Throughout its history, the San Mamés Stadium has been known as the cathedral of football.However, since it was first constructed, the possibility of holding other types of non-sporting events in it was already envisaged. That is how this emblematic site in Bilbao has come to host various rock concerts. The techniques nowadays allow us to leave the ground as if no other non-sporting activity has been held. The first music festival took place in June 1978, when the Euskarari Festival was held, which was more like a pro-Basque language campaign than a musical event. Although it had popularised pop and rock at an international level since the 60s, Bilbao was still showing itself to be traditional and conservative. It was not until the mid-70s that the Biscayan capital began to play host to rock groups of some renown. For San Mames, however, there was still some time to go before it “rocked”.
San Mames and rock
Mick Jagger repaid his debt to San Mames, the Cathedral of Rock.
The first opportunity came with the Rolling Stones. It was one of the events to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Athletic Club. On June 18, 1998 everything was underway, but the indisposition of the singer Mick Jagger led to the cancellation of the performance. It was a blow to many people and many fans in Bilbao. An outstanding debt that would not be paid off until five years later with the Licks World Tour in 2003. That year started what would be the first big concert in San Mames, with tracks such as ‘Brown Sugar’ and ‘Start Me Up’, after which Mick Jagger greeted the crowd in Basque: “Gabon Bilbao, azkenik hemen gaude” (“Good evening Bilbao, we’ve finally got here”). On that occasion, San Mames brought together an audience of 36,000 under fireworks and coloured lights. The party had come to San Mamés to stay.
Bruce Springsteen’s guitarist sings “Desde Santurce a Bilbao” (From Santurce to Bilbao) in San Mamés.
The next time that Rock would be allowed back to San Mames would be with Bruce Springsteen and his band, in July 2009. The band’s guitarist, Nils Lofgren, came out with an accordion and sang the classic notes from the popular Bilbao songbook, “Desde Santurce a Bilbao” (From Santurce to Bilbao). After this hugely cheered gesture, Bruce Springsteen leapt onto the stage with a “Kaixo Bilbao, pozik nago” (“Hello Bilbao, I’m happy”).
San Mamés rewards fans of AC/DC.
Rock would soon return to resound around the stadium in Bilbao. One year and two days later, San Mamés once again became the Cathedral of Rock. It was the turn of AC/DC. The 36,000 seats available were sold out in July 2010 to see what was rumoured to be the band’s last concert and which, at the same time, brought the world tour to an end. The fans were finally more than satisfied, this time in the Cathedral of Rock.
More great encounters with San Mames and Rock.
The first great concert in the new San Mames stadium was given by the Californian band Guns N’ Roses. San Mames was then crowned as the Cathedral of Rock when on 30 May 2017, 30 years after the release of their album “Appetite for Destruction”, Axl Rose, Slash and Duff McKagan thrilled the 40,000 people who attended the Bilbao date of their “Not In This Lifetime Tour” in which, in addition, Mark Lanegan and his band were the opening act.
The following year, San Mames hosted the ‘MTV World Stage Bilbao’ on 3rd November, with a line-up that included Muse, Crystal Fighters and Berri Txarrak. A show that brought together 38,000 people and which served as a preview of the ‘MTV EMAs Bilbao’.
Furthermore, on the 3rd June 2022, the Bilbao Bizkaia Rock Day took place in San Mames, in front of 40,000 people, headed by the North Americans Metallica.
An event that served as a tribute to rock in its broadest facet. From the heavy metal of Metallica to the alternative rock of Weezer, the garage rock of The Hellacopters and the indie rock of Nothing But Thieves. Not forgetting the Basque representation of Niña Coyote eta Chico Tornado.
And just a few days later, on the 11th June, Fito, one of the most successful artists of all time from Bilbao, gave a record-breaking concert in San Mames.
Backed by Gatibu and Morgan, he was accompanied in this very special show of his ‘Cada Vez Cadáver’ tour by guests such as Carlos Tarque, Dani Martín, Leiva and Iñaki ‘Uoho’.
The show brought together 47,000 dedicated fans and lasted more than two and a half hours and was broadcast on RTVE, ETB and Youtube, among other media and platforms, with an audience that reached over one million people. It was, therefore, a historic and multitudinous concert in which San Mames, once again, showed how to be a great host.
All of them are historic events that remain in the memories of tens of thousands of people. But San Mames continues to act as the Cathedral of Rock, as Geuria! hosts different concerts on its stage, allowing you to get closer to bands, singer-songwriters and DJ’s all who form part of the Bizkaia music scene.
Long live Rock-‘n’-roll… and San Mames!