Who's on 'The List'
Here is a sampling of the music and comedy performers who have played at Memorial Coliseum since it opened in 1952. Some of them performed there during more than one time period:
Nat King Cole
Crosby, Stills & Nash
Michael W. Smith
Hootie and the Blowfish
Stone Temple Pilots
Brooks and Dunn
“The List” tells an amazing tale.
Bandleaders Stan Kenton, Guy Lombardo and Lawrence Welk. Rock pioneers Billy Haley and His Comets, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley. Longtime favorites the Beach Boys, Aerosmith and Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Christian group DC Talk and country stars Alan Jackson and Carrie Underwood.
They’ve all performed at Memorial Coliseum.
“The List” — actually an Excel spreadsheet — keeps a record of the music and comedy artists who have performed at the Coliseum since it was dedicated on Sept. 28, 1952. The list, which also includes concerts at the since demolished Fort Wayne Wizards stadium, displays performances alphabetically by artist and also by date.
“Very few buildings have the history we do,” said Coliseum General Manager Randy Brown, who has worked at the building for 25 years.
The Coliseum, which for concerts now can seat 13,000 in the main arena and 8,000 in the Expo Hall, has been updated and expanded to meet current event needs, Brown said. Many communities, however, tore down their old arena to build a new one, demolishing the connection to history along with the structure.
Bryan Christie , Coliseum vice president of operations, started compiling “The List” sometime in the 1990s, pulling information from event records. Christie has worked at the Coliseum for 45 years.
Nathan Dennison , the vice president of sales, keeps the list updated now, adding an artist or group name and date for every performance that takes place.
Scanning through the list of performers offers insight into the arena business and to area residents’ taste in music.
When Memorial Coliseum opened in 1952, it was a big player in the venue world because many communities didn’t have large arenas, Brown said. If a music artist planned 50 concerts while touring the country, the Coliseum likely would have been one of the stops.
“Today, there is a lot of competition for those 50 dates” because many other communities have built arenas, he said. “We may not get the show.”
The list also shows our musical tastes have changed somewhat over the decades.
“Fort Wayne was known for a lot of years as a heavy metal town,” Brown said. “Today, it is known as a country music town.”
Christian music, particularly contemporary Christian pop and rock, also enjoy a strong following.
Coliseum officials also have found “The List” has practical value.
When a promoter calls about booking an act, staff can check when the performer was last at the Coliseum, Dennison said. Brown then can use the date or dates of past appearances to check previous ticket prices and number of tickets sold.
Glancing over the list brings back a lot of memories for Christie and Brown.
They chuckle as they recall the odd pairing on May 12, 1991, when they had metal band Cinderella in the main arena and Christian artists Michael W. Smith and DC Talk making their first appearances at the Coliseum in the Expo Hall.
They also grin when talking about having to handle special requests from some of the artists, such as arranging for a golf outing, massage or trip to a gym before their performance.
That includes a request from Bob Dylan’s band and crew to play softball here the day before their Sept. 5, 2006, concert in Wizards stadium. Dylan spent the game sleeping on a picnic table, they said.
Christie, who helps tours set up their shows, remembers having to scramble on occasion when a performer gets sick.
Cher’s sold-out show scheduled for May 23, 2003, for example, had to be rescheduled for Aug. 6 when she became ill.
There are sad memories, too.
Reba McEntire was scheduled to perform here March 16, 1991, but a plane taking seven members of her band and her tour manager here crashed shortly after take-off near San Diego, killing all aboard, Brown said. She quickly canceled the show.
McEntire, who had performed Nov. 3, 1989, at the Coliseum, eventually returned March 20, 1996. She since has performed there four additional times, most recently on Oct. 14, 2011.