Going to a concert is a fun, memorable experience where you get to enjoy your favorite performers, bond with friends, and make tons of memories to look back on. Many concerts become legendary in and of themselves, and while it’s usually because of an exceptional or groundbreaking show, venue, audience, etc., it can also be due to disaster. Stampedes, explosions, riots, violence- all these and more have unfortunately occurred at concerts. While these incidents are thankfully rare, they provide for some headline-making concert moments nonetheless. To learn more about some of the most unforgettable concerts of all time, keep reading!
Jean-Michel Jarre: Moscow, 1997
Jean-Michel Jarre is a French-born megastar known for having large audiences at his concerts. His 1997 concert at the State University of Moscow, Russia is the most attended free concert of all time with more than 3.5 million people. The concert was held at the top of the highest hill in Moscow to celebrate the 850th anniversary of the city. Opening the show were four SU-27 jet planes that flew past dropping fireworks below. Jean-Michel Jarre also surprised the audience with a direct link to the Russian Space Station, Mir. It was a super impactful moment for the audience as the cosmonauts were live from space!
Rod Stewart: Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 2005
The 1994 New Year’s Eve Rod Stewart concert at the Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, also had over 3.5 million attendees. It was an especially significant year for Stewart as he was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the same class as John Lennon, Elton John, and Bob Marley.
AC/DC & Metallica: Moscow, 1991
1.6 million people attended the 1991 Monsters of Rock music festival- consisting of AC/DC and Metallica- in Tushino Airfield, Moscow. This event marked the first time a western rock band had performed an outdoor concert in the country. Monsters of Rock was an annual hard rock and heavy metal music festival that began in England but expanded to other locations after 1993. With this one being one of the largest crowds, 11,000 armed soldiers were present to keep everyone safe and secure.
James Brown: Boston Garden, 1968
James Brown’s live performance on April 5th, 1968- the day after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination- was especially unforgettable. While the concert had been scheduled for months, Boston’s mayor considered canceling it as there were riots happening in cities across the country. However, the event’s promoter convinced the mayor that the cancellation could cause more unrest, so the concert went on. They even broadcasted for people without tickets so they would be more persuaded to stay indoors and not partake in rioting. The concert was ultimately dedicated to Dr. King, making it even more significant.
Daft Punk: Coachella, 2006
On April 29th, 2006, Daft Punk magnified the Coachella crowd with their headlining dance music performance, accompanied by a new elevated level of lighting and staging. The concert took everyone by surprise with the heightened sensory and electronic overload, so much so that 40,000 people tried fitting into the 10,000 max capacity tent they were playing in! After that performance, Daft Punk not only redefined the expectations for live concerts, but they set the stage for the explosion of EDM music in the 21st century.
Radiohead: Glastonbury, 1997
This performance is an example of concert that was memorable for all the wrong reasons. Because it had been raining for several days leading up to the Radiohead show in Glastonbury, the stages wound up sinking into the mud. But Radiohead still went on with the live performance, despite it getting worse with technical issues that caused them to not even hear themselves play. The one thing that got them through it though was the energy from the crowd; the band remembers this specific performance vividly because of how wild the crowd was despite all the problems they faced.
Paul Van Dyk, Carl Cox & Armin Van Buuren: Germany, 2008
Known as ‘the world’s largest techno dance party,’ Paul Van Dyk, Carl Cox, and Armin Van Buuren performed at the 2008 Love Parade in Dortmund, Germany, making it the fourth largest concert of all time with 1.6 million attendees. The event celebrated freedom of love and electronic music, but after many years of observance, the last Love Parade took place in 2010 after 500 people were injured and 21 died due to suffocation and trampling.
Ariana Grande: Manchester, 2017
Following an Ariana Grande concert in England’s Manchester Arena on May 22nd, 2017, 23 people died and over 1,000 were injured from a suicide bombing terrorist attack. It was the deadliest attack in the United Kingdom since the 2005 London bombings. Following the concert, Ariana Grande honored the victims by hosting a benefit concert with the proceeds donated to the British Red Cross.
The Who Tour: Ohio, 1979
11 people were killed prior to the start of The Who’s tour performance in Cincinnati, Ohio, on December 3rd, 1979. With a delayed opening at the venue coupled with a late sound check that an impatient crowd mistook for the actual concert, chaos ensued. A crowd of 8,000 fans panicked and stampeded the event entrance. The Who, completely unaware of the tragedy unfolding outside, continued to play despite the tremendous tragedy and loss.
Great White: Rhode Island, 2003
This is one of the worst tragedies to ever happen at a live music concert. On February 20th, 2003, the tour manager for the band Great White improperly set off pyrotechnics on stage at the Rhode Island nightclub, The Station. A fire quickly engulfed the entire venue within 5 minutes, resulting in 230 injuries and 100 deaths including the band’s guitarist, Ty Longley.
The Cure: Washington, 2004
This concert was one to remember as The Cure did 5 encores, resulting in a 3-hour performance. Their set list consisted of songs throughout their 25-year career, although the audience became very confused when they chose a lot of depressing songs to play. However, they lightened up the mood by saving their best-known songs for the end.
Epidemic Music Group, Kevin Ker, Shaen Armstrong, 2017
The longest concert ever put on was by Kevin Ker, Shaen Armstrong, and Epidemic Music Group in Canada, 2017. It ran from March 17th through April 5th, lasting 437 hours, 54 minutes, and 40 seconds. The concert raised over $90,000 for 17 charities, bringing the community together in a very proud Canadian moment.
Moondog Coronation Ball: Ohio, 1952
This was the world’s first ever rock ‘n’ roll concert where tickets sold out in a day. There was a lot of ticket counterfeiting which resulted in 20,000-25,000 people in an arena only capable of accommodating 10,000.
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