Wembley’s 100th Anniversary: Partners & Friends Share Anecdotes & Congrats

Live Aid, London 1985
Live Aid, the event that’s become almost synonymous with Wembley, took place on July 13, 1985. It was a follow-up event to the Band Aid single “Do They Know Its Christmas?,” and the brainchild of Bob Geldof, and Midge Ure, with the intention of raising money for victims of the famine in Ethiopia. The picture shows (form left) George Michael, promoter of the event Harvey Goldsmith, Bono, Paul McCartney, and Freddie Mercury, performing on stage during the finale. (Photo by Staff/Daily Mirror/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)

To adequately celebrate Wembley Stadium’s 100th anniversary, Pollstar reached out to a few companions, who’ve become a part of the building’s history over the years. Not all of their anecdotes and well-wishes made the main story, so here are some more.

The Iconic Wembley Stadium Turns 100: World Tours, World Cups & World Records

Marshall Arts has been involved with various events at Wembley Stadium for four decades now. Highlights at The Old Wembley include the 1988 concert in honor of Nelson Mandela’s 70th Birthday.

In 1990, Marshall Arts brought Indian superstar Amitabh Bachchan to the stadium, who rode into the building on a white stallion. The year after, Marshall Arts presented Rod Stewart alongside Status Quo and Joe Cocker; in 1992, Bryan Adams performed with a side-stage, “so fans could feel closer,” as Marshall recalled.

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Tina Turner at Wembley Stadium as part of her “Wildest Dreams” world tour in 1996. (Photo by David Giles – PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)

Rod Stewart returned in 1995 to perform on an in-the-round stage; in 1996, Tina Turner performed with special guests TOTO. She returned in 2000, performing to concerts in front of 80,000 people each night, July 15-16. Special guests this time: John Fogerty, “who, of course, wrote ‘Proud Mary’,” as Marshall said, “and the irresistible Lionel Richie. A long journey from Nutbush – one we were fortunate enough to share for so many years.”

Marshall Arts also presented the first two concerts at the new Wembley: George Michael, June 9-10, 2007. Marshall recalled that “his voice, as ever, was incomparable perfection! How we miss him.”

And then there’s P!NK, of course, cover star of the current edition of Pollstar (10/02/23), who Marshall Arts have been working with since 2002, and who sold out Wembley twice, June 29-30, 2019, selling a total of 145,230 tickets, and grossing an incredible $16,568,721.

As Marshall said himself, “A lot of amazing memories. Wembley Stadium is recognized and renowned around the world – I think there are very few places on earth that haven’t heard of it. Long may that continue!”

Phil Bowdery, Live Nation’s executive president of touring international, worked at Wembley for the first time in 1988, on Michael Jackson’s “Bad” tour.

It was foggy Sunday morning in November of 1987, when his team went on sale. There was no internet around, and credit cards weren’t a thing yet. “Tickets were £17,50,” Bowdery remembers, “We had a queue that went around the stadium inside, and then around the stadium outside. It was foggy that Sunday morning in November, there were many TV crews around, because Michael Jackson going on sale in the UK was a big deal, and they couldn’t see the end of the queue because of the fog.”

The capacity for the Michael Jackson shows was 72,000, and he ended up playing seven nights, all sold out. “He could have done 27 nights, but that was just the license we were allowed to work with,” Bowdery remembered. The more than half-a-million tickets sold across all shows still marked a Guinness World Record at the time.

Michael Jackson performs on stage during his "BAD" concert tour
Michael Jackson on stage at the Old Wembley on July 15, 1988, during the “BAD” tour, when he broke a world record with 504,000 people attending seven sold-out shows at Wembley Stadium. (Photo by Dave Hogan/Getty Images)

Bowdery, of course, has been back to both the Old and the New Wembley many times since. More recently, Harry Styles played to his biggest UK audience yet, June 13-17, selling out 335,394 tickets for a whooping $37,341,665 gross. The Weeknd broke the Wembley attendance record for an end-stage configuration, welcoming 87,000 at his Aug. 18 concert.

And even before he ever promoted his first show at the building, he’d visit as a fan of live music, witnessing Pink Floyd, Queen, and of course the iconic Live Aid charity events on site. And while he agrees that the core, the soul of the venue remains the same, it has evolved. “It’s a far more professional building, everything works, they’ve got it perfected to work as an event space, be it football, be it live shows, they do it very well. The team they have at Wembley now is second to none,” he said.

“They could sit there and say, ‘we’re Wembley, we’re doing it our way’. But they don’t, they actually want to make sure that everything we need is there. And if it isn’t there, they ask themselves, how do we get there, just to make sure that everyone is being looked after. It will only enhance the experience for everyone,” he said.

And Bowdery concluded, “For anyone in our industry, to actually be involved in a show there, let alone promote a show there, it’s one of those things you would look upon as being a real [check mark] to your career, because you are involved with the most iconic stadium in the world,” Bowdery said.

“If you’re playing that stadium, you’re involved with an iconic artist that can fill Wembley Stadium, which is no mean feat. Every artist I’ve worked with at Wembley has had an incredible reception, because they’re there for a specific reason. And it doesn’t matter what show I’ve done, I’ve loved every single one, from Harry [Styles], to BTS, to Bruce Springsteen, to Billy Joel. I’ve had the privilege, and I’ve been blessed to be able to do so many shows there.”

The Weeknd at Wembley

Simon Jones, AEG Presents senior vice president of international touring recalls his first experience at Wembley vividly. “It was the very first gig that I attended, the Toxic Twin Towers Ball with Aerosmith, Lenny Kravitz, Stereophonics, 3 Colours Red & The Black Crowes. I followed it up the next year seeing Oasis play both nights,” he told Pollstar.

In his view, it’s “the atmosphere,” that makes a show at Wembley so special, “I’ve seen some unbelievable shows there and watched some incredible football matches. I’ve seen Liverpool and England play so many times. The stadium holds some incredible memories for me personally.”

Jones, who promotes Taylor Swift’s six sold out shows at Wembley next year, June 21-23, and Aug. 15-17, said, “it has global status as one of the world’s most eminent stadiums, and artists want to play the most iconic places. Hyde Park in London, Wembley Stadium, San Siro, River Plate, Stade De France, all are in similar company.”

Currently holding the record for biggest run at Wembley are Take That, who performed eight nights in 2011, June 30–July 9, selling 623,737 tickets for a resounding $62,823,259 gross, according to Pollstar’s Boxoffice.

The promoter of those shows is Simon Moran, managing director of SJM Concerts, who first witnessed Wembley magic at the age of 10, sitting in the top tier to watch the Challenge Cup final between Warrington, to this day his favorite rugby team, and Widnes, in front of a crowd of over 85,000.

Take That Perform At Wembley Stadium In 2011
The final night of Take That’s record run (“Proress” tour) at Wembley, July 9, 2011. (Photo by Pete Still/Redferns)

The first show he promoted was the Spice Girls’ “Spice World Tour” in 1998, who performed two nights, already using an in-the-round stage setup. 150,000 bought a ticket, which were priced around £23.50 at the time ($29, according to today’s conversion rate).

In Moran’s opinion its the building’s history that has made it iconic, amassing many “unbelievable” and “fun memories.” The new Wembley was different, but still a “great” venue with an “amazing atmosphere. We’ve had some fantastic nights there.”

Talking about the team at Wembley, he said, “They’re very good to deal with, they’ve always been good partners, trying to help out how and when they can. It’s very smooth a process for everyone involved, the artists, promoters, and most importantly the paying customer.”

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Chris Martin of Coldplay performs on stage at Wembley Stadium during the “Music of the Spheres” World Tour on August 12, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Jim Dyson/Getty Images)

Among his favorite Wembley memories are the most-recent Coldplay shows in the summer of 2022, six concerts between Aug. 12 and 21, selling out all available 464,839 tickets for a $49,209,920 gross. “They were really fantastic, the atmosphere, the weather was great, and the group is at the top of their form, and they said those concerts were very special for them as well.

“To be honest, there’s been loads of great ones, the Stone Roses concert was brilliant, The Killers, Spice Girls, Muse, Foo Fighters – they’ve done a few times, but the Taylor tribute was such a special, emotional day, that September,” Moran said, and added, “Congratulations on 100 years, and long may it continue.”

No matter who you talk to about Wembley, they all mention Live Aid as a stand-out moment in the buildings history, the charity event to raise money for the victims of a famine raging in Ethiopia at the time. Moran even said Live Aid and Wembley had become somewhat “synonymous.”

Bowie At Live Aid
English singer David Bowie performing at the Live Aid concert at Wembley Stadium in London, 13th July 1985. The concert raised funds for famine relief in Ethiopia. (Photo by Georges De Keerle/Getty Images)

It also marked the first time Stuart Galbraith, CEO of Kilimanjaro Live, worked at Wembley, as transport director for that show. He also promoted the last show at the Old Wembley, Bon Jovi on Aug. 20, 2000. “We did some of the very first shows with Muse when the new Wembley Stadium opened in 2007, and, in that season, also ran Metallica, the Concert for Diana, and Live Earth.”

More recently, “we’ve obviously been very fortunate to visit three times with Ed Sheeran in 2015, 2018, and 2022, including the huge show that played in the round with a capacity of just under 100,000 people.”

Galbraith said, “Wembley are extremely knowledgeable and experienced in producing live shows. At Wembley, one of the biggest things to work through is the scheduling of the show that’s coming in before you, and the show that’s coming in after you. [The team] are absolutely on it, and if we do have any issues, they’re always open and willing to look at how to work around them.”

For more entertaining anecdotes from Glabraith’s times working at Wembley, head to our main story.

One company that has been working with Wembley Stadium “practically forever” is Ticketmaster. Its regional vice president UK & Ireland, and UK managing director Andrew Parsons said, “If there’s a concert happening there, Ticketmaster is selling tickets.”

Full Members Cup Final
Andrew Parson’s first Wembley memory: the Full Members Cup Final, March 29, 1987, between Charlton Athletic and Blackburn Rovers FC . (Photo by Russell Cheyne/Getty Images)

His first time setting foot inside Wembley as a fan was in 1987, at the age of 12 years, watching the Full Members Cup Final between Charlton Athletic and Blackburn Rovers. He recalled, “The game was rubbish, we lost 1-0, but the scale of the occasion was pretty awe-inspiring, the crowds and the colors of it all. I can vividly recall walking down Wembley Way. Despite the loss, the occasion of it all overshadowed the disappointment. Mostly.”

The most memorable show Parsons ever witnessed at Wembley were Guns N’ Roses, supported by Faith No More, in 1992. “Faith No More were incredible – I was a huge fan at the time and was really there for them. I’ll always remember watching the band with my mates while half of the pitch turned into a massive mosh pit. It was incredible.”

In Parsons’ view, “Wembley Stadium occupies a special place in the UK’s live music scene and will always be a pinnacle of an artist’s career. But it is such an important place globally as well, playing host to artists from around the world.”

“The team at Wembley is phenomenal,” he said, “the best at what they do – the passion they have for this industry shines through. The team is so good, we even pinched one to come and work at Ticketmaster (sorry!).”

And Parsons concluded, “Wembley and the team have certainly earned their place in history – here’s to the next 100 years.”

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