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Was Ed Sheeran’s concert at Chicago’s Soldier Field the largest ever?

Soldier Field estimates there were 73,000 people in attendance for Saturday night’s concert by Ed Sheeran.

In a tweet posted to the lakefront venue’s Twitter account Sunday, the claim was Sheeran’s concert was “the largest concert that’s ever been here.”

Chicago’s stadium has hosted a variety of people — football players and circus performers, politicians and civil rights movement activists, observers of religious and cultural milestones, “The Boss” Bruce Springsteen and Special Olympics supporters with megaphones — in its almost 100 years.

Looking back through the Tribune’s archives, the stadium hosted in excess of more than 100,000 people multiple times during its first two decades.

The last time Soldier Field exceeded 73,000 people for a ticketed concert was 45 years ago when The Rolling Stones headlined the venue for the first time.

The stadium was filled on a steamy summer day: July 8, 1978, with 80,000 fans, the Tribune reported. Opening acts were Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, Peter Tosh and Journey, featuring new vocalist Steve Perry. The Stones’ set list included most of the songs on the quintet’s latest release, “Some Girls.” Later that night, Mick Jagger dropped in on a Lefty Dizz set at Kingston Mines. The band also jammed with Muddy Waters while in town.

The weather cooperated beautifully, supplying refreshing breezes and 70-degree temperature under sunny skies for the estimated 80,000 fans at the Rolling Stones concert on July 8, 1978, at Soldier Field.

Crowds that form for parades or demonstrations are typically hard to count, but are more precise for ticketed events like concerts or games, Steve Doig, a crowd counting expert and former Knight Chair in Journalism at Arizona State University, told the Tribune in 2015.

He says to use the venue’s capacity as a test — how many people can really fit inside?

Reconfiguration of Soldier Field from 1979-82 then a $611 million overhaul of the stadium in 2002-03, would permanently eliminate some seating. So capacity for ticketed concerts doesn’t often get above 70,000 — not even for Springsteen in 1985.

Earlier this summer, Taylor Swift sold out three shows at Soldier Field with more than 60,000 fans in attendance for each show. Swift also sold out two shows in 2015 — with 55,431 tickets purchased for Sunday’s show and 54,445 tickets bought for Saturday’s concert.

So, the audience size for Sheeran’s concert was unusual, but not unprecedented.

Subscribe to the free Vintage Chicago Tribune newsletter, join our Chicagoland history Facebook group and follow us on Instagram for more from Chicago’s past.


Twitter @rumormill

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