The Largest Free Concert In History, Based On Attendance, Was A Performance By?
Answer: Rod Stewart
If nothing else, let it be known that Sir Rod Stewart, chart-topping British songwriter and singer, knows how to throw a party. Active for over half a century, Stewart would be hard-pressed to top the blowout party/performance he threw in 1994.
In 1994, Rod Stewart was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, then later that year he threw a free rock concert to celebrate his achievements (and the incoming year) on New Year’s Eve on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro. If it had been a cozy affair, well, we wouldn’t be talking about it in this context. Over the top, fun, and packed wall to wall, certainly, but definitely not cozy. Around 3.5 million people packed the beautiful tropical beach and surrounding areas to hear Stewart play and ring in the new year.
Not only was it the single largest free concert ever attended, but depending on who you ask, it might just be the largest concert ever—the only performer who even comes close to rivaling Stewart’s jam-packed audience is the French performer Jean-Michel Jarrer who, three years later in Moscow, performed for an estimated 3.5 million people. Given how neck and neck the tallying on both the concerts is, however, and how getting a couple million people to show up to party with you is no small feat, we’re happy to declare Stewart the king of the free concerts and Jarre the king of the paid ones.
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