The 10 Loudest Rock Concerts In History

Maybe the Guinness Book of World Records can't hear us, but we want an entry for loudest concert. While the Guinness Book team has refused to to create an official record for loudest concerts due to the risk of hearing loss, there are examples of concerts over the years that were intense enough to make a lasting impact on music history and our hearing.

From Led Zeppelin to The Who to Foo Fighters, some bands have pushed the boundaries of sound and put on incredibly loud concerts that belong in the history books.

Photo: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

  • Leftfield (England, 1996)
    Video: YouTube

    Leftfield (England, 1996)

    While electronica band Leftfield performed at a 1996 show at the Brixton Academy in England dust and plaster began to fall from the ceiling. That was thanks mostly to the sound levels registering an astonishing 137 decibels.

    "That was the first tour – we’re nowhere near that now. We’re up there, but it’s more about quality than loudness. That’s the idea anyway," Leftfield's Neil Barnes said in an interview years later. 

    The duo is reportedly infamous for its insanely loud shows - something that Barnes said they're often warned about by promoters.

    "There are very strict restrictions. At certain places you can get away with it. At most festivals there’s a legal limit and it’s harsh. Especially in metropolitan areas like Liverpool and London. We tend to obey the laws. Considering I’m about to do a tour I have to be careful what I say! It’s pumping," he said. 

  • Sleazy Joe (Sweden, 2008)
    Video: YouTube

    Sleazy Joe (Sweden, 2008)

    In what could be considered definitively the loudest concert in history, Swedish band Sleazy Joe reached new heights when they performed in Hassleholm at peak levels of 143.2 decibels. 

    The incredibly loud show trumps nearly all of the loudest documented shows in history, with blistering sound levels that would make even the most diehard rock and roll fan cover their ears. The band currently appears to be inactive, but their social media pages continue to tout them as the "loudest band in the world."

  • AC/DC (1980)
    Video: YouTube

    AC/DC (1980)

    In 1980, Australian rockers AC/DC embarked on their Back In Black tour and performed a number of shows at a whopping 130 decibels. The effects would be felt years later when, in 2016, the band was forced to reschedule a series of show or risk singer Brian Johnson experiencing total hearing loss.

    It's a wonder that Johnson wasn't impacted by hearing issues until years later, given the fatigue that likely came along with such an intensely loud tour. At the time of the tour, the band received complaints from promoters and were told to turn down to more tolerable volume levels. 

  • Foo Fighters (New Zealand, 2011)
    Video: YouTube

    Foo Fighters (New Zealand, 2011)

    In 2011, during their final show before taking a hiatus, Foo Fighters rocked audiences in Auckland, New Zealand, so hard that they registered earthquake-level vibrations. Geological tremors were reported during the show from two different seismic stations.

    "The concert vibrations were recorded as a semi continuous harmonic signal with a peak osculation of 3Hz, i.e. the ground was shaking 3 times per second in a nice rhythmic motion.  There are lulls in the signal between the songs and peaks in signal intensity during the songs," New Zealand's GeoNet blog stated.


  • The Who (London, 1976)
    Photo: Center of the Universe / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0

    The Who (London, 1976)

    The Who broke loudness records decades before bands like Manowar attempted to shatter people's hearing. In 1976, the band earned the record for loudest concert during a performance in London at the Valley stadium. At the time, the Guinness Book of World Records was still documenting loudness at concerts, so the show was given the official highest honor.

    The sound levels during the band's set were said to have peaked at 126 decibels. 

  • Motorhead (Cleveland, 1986)
    Photo: Adam Kliczek / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    Motorhead (Cleveland, 1986)

    In 1986, Motorhead played a legendary show at the Variety Theater in Cleveland, Ohio - a concert that would enter the history books as one of the loudest of all time. Levels of 130 decibels were reached during the show, and journalist Joseph Lanza recalled the event following the passing of the band's legendary bassist Lemmy in 2016.

    "It was wild seeing them playing as plaster was coming down," Lanza said. "Everyone was looking up - even the band was pointing at the plaster coming down during the songs."