The beast is back. After one million music fans helped herald the festival's triumphant return in 2011, Rock in Rio is back in the only city where its name makes any sense, with a bill stuffed full of pop royalty, rock gods and superstar DJs. In the great tradition begun in 1985 by Queen, followed up in 1991 by Guns 'n' Roses, maintained in 2001 by R.E.M and blissfully carried on in 2011 by Stevie Wonder, the prize for best in show looks like being hotly contested once again this year.
Beyond the two stages of live music ('World' and 'Sunset'), Rock Street will pipe up at 2pm each day to get the festivities started, this year celebrating UK and Irish music with Celtic dance, bagpipes, and all the countries' classics belted out by the Rock Street Band. The far end of the 'street' houses a huge electronic music park, bigger than the biggest superclub and twice as loud, again boasting some of the best DJs on the planet to help keep the party pumping.
The full line-up can be found on the official site (rockinrio.com.br), but look no further for our very own day-by-day guide to the best of the action.
Opening with a bang, the current undisputed queen of pop, Beyoncé, headlines the World Stage on the first Friday, shimmying her way through the mountain of hits she has chalked up since going solo from similarly massive R'n'B group Destiny's Child in 1999. After four number one albums in a row on her own, a fifth is slated for release towards the end of 2013, meaning fans will likely be rewarded something of a sneak preview of it in Rock City. Earlier on the main stage, only an ego as large as French dance don David Guetta's could possibly warm up for Mrs Jay-Z, whilst Brazil's own first lady of the radio, Ivete Sangalo, is back after a storming 2011 show to strut her stuff for her ever-adoring crowds. Brit-born soul singer Jesuton plays the Sunset Stage in the afternoon.
Things get a bit heavier on the first Saturday night thanks to the UK's masters of stadium rock, Muse. No strangers to filling the world's biggest venues, their live shows have become as famous as their chart-topping records, with lazers and ludicrous pyrotechnics these days coming as standard. The altogether more graceful power of Florence and The Machine should provide just as much impact, however, with her hits 'Dog Days Are Over' and 'Shake it Out' having already brought festivals like Glastonbury to their knees, and French techno don Vitalic takes up position in the dance arena. Rapper B'Negão and a tribute to Raul Seixas provide the highlights on the second stage.
Pop acts don't get much bigger than the first Sunday's headliner Justin Timberlake, the man who slipped out of a flailing boy band to set his place at the R'n'B top table with the classic album Justified and hit single 'Like I Love You'. He is preceded by the heavenly, classic soul of Grammy Award-collecting US singer Alicia Keys, with Londoner Jessie J also making an appearance on the main stage. George Benson headlines the Sunset stage, and legendary British DJ Harvey hits the dance arena.
The first day of REAL rock in Rio sees Metallica take the headline slot, ably supported by one of the most exciting guitar bands of the 1990s and pioneers of the era's influential Seattle scene, Alice in Chains. Despite forming in the late '80s, the release of the Chains' The Devil Put Dinosaur's Here in May of this year was only the band's fifth studio album, so expect some hard-rocking new material in amongst some of the older gems. In the dance arena, Brodinski and cult LA DJ and producer Gaslamp Killer work their magic.
An unlikely-sounding return for Nickelback and rock dinosaurs Bon Jovi stand out of the second Friday's line up, with the Canadian rockers expected to release a Best Of album in the coming months and Jon Bon and the boys in the middle of a world tour to promote their twelfth studio album What About Now. Ben Harper headlines the second stage, whilst another 90s relic, Paul Oakenfold, is let loose on the turntables with his well-trodden brand of progressive house hits.
The Boss is back, and by all accounts, New Jersey's finest is sounding as good as he ever has. An emotional return to the festival circuit at Glastonbury 2009 won Bruce Springsteen a loyal new army of followers (as if he didn't have enough already), and by way of confirmation, he and his E Street Band headline the penultimate night of Rock in Rio for some dancing in the dark. He'll be joined on the main stage by singer-songwriter John Mayer and Minas Gerais' answer to The Police (almost) Skank. The Balkan bounce of New Yorker Gogol Bordello headlines the second stage and minimal technomesiter Loco Dice grabs the electronic heads by the ears for a journey into dance.
Iron Maiden return to Rock in Rio for a record third time, the hard-rocking Londoners riding a fresh wave of success since the release of 2010 record The Final Frontier, the best-selling of their 15-album career, grabbing the number one spot in 28 countries worldwide. Avenged Sevenfold and Californian thrashers Slayer will help warm up the metal heads on the final day of the festival, and another Minas outfit, Sepultura, takes care of the Sunset Stage. Canadian techno god Tiga has the honour of closing the electronic arena, with homegrown drum 'n' bass hero DJ Marky also hitting the turntables on the final day of action.