Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Stadium gone; memories linger

Singer and guitarist Ray Davies led the Kinks through
two songs at the Concert for the Rock And Roll Hall of
Fame in 1995, one of the last times the group played


They tore down Cleveland Municipal Stadium not long after the facility played host to one of its greatest events.

It wasn't a football or baseball game, but the Concert for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, featuring the biggest names in pop music.

My wife Sue and I were among the estimated 65,000 fans who witnessed the historic show at the aging structure.

Our $80 tickets got us seats in the upper deck for the show which started at 7:30 p. m. on Saturday, Sept. 2, 1995.

Artists had been rehearsing since midweek at sites around the city including Cleveland State University Convocation Center and Beechwood Studios.

Rumors circulated that artists would perform in unique combinations such as Bruce Springsteen with Jerry Lee Lewis, but a set list was not released prior to the concert.

Just as The Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper reported in that day's final edition, Chuck Berry opened the program with his classic "Johnny B. Goode."

The start was entirely fitting since Berry was in the first class to be inducted in the rock hall back in 1986, years before the facility was built.

Besides Berry, other rock pioneers played including Jerry Lee Lewis, James Brown and Little Richard.

They were joined by such music legends as John Mellencamp, Johnny Cash, Aretha Franklin, John Fogerty, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and the Allman Brothers.

Although there were no Beatles or Rolling Stones on the bill, Eric Burdon and the Kinks represented their fellow Britishers.

All told, more than three dozen acts took to the stage during the proceedings which lasted until after 2 a. m.

For me, the show was filled with highlights.

John Mellencamp offered his anthem, R. O. C. K. In The U. S. A," a salute to 60's rock.

Eric Burdon and Bon Jovi stormed through "It's My Life" and "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place," classic numbers by the Animals from 1965.

Johnny Cash performed "Folsom Prison Blues" and was joined by Mellencamp for "Ring of Fire."

Aretha Franklin showed why she's known as the Queen of Soul, with dynamic versions of "I Can't Turn You Loose," "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" and "Freeway of Love."

John Fogerty delivered inspiring takes of the Creedence Clearwater Revival hits "Born On The Bayou" and "Fortunate Son"

Iggy Pop led alternative band Soul Asylum through "Back Door Man," while Lou Reed did the same with "Sweet Jane."

The Kinks impressed the crowd with "All Day And All Of The Night" and "Lola."

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band saluted early rock 'n' roll with "Shake, Rattle & Roll" and "Bo Diddley." They were joined by Jerry Lee Lewis for "Great Balls of Fire" and "Whole Lot Of Shakin' Going On."

Bruce Hornsby paid tribute to the late Jerry Garcia with the Grateful Dead gems "I Know You Rider" and "Scarlet Begonias."

Bob Dylan pulled "All Along the Watchtower," "Just Like A Woman," "Seeing the Real You At Last," "Highway 61" and "Forever Young" from his songbook.

The Allman Brothers, featuring Gregg Allman and Dickey Betts, played "Blue Sky," "Midnight Rider" and "One Way Out."

James Brown used a horn section, back-up singers and dancers for "Cold Sweat," "It's a Man's World" and "I Got You (I Feel Good)."

Little Richard played a white piano while singing "Good Golly Miss Molly" and "Tutti Frutti."

Chuck Berry brought the evening full circle with what appeared to be an impromptu version of his classic "Rock And Roll Music," ending the program after six hours and 40 minutes.

While those were my favorite moments, there were also noteworthy performances by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Melissa Etheridge, Dr. John, Al Green, the Pretenders, Jackson Browne, Gin Blossoms, Sheryl Crow, George Clinton, Heart, Natalie Merchant, Robbie Robertson, Sam Moore, Slash and Boz Scaggs. Booker T. and the M. G.'s were the house band for the evening.

As Berry's guitar fell silent, the crowd filed out of the building knowing they attended a once in a lifetime concert.

Opened in 1931, Cleveland Municipal Stadium served as home to professional sports teams the Browns and the Indians, but also hosted many red letter concerts.

The Beatles played there on Sept. 15, 1964 and again on Aug. 14, 1966, thrilling local teenagers.

On June 25, 1977, 83,199 people attended a concert by Pink Floyd, the British rock band which recorded the "Dark Side of the Moon" album.

A show by the Rolling Stones on July 1, 1978 drew 82,238 paid guests to what is claimed to be the first concert to gross over $1 million.

Aerosmith and the Beach Boys also drew big crowds to the stadium during the 1970s.

Bruce Springsteen brought a horde of fans when he performed on Aug. 7, 1985.

English band the Who followed suit with their engagement on July 19, 1989.

Still, the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame concert may have topped them all.

For Sue and I, the show was our chance to see both Johnny Cash and James Brown. Called the "Godfather of Soul," Brown died on Christmas Day, 2006 at the age of 73.

Cash, meanwhile, died on Sept. 12, 2003 after a career comprising country, rockabilly and rock music. The "Man in black" was 71.

The Cleveland show marked a number of milestones.

The Kinks' performance was one of the last times they appeared together. appearance.

Springsteen and the E Street band played together for the first time in a number of years.

Canadian rocker Robbie Robertson staged the Band's classic song "The Weight," one of the few times he's performed solo.

Judging from the evidence, it can't be denied that Cleveland Municipal Stadium had a rich history.

Yet, it was unceremoniously demolished just months after a momentous show, leaving only memories behind.

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