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Popular Concerts: A Reflection on the Largest Audiences in History

Some concerts have transcended normal attendance rates, and managed to attract more people than some cities—all to take in the power of music.

By Anthony GramugliaPublished 7 years ago 5 min read

A popular band or musician can attract huge crowds and audiences for their concerts. Tickets to the greats are expensive only because everyone wants to see them. Their shows always seem to sell out.

But there are some concerts that attract larger crowds. People pile in to watch by the tens of thousands—hundreds of thousands—and more. Some concerts have transcended normal attendance rates, and managed to attract more people than some cities—all to take in the power of music.

Rendez-vous Houston Festival

French musician Jean-Michel Jarre performed what was once recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest concert of all time. The Rendez-vous Houston Festival paid tribute to Jarre's friend, Ron McNair. McNair had been an astronaut on the Challenger Space Shuttle, which famously exploded shortly after take-off.

Two-and-a-half months later, in 1986, Jarre turned the whole of Houston, the headquarters of NASA's space program, into a concert. About 1,300,000 people came.

Of course, problems arose. Electrical equipment had been damaged by rain shortly before everything started, and a firework show ended up spraying the audience in ash. None of the audience seemed any the wiser for it.

The Love Parade Disaster

Not all concerts end well.

The Love Parade Disaster took place in 2010. The concert took place at Duisburg, Germany. The Love Parade had been going on in Germany since 1989—an annual electronic music festival throughout Duisburg's streets. Free of charge and open to anyone, the event only grew larger and larger with every passing year.

This culminated in 2001 where 1,400,000 people showed up. However, this year, the "Love Parade" took place in an enclosed area. Crowds overflowed, and people ended up tumbling down into tunnels. 500 people were injured. Twenty-one people died.

The Love Parade ended that year.

Live 8 - Philadelphia

The Live 8 Concerts started in Japan, and became a regular occurrence after that. While the concerts often attracted large numbers, the largest of these happened to be the Live 8 concert in Philadelphia. Held on July 2, 2005, the Concert took place before the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and sported an audience spread for a mile.

Attendance rose to an estimated 1,500,000 people! Numerous artists, from Stevie Wonder to Maroon 5, performed. But Will Smith stole the show by popping up, and getting the whole crowd to sing along to the theme song for The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, all led by the Fresh Prince himself.

Paz Sin Fronteras II

Spanish musician Juanes led the second Paz Sin Fronteras (Peace Without Borders) concert. The concert featured tons of musicians from across the world. The concert took place on September of 2009.

It attracted 1,500,000 attendees, and was broadcast throughout Latin-America on major television networks.

The intent of the concert was to reach out to young people, to help them reject the old mentalities of the past—reject old prejudices, and work for a better future. It was a liberation through music that, ultimately, reached millions.

The Rolling Stones in Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro

The beaches of Copacabana tend to be a popular site for concerts. The Rolling Stones held a concert on the beaches in 2006. One for the record books.

1,500,000 people came to watch The Rolling Stones perform in Rio de Janeiro. The classic rock band attracted a huge crowd, playing for free in the city. The entire city became the epicenter for one of history's biggest concerts of all time.

Later on, The Rolling Stones would have a charity concert in Rio de Janeiro that only attracted a third of the crowd of their prior concert. Of course, it was still a massive turn-out, but one-and-a-half million is far more than four-hundred-thousand.

The Love Parade

Before the 2010 disaster, 2008 became the year the Love Parade reached its peak (2009 was cancelled, making it the second to last event before its cancellation). The massive parade took place in the independent German city of Dortmund.

The parade of music attracted over 1,600,000 fans, who followed the procession through the city streets. It became the largest concert for dance music to date.

The Monsters of Rock - Moscow

The Monsters of Rock concert series started in the 80s, but it was in 1991 in Moscow that the concert reached new heights when over 1,600,000 fans traveled to the music festival.

But what could cause so many people to drop everything and travel to the recently collapsed Soviet Union?

Metallica. Pantera. EST. The Black Crowes. And, most of all, AC/DC. The event served as the finale to a massive European tour for the Monsters of Rock, and, in all respects, they saved the best for last.

Paris la Defense

Jean-Michel Jarre must have legions of fans.

On Bastille Day, 1990, Paris became the epicenter of one of the largest concerts ever held by far. Roughly 2,500,000 people lined up around a pyramid stage to watch Jarre's performance. Numerous songs that hadn't even been released at the time were sung.

The event was partially funded by the French Government, as the event was seen as a significant function of the creative arts. Seeing as how it broke new records, they must've been onto something.

Sir Rod Stewart in Rio de Janeiro

The largest concert ever to hit Rio de Janeiro, Sir Rod Stewart held this free concert on New Years Eve, 1994. The concert served as the ultimate way to ring in 1995, as over 3,500,000 people showed.

Three. Million. Five. Hundred. Thousand. Concerts of this scale are almost impossible to comprehend. Yes, Stewart has had a decades spanning career, and, thus, has a lot of clout, but he attracted more than twice the number of people who showed up to a concert featuring Metallica, AC/DC, and Pantera. All of Copacabana beach was occupied by people, there to listen to one man ring in the New Year.

AND EVEN THEN, it isn't the largest.

Oxygen in Moscow

Jean-Michel Jarre. We meet again.

Perhaps upset that Rod Stewart beat his record, Jarre went to Moscow in 1997, and held his famous Oxygen in Moscow concert. The spectacular concert became the single largest concert in human history.

At least 3,500,000 people showed up. The Guinness Book of World Records recognized it as the largest concert ever held, and returned the record back to Jarre, after he first seized it for his Paris la Defense performance.

The event remains to this day unmatched in terms of sheer number of people showing up to listen to music.


About the Creator

Anthony Gramuglia

Obsessive writer fueled by espresso and drive. Into speculative fiction, old books, and long walks. Follow me at

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