What’s the biggest concert you’ve ever attended? Did it have 1,000 people? 10,000 people? What about 500,000? For centuries, live music has brought people together, and sometimes, the number of people around you can feel unfathomable. Yet, even so, there are some concerts that over a million people in attendance. Concerts may not happen again in full swing in the United States until summer 2021 or later, but until then, we wanted to reminisce on some popular concerts that brought in massive numbers.
Garth Brooks – August 7, 1997
After many stops on his world tour, Garth Brooks decided to put on a free concert in New York City. The concert took place in Central Park. Brooks and his team projected about one million attendees while the city mayor projected 300,000. The actual number? That tends to vary depends on who reports it, but what we know for sure is that it had at least 750,000 people. That’s a lot of people to cram into Central Park. Here’s a view of the park filled with Brooks’ fans.
Unfortunately, I was unable to find a clip of the concert, but this picture helps set the mood for what it was like.
AC/DC and Metallica – September 28, 1991
Moscow, Russia put on an event called Monsters of Rock in 1991. At the Tushino Airfield. Before we get to the number, it’s important to note how historical this event was for its time. Before the late 1980s, Russians were banned from western influences, and that included western rock music. This event was one of the first big ones for the country, plus adding the two rock legends to the mix, it had an enthusiastic and massive turnout of 1.6 million people. To help keep the large crowd in check, the city had 11,000 soldiers there as security. Although, it’s been said that some wound up letting loose and rocking out at the show.
The entire concert was filmed for a production DVD for purchase. You can see a clip of the concert here.
Rod Stewart – December 31, 1994
On New Year’s Eve in 1994, rock icon Rod Stewart put on a free concert at Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The concert attracted over 2.5 million people to the beach to see him perform. Some records indicate it could have been even more, but that data could have been skewed because of the fireworks display happening in the same place. The concert wound up going into the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest free concert of all time. Looking at aerial shots of the concert is baffling. It’s even more so baffling to see so many people gathered together in light of the current pandemic. One day, we will safely return to those numbers. Until then, we can look back in awe.
If you have the time and interest, you can watch the whole concert on YouTube (or just a couple of clips, like me). Watch it here.
Jean-Michel Jarre – September 6, 1997
Commissioned by the mayor of Moscow, Russia, to perform for the 850th anniversary of the city, Jarre’s show brought an audience of 3.5 million people. This concert set the Guinness Book of World Records for drawing the most live spectators at an outdoor event. He actually broke his own record three times in his career. Needless to say, his shows brought a lot of spectators. This show was well-known for its spectacular production and performance, and it was set in front of the State University of Moscow. It was “held atop the highest hill in Moscow, enabling everyone in the city to enjoy some of the laser and light shows,” (Largest). Another cool feature of the show was Jarre surprising the audience with a direct link to the Russian Space Station, communicating with the astronauts live from space.
You can watch a clip of the concert here
Woodstock – August 15-18, 1969
We couldn’t have a list talking about humongous crowds without including Woodstock! There were plenty others to choose from, but this one is notorious for the big crowd it drew, so it’s worthy of this list. Taking place at Max Yasgur's dairy farm in Bethel, New York, this four-day long music festival brought in an estimated 400,000 people to the 600-acre farm. Some of the well-known artists who played the festival included Santana, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Grateful Dead, and The Who. About 100,000 tickets had been sold before the weekend, but that wound up not mattering because “swarms of people descended on the concert grounds,” (Woodstock). Check out the crowd photo below.
Instead of showing just a live show clip in poor quality, I thought I’d share some footage of the festival prep, including the traffic, stage building, and you can see the huge crowd at the end. Watch here.
While there are many more highly attended concerts that I could list, I hope you learned about one you hadn’t known about before. And here’s to hoping that concerts can safely return soon!
Written by Kristen Petronio