Every two years, Lisbon gears up to host one of Europe’s most anticipated musical events: Rock in Rio Lisboa. This year is the festival’s 10th anniversary, and leading the celebration is arguably the greatest band in the world, The Rolling Stones.
Taking place on May 25, 29, 30, 31 and June 1 at the City of Rock showground, the five-day outside music extravaganza will also headline Robbie Williams, Linkin Park, Arcade Fire and Justin Timberlake. (This will be the first time the American singer-songwriter has performed in Portugal.)
Supporting acts include Paloma Faith, Lorde and Queens of the Stone Age. There’s also an electronic stage, where cutting edge electronica and DJs will perform.
Thousands of rock fans in front of the World Stage during the Rock in Rio Lisboa music festival — Photo courtesy of Paul Bernhardt
Collectively, Rock in Rio Lisboa is the biggest concert in Portugal. Held on even years in Lisbon’s Bela Vista neighbourhood east of the city center, it draws hundreds of thousands of music fans from across the country and beyond.
Modelled on the hugely successful Rock in Rio concerts first held in Brazil in 1985, the Portuguese version follows the same format, with a major entertainment act headlining each evening, preceded by national and international support acts.
Previous stars performing at Rock in Rio Lisboa include Sting, Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder, Roger Waters, Peter Gabriel, Elton John, Bon Jovi and Muse. The event is also an opportunity for Portuguese bands to perform to a wider audience, and invited Brazilian acts such as Daniela Mercury and Ivete Sangalo show everyone how it’s done back in Rio de Janeiro.
This is not the first time the legendary Rolling Stones have played in Portugal, but when organizers announced the British band’s presence, tickets sold like hot cakes. Mick, Keith, Ronnie and Charlie are currently on their 14-ON FIRE World Tour, and Rock in Rio Lisboa organizers quickly re-jigged the concert program to accommodate the Stones’ surprise decision to include Lisbon in their tour dates.
They headline the night of Thursday, May 29, and fans can expect renditions of classic hits like "Satisfaction," "Jumping Jack Flash" and "Start Me Up," among others.
For the fans, the festival is one big party that begins late afternoon and carries on well after dark. This is Lisbon nightlife entertainment at its best, where live music is performed simultaneously on several stages, with something for everybody.
Nobody goes hungry or thirsty, either. A small army of caterers are on hand to rustle up anything from hamburgers to salads, and the beer’s poured ice cold.
One clever entrepreneur has negotiated a zip wire concession that rewards patient fans (The queue is quite alarming.) with an unforgettable “flight” high over the entire arena. Indeed, a feel-good atmosphere prevails, and the anticipation is tangible when dusk falls and the first bands take to the stages.
Headline acts appear on the World Stage, Palco Mundo, but Rock in Rio Lisboa is known for showcasing up-and-coming artists and musicians, too, so it’s always worth keeping an eye on the other stages.
A huge money-spinner, the festival promoters are keen to highlight their corporate responsibility, where a percentage of the income generated from the Rock in Rio concerts is donated towards the For a Better World project, a social initiative that has so far raised over 11 million euros for good causes, like paying for the installation of 760 solar panels on 38 public schools in Portugal, among many other schemes.