We all love music, and it’s great to listen to our favorite tunes in the comfort of our own homes. However, there’s nothing like listening to live music. There’s also nothing like seeing your music heroes playing for real, mistakes and all.
It’s something most of us are down for, and with the advent of better and more powerful concert audio systems, the events have got bigger and bigger. The result is audience sizes that could only be dreamed of forty years ago.
The size of the biggest concerts in history will honestly shock you.
The Biggest Concerts
This is a little contentious because the largest concerts ever are all non-ticketed. So, the size of the crowds is only an estimate. The numbers for these kinds of events are notorious for having the figures inflated. As a result, it’s very difficult to get a truly accurate number.
However, despite these difficulties, and with all of these considerations taken into account, we can still narrow the list down to three.
Rod Stewart at Copacabana Beach
This is crazy and unexpected, but the old Scottish crooner allegedly managed to pull in somewhere between 3.5 to 4.2 million people. The concert was held in 1994 on New Year’s Eve on the world-famous Copacabana Beach.
The concert naturally featured a fireworks display and was part of a larger celebration for the New Year. It’s hard to say how many specifically wanted to see Rod Stewart because, let’s face it, Brazilians certainly know how to party.
Rod Stewart is no stranger to playing in large stadiums and arenas…
But, even for this seasoned professional, that must have been one intimidating sight. The concert went down as the largest in history. However, it should be clarified that some put the estimates of attendees closer to 3.5 million rather than 4.2 million.
It’s a hell of a lot of people either way. Plus, even if the lower estimate stands, it still stands as one of the largest concerts the world has ever seen.
Jean Michelle Jarre at Moscow State University
The concert took place on the 6th of September 1997 as a celebration of the historic city’s 850th anniversary. Russia, still not known for its openness, reached out to Jean Michelle Jarre specifically.
Having witnessed his amazing Oxygen Tour, based around the hot album Oxygene Trilogy, they felt he was the perfect man for the job. It’s also likely that they had seen footage from previous large concerts that had been major successes.
By the time he played in Moscow…
Jarre already had concerts with over a million attendees under his belt. These were in Paris in 1979 and 1990, and Houston in 1986.
Total crowds for the earlier three concerts are estimated to have been in the region of around five million. That means that Jeanne Michelle Jarre has single-handedly played in four of the biggest concerts. Wow!
Jorge Ben Gor at Copacabana Beach
There is a good chance that you’ve never heard of Jorge Ben Gor. That’s perfectly understandable because outside of Brazil, he is virtually unknown. However, domestically, despite now being 83 years of age, he is one of the most popular musicians in Brazilian history.
He plays a mixture of Rock, Bossa Nova, Samba, and Funk. It is a great blend for a live act and a party. Brazilians were also sufficiently impressed as three million turned up to see him on New Year’s Eve of 1993.
Copacabana Beach has been the site of two other gigantic concerts. The Rolling Stones played there on February 18th at their “A Bigger Bang Live On Copacabana Beach” gig, which drew “only” 1.5 million concertgoers.
And, The Black Eyed Peas also played there on the 31st of December but could only draw a million people. No big surprise as far as the latter goes.
I’ve put these separately, and they could fall into the category of either a one-day festival or something lasting over several days. Regardless, the only criterion is that there must have been several bands playing during the event. Therefore, I count them among the biggest concerts in history.
This is the festival of all festivals. It’s not only one of the biggest concerts of all time but also one of the most iconic. In reality, it is unlikely to ever be beaten in terms of legendary performances. Woodstock is something that, even after 50 years, people are still talking about.
Despite its legendary status…
The numbers were not spectacular by today’s standards. In all, over three days, only 400,000 people attended, which makes it one of the smallest free concerts on the list.
It took place in a farmer’s field in Woodstock between the 15th and the 18th of August. It was one of the most spontaneous and chaotic concerts of all time. Woodstock just kind of happened, but what a result!
Some of the main performers included Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Crosby Stills and Nash, Jefferson Airplane, The Who, and Joe Jocker. Oh, what I wouldn’t give to have been there.
Monsters of Rock
Those crazy Soviets were Rocking out in the 90s and doing so in style. Monsters of Rock 1991 remains the biggest Rock concert in history.
It’s an incredible record that has its roots back in the UK. That’s because the Moscow concert was built off the Monsters of Rock concerts that had been held at Donington Park since 1980, and right up until Moscow did it bigger and better on the 28th of September.
Like many of these larger festivals…
This was a free affair. Consequently, the people came in droves. The crowd is estimated to have been in the region of 1.6 million. This makes it the largest concert in the history of a one-day festival.
It was held on Tushino airfield, and the event was a highly laid-back event. In theory, there was no alcohol allowed. However, in reality, there was no one checking any of the bags, and it was a free for all, and one big party ensued. So cool!
The lineup included legendary bands like Motley Crue, Pantera, Black Crowes, and AC/DC. However, Metallica stole the show. An incredible feat considering the bands they were playing with. Check out the Monsters of Rock video to get a perspective of the size of the crowd.
Love Parade Festival
There have been various Love Parade concerts around the world stretching back over thirty years. However, the one held in Dortmund, Germany, can claim to be the biggest of them all. It was held on the 19th of July 2008 and attracted an estimated 1.6 million revelers.
It was a Dance-orientated event that focused on Electronic Dance Music (EDM). This was another free concert that nevertheless still managed to attract some of the biggest names in Electronic Music. Some of the artists and DJs included Moby, Armin van Buuren, and Dubfire.
If this is not your genre, then do not worry if the names are unfamiliar. Just trust me when I tell you that these are EDM giants.
These kinds of music festivals are loads of fun…
The attendees will party and dance their way through the weekend like there’s no tomorrow. It makes you wonder where they all get their energy from, eh?
The Love Parade Festival remains the largest Dance festival even after more than ten years and is likely to stay that way. Sadly, this is because the following year, 21 attendees lost their lives. It was caused by poor crowd control, where too many people were funneled into too small of an area. A very sad end to Love Parade.
Largest Ticketed Concert
This is where things get a little easier because there is no need for estimating the numbers. The ticket sales tell the whole story. As far as paying concertgoers are concerned, the prize for the largest ticketed concert, unexpectedly, goes to the Brit-Pop band Oasis.
Over two massive nights, in Knebworth, on the 10th and 11th of August 1996, a rather unbelievable 500,000 fans bought tickets and came to watch them play. It’s hard to comprehend that this tops the attendance for the legendary Woodstock Festival!
Tickets were sold at the US equivalent of $25, which is close to around $50 at today’s prices. What’s remarkable is that 2.6 million people applied for a ticket. That equates to 5% of the country’s population.
The guest list was just as huge as everything else…
With apparently 7,000 guest passes issued, that very probably also makes it the largest guest list in history. To get an idea of the scale of the event, you could watch the video or just kick back and listen to the live concert instead.
Planning to Attend Live Music Events?
If so, you might enjoy our detailed articles on How Long Do Concerts Usually Last, The Many Hand Signals Used At Rock Concerts, and Music Festival Style – What To Wear To A Music Festival for lots of helpful information.
Also, if you will be attending multi-day festivals, check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Waterproof Speakers, the Best Bluetooth Speakers with Alarm Clocks, the Best Bluetooth Speakers With Radio, and the Best Wireless Outdoor Speakers you can buy in 2023.
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The Biggest Concerts In History – Final Thoughts
So, there you have it. I’ve been to plenty of concerts in my life, but none the size of the biggest concerts on this list. Frankly, as much as I love live music, I don’t think I’d like to attend any that were this big either. That’s because the stage would be miles away, and the trip to the toilet or to get some food would feel like a commute. But, each to their own.
Until next time, happy concert-going.