Top 5 Bluesfest Performances of Years Past

Bluesfest is here, Ottawa! Let’s kick off a fan-favourite Canadian festival with a round-up of the best performances from years past.


Iron Maiden – 2012


While Bluesfest is host to a variety of different sounds, 2012 was the year to attend for metalheads. Iron Maiden kicked off their Maiden England Tour in Ottawa, following an explosive hour-long performance by Alice Cooper. In true Iron Maiden fashion, they brought a dramatic and extravagant stage set-up which perfectly paired with their crowd-pleasing setlist. They opened the show with Moonchild and ended with Running Free to rave reviews from the crowd.


The Killers – 2019


The Killers weren’t new to the Bluesfest stage in their 2019 performance, but they still managed to bring energy as fresh and electrifying as their hugely popular 2014 set. Frontman Brandon Flowers was a natural at engaging the crowd, beginning with Jenny Was a Friend of Mine from their 2004 debut album Hot Fuss. With a distinct disco-rock sound, The Killers had the crowd buzzing with energy and dancing to every track, ending their set with––of course––Mr. Brightside.


Ray Charles – 1998


In 1998, Ray Charles changed the Ottawa Bluesfest scene forever. Prior to this lineup, Bluesfest had been regarded as a small-time festival, often on the brink of cancellation due to low pre-sale tickets (as seen in 1994, where the festival was elevated by the larger-than-expected turnout that bought tickets at the gate). When Ray Charles was announced as the 1998 headliner, he sold out Confederation Park and packed Elgin street, where people were loitering with the hopes of catching a glimpse of the stage. From that point on, Bluesfest was regarded as a serious player in the Canadian music festival scene.


Van Morrison – 2007


Bluesfest 2007 saw the festival move to its new home: LeBreton Flats Park, opening a new world of possibilities for its performers and stages. The 2007 lineup is widely regarded as one of the best, with sets from the White Stripes, Bob Dylan, Kanye West, and the opening headliner, Van Morrison. This headliner brought major crowds for the festival, as he is rarely seen in the festival scene––let alone in Canada.


Kanye West – 2015


Despite being 20 minutes late, Kanye West captivated audiences from the minute he stepped on stage. With a talent for pulling focus, Kanye made Bluesfest 2015 his show, drawing in over 25000 people for his set––one of the largest crowds in the festival’s history. This was West’s second time at Bluesfest, but his first as the major headliner––a move which proved to be hugely successful for the festival.

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