closed the main set with his own beautiful “Photograph.”
July 9, 2010- Ringo Starr & His All Starr Band at PNC Pavilion
Fifteen years and seven versions of the All Starr Band passed between Ringo’s appearances, and this time he moved to the smaller pavilion next to Riverbend. This tour featured Edgar Winter (and therefore an obligatory run through “Frankenstein”) and guitarist Rick Derringer in the band, and Starr tacked on John Lennon’s anthemic “Give Peace A Chance” to close the show.
August 4, 2011- Paul McCartney at Great American Ball Park
For generations of Cincinnati concertgoers, this was an unforgettable night. It was the first concert in the history of Great American Ball Park, and represented McCartney’s return to the Queen City after nearly two decades away. This show, performed on a perfect August evening, clocked in just shy of three hours with a whopping 37 songs. Paul’s voice seemed untouched by time while he bounced between bass, guitar, and two different pianos, and regaled the crowd with anecdotes of John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix.
2016 sees the return of Ringo Starr to PNC Pavilion on June 22nd and Paul McCartney at U.S. Bank Arena on July 10, writing another chapter in the long history of the world’s greatest band in Cincinnati, OH.