Go Big Or Go Home – The 10 Largest Concerts Of All Time

Thanks to our sports teams and fans, Chicago is no stranger to enormous crowds. We have drawn millions of people into our city for parades, rallies, and not to mention some epic playoff games over the years. Most recently, we saw (or were a part of) the 3-5 million blue clad Cubbie fans swarming either Wrigley Field after the Cubs’ historic World Series win or Grant Park for the post-victory parade rally.

Now…let’s take that visual, and add Bruce Springsteen. Below are some concerts with the largest attendance in history. What could draw more people than a Cubs World Series win, you ask? Scroll down and find out!

#10 Woodstock (1969)

Bethel, New York; 400,000 attendees

While certainly a noteworthy gathering that has obviously gone down in history, with images of free love and music burned into the pages of our cultural scrapbook, Woodstock is on the low end of overall attendance.

#9 Simon and Garfunkel (1981)

Central Park, New York; 500,000 attendees

While it may be one of the most well known live performances that has been syndicated and pressed onto millions of albums and streams since it’s debut 35 years ago, but at the time, the free concert was just about Woodstock. One of the most heartwarming renditions of The Boxer.

#8 Garth Brooks (1997)

Central Park, New York; 750,000 attendees

While it may not be rock, we’ve all sung (or at least hummed) “I’ve Got Friends in Low Places” arm in arm, standing in a circle on a wedding or high school reunion dance floor at 2 a.m. For that, we’ll keep him on the list.

#7 New York Philharmonic (1986)

Central Park, New York; 800,000 attendees

Putting the any performance at the Pritzker to shame, this was the largest classical concert attended for the rededication of the Statue of Liberty.

#6 Bruce Springsteen (1988)

East Berlin, Germany; 800,000-1.2 million attendees

The year before the wall fell. Was this a direct connector to the demise of Communism in Germany? Probably not. But, as the BBC reported, “what added the political impetus was that in the middle of it, Springsteen defied the authorities and gave a speech no more than a paragraph long. He spoke in German, which he had written out phonetically: “I am not for or against a government.  I’ve come to play rock and roll for you, in the hope that one day all barriers will be torn down.” He was greeted with a roar of approval.”

#5 Anti-Nuke Peaceful Protest with Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, James Taylor, Joan Baez, (1982)

Battery Park, New York; 1 million attendees

In 1979, Musicians United for Safe Energy (MUSE) put on No Nukes: A MUSE Concert for a Non-Nuclear Future from September 19-23 at Madison Square Garden. On June 12, 1982, performers gathered once more for a nuclear disarmament rally on New York’s Battery Park for what has been known as the ‘largest protest in American history’. Hundreds of thousands gathered for the musical performances and powerful words from political forces such as Coretta Scott King. To date is is the most attended political concert in history.

#4 Rolling Stones (2006)

Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; 1.5 million attendees

Copacabana Beach was once again the setting for an epic performance from The Rolling Stones just ten years ago. The free concert was subsidized by two telecommunications companies, and aired on television in Brazil and all over the world via satellite. You can watch the 11 part documentary about the concert on Youtube.

#3 Monsters of Rock with ACDC, Pantera, Metallica, and Black Crows (1991)

Moscow; 1.6 million attendees

The annual hard rock/metal festival dominated Tushino Airfield in Moscow, where attendees raged in their freedom of expression and love of rock. Until a few years before, ACDC and it’s music was banned from the Soviet Union.

As a New York Times article from 1991 put it, “Bare chested and painted in tattoos, the lead singer for a Texas heavy-metal rock group named Pantera gazed over a sea of tens of thousands of screaming Soviet fans sprawled over the Tushino Airfield Saturday afternoon and said that he was moved. ‘It’s a killer thing we are all here together,’ screamed the singer, Phil Anselmo, who had just removed a yellow devil’s mask, ‘and shows that music is the universal language.’ The concert ‘was described as the first free outdoor Western rock concert in Soviet history’.

If this performance of Metallic’s  ‘Enter Sandman’ doesn’t give you the chills, I don’t know what will.

#2 Jean- Michel Jarre, 1997

Moscow; 3.5 million attendees

Again, while there may not be many electronic music fans here, this performance is still  deserves the most honorable mention. The French composer, performer, and producer was commissioned by the Mayor of Moscow to celebrate with city’s 850th anniversary.

In 1994, he pulled in 3.5 million in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution.

#1 Rod Stewart (1994)

Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; 3.5 million attendees

That’s right…it was Rod Stewart. The free concert is the largest according to the Book of World Records. The New Year’s Eve celebration included not only the concert, but also a fireworks display at midnight.

More from Lauren Kezon
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