Home Music Music Lists

This Could Be The Last Time: Ten Final Performances From Broken-Up Bands

Watch the last curtain calls for the Talking Heads, Led Zeppelin, the Police and others

led zeppelin o2 arena london

Ross Halfin/Exclusive by Getty Images

The allure of easy money has led many long feuding acts (the Police, Simon and Garfunkel) to put aside years of mutual animosity and focus on their mutual love of making bank. Some groups have stubbornly refused  (Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, we're looking at you) and have remained broken up.

Here's a video gallery of the final performances by 10 dormant bands. Some have been apart only for a matter of weeks (R.E.M.), while others have been out of the limelight for some time (Creedence Clearwater Revival). We didn't include bands that can't feasibly reunite (the Beatles, the Clash, the Ramones), although we'd pay good money to see them.

By Andy Greene

Play video

Genesis (with Peter Gabriel) – 10/2/82

As Peter Gabriel made abundantly clear to us recently, a reunion of the original line-up of Genesis is extremely unlikely. In October of 1982, however, Gabriel was in desperate financial shape, after losing a fortune putting on a world music festival. Left with little choice, he turned to Genesis to bail him out with a massive outdoor reunion concert. They were underrehearsed and it rained through the whole show, but they pulled it off. For some reason, guitarist Steve Hackett wasn't originally invited and only made it onstage for the final two songs. There's no known video of the gig, but some kindly Genesis fan on YouTube uploaded the entire show. 

Play video

Creedence Clearwater Revival – 1988

The original line-up of Creedence Clearwater Revival last played together shortly before guitarist Tom Fogerty quit in 1971. They carried on as a three-piece for a year before calling it a day in 1972. Eleven years later the band (minus Tom Fogerty) performed at their 20th high school reunion under their original name the Blue Velvets. Five years later, they did it again – though this time it was only John Fogerty and drummer Doug Clifford. Some of you may quibble with this choice and say two members of the band doesn't equal a reunion, but it's the last time John Fogerty performed with any member of CCR – and there's this hysterical video of it on YouTube. 

Play video

Journey (with Steve Perry) – 11/3/91

Journey reunited with Steve Perry in 1996 for Trial by Fire, but Perry injured his hip before they could launch a tour behind the album. The band last toured with him in 1986, but in November of 1991 they performed at an all-star concert in San Francisco honoring the late Bill Graham. It was the 1990s, but Perry was still rocking an absolutely jaw-dropping mullet. In 1998 they reformed with singer Steve Augeri and have been on the road ever since, but everybody knows that it isn't truly Journey unless Steve Perry is on the stage. We don't care how much the new guy sounds like him. 

Play video

Talking Heads – 3/18/02

The Talking Heads didn't officially break up until 1991, but they hadn't toured since the legendary Stop Making Sense tour in 1983. Things got ugly when the band (minus David Byrne) reformed as the Heads in 1996 for the disc No Talking, Just Head and toured behind it briefly. David Byrne was none too pleased and even threatened to sue. Any sort of reunion seemed impossible, but in 2002 the Talking Heads were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and much to the delight of everybody, Byrne agreed to perform a three-song set with the group. It was the perfect way to end the band. 

Play video

Cream – 10/26/05

With the exception of a quick set at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, Cream didn't perform together between their farewell gig at the Royal Albert Hall in 1968 and the four-night reunion stand at the same venue in 2005. Against Eric Clapton's better judgment, they also did three nights at New York's Madison Square Garden in October of 2005. "In many ways, I wish we had left it at the Albert Hall," Clapton wrote in his memoir. "But the offer we were made was too good to refuse . . . We sounded small and tinny [at Madison Square Garden] . . . For me, the heart had gone out of it, and also a certain amount of animosity had crept back in." Check out this video of "Sunshine Of Your Love," which was the last song of the final show.

Play video

Black Sabbath – 11/16/05

The original line-up of Black Sabbath haven't released a new studio album since 1978's Never Say Die!, but between 1997 and 2005 they frequently hit the road with Ozzfest. The final regular concert was September 4th, 2005 in West Palm Beach, Florida – but two months later, the band was inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame. As you can see on this video, they performed "Paranoid" with the "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" guitar intro tacked onto the beginning. They haven't played a note together in public since, though there are persistent rumors of a comeback in 2012

Play video

The Police – 8/7/08

Sting has said that he decided to reunite with the Police in 2007 after waking up one morning and deciding it was time to do something shocking (and the only true part of that story is probably that he woke up one morning). The Police broke up at their pinnacle in 1984, and a reunion tour was bound to make Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland enough money to buy a large chain of islands somewhere in the Caribbean. The trio circled the worlds many times in 2007 and 2008 and it all wrapped up August 7th, 2008 at Madison Square Garden. Here's the final encore of "Next To You." 

Play video

Led Zeppelin – 12/10/07

Led Zeppelin's 2007 reunion concert was one of the greatest teases in rock history. The band spent nearly a year rehearsing, making sure that every guitar tone and lighting cue was flawless. Then they just did it once, refusing all other offers. They've also refused to release their pro-shot video of the gig, making everybody experience the show through crappy YouTube videos. Word is that Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones want to tour, but Robert Plant stubbornly refuses to even consider it. Here's the final encore of "Rock and Roll" from the concert. 

Play video

R.E.M. – 3/11/09

If you want to get technical, the Bill Berry line-up of R.E.M. haven't performed together since their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. Michael Stipe, Peter Buck and Mike Mills haven't done a full concert since Mexico City in November of 2008. The show ended with "Man On The Moon," and Stipe promised the crowd that it would be "our last show for a long time." The following March, an all-star line-up of artists paid tribute to R.E.M. at New York's Carnegie Hall. The band themselves came onstage to perform "E-Bow the Letter" with Patti Smith. Nobody realized it at the time, but it was R.E.M.'s final performance. 

Play video

Pink Floyd – 5/12/11

Even without late keyboardist Richard Wright, Pink Floyd could easily sell out every stadium in the world many times over. David Gilmour has little interest in doing that, leaving Roger Waters to carry the band's flame on his numerous Floyd-heavy solo tours. The group did reunite at Live 8 in 2005, and this past May the surviving members took the stage at a London stop of Waters' Wall. David Gilmour performed "Comfortably Numb," and he came back out onstage with Nick Mason for the finale of "Outside The Wall." The band might come back together at some point in the future for another charity event. We wish they were here.