Festivals

A brand new venue, stunning views and zipwire antics make for a jubilant 20th anniversary of Rock in Rio Lisboa

The Portuguese festival celebrated their birthday with fireworks, football and ferris wheels galore.

How do you celebrate a 20th birthday in style? Unlike those who observed their milestones in lockdown, Rock In Rio Lisboa went all out this year. With endless firework shows and colossal headliners, RIR Lisboa has proven why the festival has remained a juggernaut throughout two decades of operation. Though it’s technically a branch of the Rock In Rio family of festivals, which originated in its namesake Brazil, the Lisbon edition has firmly established its own identity against the gorgeous blue skies of Portugal.  

Across two sold-out nights, the second weekend of RIR Lisboa saw over 160,000 swarm through the festival in their first year at Parque Tejo. Situated right next to the Tagus River, the park offers ample space for even more stages, food stalls and rides than previously. There’s also a ferris wheel if you can’t get enough of Portugal’s stunning landscape, and a zipwire, where you can glide across the main stage and get a uniquely close-up view of its performers. 

They say Portugal is the land of the three Fs: fado, Fatima, and futebol. RIR Lisboa paid its due reverence to the futebol by halting all music programming to air its Euros game against Turkey across all four stages. Watching the sheer mass of festivalgoers celebrate Portugal’s three goals against Turkey provides a uniquely intimate and breathtaking portrayal of the country – and being able to celebrate the win with tens of thousands of Portuguese people feels even more special. 

Rock In Rio Lisboa, Parque Tejo, Portugal Rock In Rio Lisboa, Parque Tejo, Portugal

Dancing in the blazing heat after Portugal’s spectacular win was, therefore, even more jubilant, with RIR Lisboa offering a pick’n’mix of music for the Euros crowd. Younger attendees are treated to Leigh-Anne Pinnock, who graces the stage to play a string of songs from her new EP ‘No Hard Feelings’. Her blend of garage and Afrobeats, paired with her smooth RnB vocal stylings, is warmly received by the swaying audience. For the parents who trekked to the festival to watch the Euros, a helping of James is ladled, with the Britpop legends running through some of their greatest hits like ‘Laid’ and ‘Sometimes’ in a grand, majestic showing. 

There's also Ivete Sangalo, essentially the Ariana Grande of axè, a genre whose name comes from the Yoruba word for "soul, light, spirit or good vibrations". Donning a high ponytail in a glittery jumpsuit, the Queen of Bahia absolutely brings the party to Lisbon with her eclectic mix of Latin pop and infectious charisma. One of Brazil’s legendary performers, her set in Lisbon is a definitive highlight of the day. 

Later in the day, special guest Macklemore graces the city to rep Seattle – and host a dance off against two festival-goers. Opening with ‘CHANT’ from his most recent album, 2023’s ‘Ben’, the rapper rotates through a number of instant classics like ‘Thrift Shop’ and ‘Can’t Hold Us’, before delivering a very affecting and sincere speech in honour of gay rights anthem ‘Same Love’ – a moment slightly marred by the sight of zipliners zooming across the stage.  

But it's the Jonas Brothers who close the night with a smorgasbord of covers, Disney-era tunes and their own solo material. It's a display of shameless pop-rock pleasure as Nick swaggers on stage to sing ‘Jealous’, whilst Joe is equally as smoky performing ‘Cake By The Ocean’. But it's really reunion song ‘Sucker’ that turns the crowd absolutely wild, finishing their headline set on a deliriously high note. 

Rock In Rio Lisboa, Parque Tejo, Portugal Rock In Rio Lisboa, Parque Tejo, Portugal Rock In Rio Lisboa, Parque Tejo, Portugal Rock In Rio Lisboa, Parque Tejo, Portugal Rock In Rio Lisboa, Parque Tejo, Portugal Rock In Rio Lisboa, Parque Tejo, Portugal

The final day of RIR Lisboa similarly refuses to let up; Ne-Yo begins proceedings in the blazing heat with his gentlemanly charm. Playing a selection of his silky RnB classics, like ‘Closer’ and Sexy Love’, he expertly ramps up the energy towards his back-to-back dance bangers; with hits like ‘Play Hard’, ‘Time Of Our Lives’ and ‘Give Me Everything’, he displays an impressive range and solidifies his status as a festival mainstay. 

Even more excitingly, Camila Cabello exclusively premieres several tracks off her upcoming album ‘C,XOXO’ during her set this evening. With dancers in wolf masks, bicyclists flipping left-to-right on a ramp and a robotic camera dog, Cabello stuns Lisbon with a high-budget production and her endearing enthusiasm. And, even though there has been some scepticism towards her sudden (and perhaps ill-fitting) hyperpop rebrand, Cabello's determined to commit to the bit, and does so with aplomb. 

Finally, closing out the entire event, it's time for Doja Cat to assume her reign as the current Queen of Pop – and what a thrilling re-coronation it is. The LA native has proven time and time again that she was born to be in the spotlight, and RIR Lisboa proves an incredible showcase of her talent. Perfectly at home amongst her ambitiously industrial staging, she unleashes a momentous rush of anger at the screeching climax of ‘Ain’t Shit’. Don’t underestimate her allure, either; watching her dance to ‘Agora Hills’ and ‘WYM’, Doja Cat’s headline set is confirmation that she's a true star, both born to be in the spotlight and to raise the bar for pop performers everywhere. 

Rock In Rio Lisboa, Parque Tejo, Portugal Rock In Rio Lisboa, Parque Tejo, Portugal Rock In Rio Lisboa, Parque Tejo, Portugal Rock In Rio Lisboa, Parque Tejo, Portugal Rock In Rio Lisboa, Parque Tejo, Portugal

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