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Published on November 5th, 2017 | by Alan Cross

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Concerts in the Sky: A List of Live Performances Aboard Passenger Aircraft (And Other High-Altitude Gigs)

[Another list from current intern-in-residence, Dorothy Lee. We want to make this the definitive list of airborne concerts, so if you have anything to add, please do. Bascially, if you have anything that falls under the heading of “great gig in the sky,” let us know. – AC]

Here is a list of concerts performed at some incredible locations including on planes and mountains. Many of these musicians have set several Guinness World Records along the way.

1) Southwest Airlines have been hosting occasional live concerts in-flight since 2011, and passengers are loving it. According to Billboard, ‘the series “has only grown in popularity over the past six years, as Southwest passengers hope that their flight will be one of the lucky ones to feature a sure-to-go-viral performance”‘.

Last year, Southwest Airlines celebrated 30 years of service with an acoustic performance by Chris Young and Cassadee Pope, and duo ‘for KING & COUNTRY’ at an altitude of 35,000 feet.

Chris Young – Southwest Airlines Live at 35 with Chris Young and Cassadee Pope

Other artists who have previously performed on flights with the airline include the Strumbellas, Imagine Dragons, Valerie June, Echosmith and Gavin DeGraw. The performances were part of the airline’s ‘Live at 35’ series.

Due to popular demand, Southwest Airlines have recently announced they will be adding live concerts to their in-flight amenities. In celebration of the announcement, passengers on a flight from Nashville to Philadelphia enjoyed a performance by Devin Dawson.

 

2) On February 27, 2007, passengers on a private Boeing 757 from Munich, Germany to Athens, Greece enjoyed Jamiroquai’s ‘Gig in the Sky’ concert. The show was organized and promoted by Sony Ericsson for Jamiroquai‘s compilation album High Times: Singles 1992-2006 and was enjoyed by 200 lucky winners at an altitude of 35,000 feet and at 1017 km/hr (632 mph). After landing, the passengers were also invited to attend an after-party at a nearby hotel in Athens before heading back home.

An official Guinness World Record adjudicator was present on the flight, and Jamiroquai’s Gig in the Sky made the world record for the ‘Highest and Fastest Ever Concert’ at the time.

Gig In The Sky – Jamiroquai World Record

 

3) On September 9, 2009, The Black Eyed Peas performed their ‘Mile High Karaoke’ gig on a Virgin Blue Airlines (now Virgin Australian Airlines) flight from Melbourne to Perth at an altitude of 41,000 feet, beating Jamiroquai’s previous Guinness World Record set in 2007 for the ‘highest ever concert performed on an aircraft’. The duo LMFAO were also on board the plane, along with nearly 140 VIP guests.

“Mile High Karaoke” featuring The Black Eyed Peas and LMFAO

 

4) In 2010, James Blunt performed to an audience of 150 people on board a chartered Boeing 767 taking off from Stansted at an altitude of 42,080 feet, beating the previous Guinness World Record set by The Black Eyed Peas in 2009.

James Blunt also played a concert at Terminal 5 (T5) at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) on January 18th, 2011 as part of JetBlue Airways’ Live from T5 concert series. The concerts were not available for public purchase and they took place post-security in the Marketplace at JetBlue’s T5 at JFK. Other artists who have performed with the concert series include Taylor Swift, Sarah McLachlan and Daughtry.

James Blunt – live on a plane (2010)

 

5) In 2013, eighties celebrities Tony Hadley (Spandau Ballet) and Kim Wilde performed a live acoustic show at an altitude of 43,000 feet on board a Boeing 767 British Airways flight for 128 passengers, beating the previous Guinness World Record set by James Blunt in 2010. Hadley and Wilde were joined by other eighties artists Bananarama and Go West for ‘The 80s Gig in the Sky’ event in support of Comic Relief. The passengers on board the flight also set a world record for the highest ever Harlem Shake.

British Airways Gig in the Sky

 

6) On July 28, 2016, Local Natives’ Taylor Rice, Kelcey Ayer and Ryan Hahn performed a live acoustic set on board a Virgin America flight from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) at an altitude of 35,000 feet. The in-flight performance occurred prior to the band’s gigs at FLOODfest and Lollapalooza in Chicago.

Sean Harris, Corporate Communications specialist for Virgin America revealed at the time:  “To help kick off this year’s Lollapalooza festival, we joined forces with Spotify to fly guests like rock stars on board our ‘Spotify’ plane. Flyers enjoyed a live performance by Lollapalooza headliners Local Natives at 35,000 feet on board a flight from Los Angeles to Chicago.”

 

7)  In 2014, the cast of Broadway musical The Lion King decided to give an impromptu performance of “Circle of Life” as they waited for takeoff on a Virgin Australia Airlines flight from Brisbane to Sydney.

THE LION KING Australia: Cast Sings Circle of Life on Flight Home from Brisbane

 

8) Earlier this year, Kenny G played an impromptu show on a Delta Air Lines flight from Tampa to San Francisco at an altitude of 39,000 feet. A flight attendant on board requested the performance. She had lost her daughter to cancer at the age of 30 and has since worked with Relay for Life, raising money in support of the American Cancer Society. According to Consequence of Sound, Kenny agreed to the performance if the passengers could raise $1,000 (after he announced to everyone that he needed another five minutes and that he had to brush his teeth); and the passengers raised approximately double the amount after only about five minutes.

Kenny G’s impromptu performance on a flight

 

9) In 2012, Filter Magazine and Virgin America teamed up for their ‘I’m With The Band’ event which featured live performances and DJ sets at an altitude of 35,000 feet on a flight from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). The in-flight line-up included performances by Montreal’s Kevin Barnes, Penguin Prison’s Chris Glover, and School of Seven Bells. The event kicked off the Culture Collide festival in Los Angeles. Each passenger also received a gift bag and a VIP wristband to the Culture Collide festival before leaving the plane.

 

10) Virgin Atlantic Airways featured regular performances by Tokyo-based radio broadcaster and ‘DJ In The Sky’ Guy Perryman on flights between Tokyo and London from 2013 to 2014. In 2014, the airline also hosted performances by British artists Rudimental and Gorgon City during a flight and the concert was streamed all over the world.

 

11) This next one doesn’t involve performing on an airplane, but the altitude was so high that it might as well have. In 2005, several British musicians played a 40-minute concert at Kala Patthar, a mountain in the Nepalese Himalayas at an altitude of 5,545 metres, setting a Guinness World Record for the ‘world’s highest gig’ on land at the time. The artists included Oz Bayldon of The Hidden, Martin Harley of The Martin Harley Band, and solo artists Ben Michaels, Michael ‘Skyhook’, Billy Page, Mike McGuiness and Nick Storey who played to an audience of 100 mountain climbers. The gig was organized by the British charity Music4Children, formerly The Nepal Balabalika Trust (Trust for Nepalese Children), to raise money for children who were orphaned by the civil war in Nepal.

The World’s Highest Gig (2005)

 

12) This next gig also happened on the ground, except it was above the clouds. In 2007, Musikkapelle Roggenzell (10 musicians from Germany and Bolivia) performed on Mount Acotango in Bolivia at an altitude of 6,069 meters (19,911 feet) beating the previous Guinness World Record for the ‘world’s highest gig’ on land set by Oz Bayldon and several other artists in 2005.

 

13) In 2012, Music4children founder and British musician Oz Bayldon, along with a few other artists from England, Scotland, Poland and Denmark performed a 40-minute show at Mera Peak in the Himalayas at an altitude of 6,654 metres setting a new Guinness World Record for the ‘world’s highest gig’ on land. The event raised £35,000 (approximately $58,401.00) to help fund an orphanage in Nepal. They played to an audience of 14 people, including other mountain climbers, who each paid £10 (approximately $16.68) for the show.

 

14) Although not quite a live performance with a live audience, there’s Colonel Chris Hadfield’s cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” which was shot on board the International Space Station. His video is widely considered to be the first music video shot in space and has been viewed over 16 million times. His altitude? Around 400 kilometres.

“Space Oddity” – Chris Hadfield video onboard ISS with Larrivée Guitar

 

15) A gig that almost happened: Around 2003, The White Stripes also had plans to perform on a Virgin Airlines flight at an altitude of 35,000 feet. However, there were too many issues at the time including cost, technical difficulties , and corporate crap so the band decided to cancel the gig.

Have you ever been one of the lucky passengers or been in the audience during a show at an incredible location like these?

 

 




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About the Author

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker.

In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.


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