Bayou City

10 Historic Houston Concerts We Wanted to See

Sam Houston Colisum, August 19, 1965
Given the sheer hysteria that followed them wherever they went, the Beatles could only stand to tour the U.S. a couple of times, and they only ever made it to Houston once. Their lone performances here, though — two shows in one day at the long-since-demolished Sam Houston Coliseum — are still fondly remembered as a couple of the most bonkers performances in Houston history. The matinee show, at 3:30 p.m. on a Thursday, saw 10,000 or so kids and teens skip school in order to catch their rock and roll idols. The screaming of girls was so loud, it’s tough to say just how well you could hear the likes of “Twist and Shout” and “Ticket to Ride” in the venue, but you can hear the tunes just fine today thanks to a widely bootlegged broadcast of the show by KILT. NATHAN SMITH

The Astrodome, February 27-March 1, 1970
I’d have been five years old, but I’m pretty sure I would have some memory of the show today. I remember plenty from being five. My first kiss courtesy of Kim, the six-year-old red-headed daughter of my babysitter; and my first day of school. Mom bought me a kaleidoscope from TG&Y for surviving the entire day. So yeah, I would have remembered The King in a white jumper performing the hits. Even as a kindergartner, I knew the songs. My folks were huge Elvis fans, like most of Houston, it seems. Over a half-dozen shows that week, Presley played for 200,000 people here. The entire population of Houston was 1.2 million then. Theoretically, that’s one-sixth of the city in attendance. Today’s equivalent would require an artist to play to 14 straight sold-out shows at NRG Stadium. Is there an artist alive today who could do that? JESSE SENDEJAS JR.

Jeppesen (Robertson) Stadium, April 30, 1977
When I was a teen, I remember fellow students bragging about watching Pink Floyd’s rainy Rice Stadium gig in the ‘90s, but the outdoor Floyd performance I’d have much preferred to see was the band’s stop at Jeppesen Stadium on the UH campus on their “In the Flesh” tour. It rained during that gig, too, but with the band performing the entirety of both Animals and Wish You Were Here, who gave a damn? Somehow, I have to believe that resourceful Houstonians found a way to keep those joints lit as a pig gently rose into the storm clouds. NATHAN SMITH

The Astrodome, November 9-10, 1984
In the fall of 1984, there was pretty much only one concert tour that mattered: The Jacksons’ "Victory Tour," featuring the white-hot and ascendant Michael Jackson. Deep in the throes of Thriller’s monumental success, Michael only agreed to share the stage with his brothers after his mother begged him, but ask anybody who was at the Astrodome for the tour’s two dates there, and they won’t recall a damn thing about the other guys. Michael was resplendent in his sequined socks and glove, and breaking people’s minds with the Moonwalk. It was the beginning of his magical run as the most in-demand singer and dancer on the planet. NATHAN SMITH

The Summit, April 8-9, 1988
If we’re examining the iconic Houston shows we regret missing, maybe some time should be spent on why we missed them. Usually, it comes down to a two factors — no money or no time. I think it’s important that we forgive ourselves our absences due to such circumstances. All the world is not a stage. Sometimes we have to pay bills and prioritize time. So, consider yourself pardoned. I’m hereby absolving myself from missing MJ, in the relative intimacy of The Summit, at the height of his popularity, before the child sexual-abuse allegations and while he was still nimble enough to amaze with his trademark dance moves, while performing megahits like “I Want You Back,” “Smooth Criminal,” “Beat It” and…aw, man. Even after all this time, I still can’t believe I wasn’t there. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.

The Summit, September 16, 1989
After orchestrating plans for months via three-way-calling, all my friends were planning on attending The Cure’s concert at the Summit. Disintegration had just been released and after committing every word from the fold-out lyric sheet in the cassette to memory, I was ready. I begged my parents from behind my long-lock of dyed emo hair, rationalized how safe I'd be with high-school aged friends, and offered to do every chore ever assigned into eternity. Unmoved, my mom said I wasn't old enough. She argued about it being on a school night and grades come first, and high-school boys want "certain things from girls"...blah blah blah. All I heard was mother's stale, obstinate, dissenting opinions ostracizing me from the cool, hip new-waver kids.
I remember getting off the bus at school the next day, seeing an army of kids in Cure shirts. My stomach cramped. I anticipated all of their cool stories that I wouldn't have a role in....a kid in the seat next to me took one look at the gaggle of artsy freaks and said, "Cure? Yeah, those kids need a cure all right. What a bunch of weirdos.” Later, I heard a kid died that night from an asthma attack in the Summit — surely from all the clove-smoking scene kids. It made me think maybe mom was right, but I'd never admit it. What 14-year-old admits her parents are right? You save those big guns to escape getting grounded. KRISTY LOYE

Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, June 13, 1990
Seeing Stevie Ray Vaughan in Houston wasn’t all that difficult in the 1980s. He played Fitzgerald’s, the Houston Music Hall, Rockefeller’s, and the Sam Houston Coliseum. I never saw him on any of those dates, but always wanted to witness his genius live. When he brought the “In Step” tour to town in June 1990, I was a month shy of my wedding day. I’d love to say my pending nuptials had something to do with not being there, but I had money and time. I assumed Vaughan did, too. There’s always next time, I reasoned.

The show came and went. On July 25, I was in Lake Tahoe getting married and Vaughan was in Fairbanks, Alaska playing songs I loved like “The House Is Rockin” and “Cold Shot.” He played only three more shows after that one. In a way, those events helped me better understand we can’t take for granted that there will be a “next time” for anything in life. People who see music as mere entertainment don’t understand the life lessons it can provide. The rest of us learn there’s more to a concert experience than a couple hours’ worth of piddling diversion. Sometimes a show – or, in this instance, missing one – can provide some purpose and direction to last a lifetime. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.

The Summit, May 19, 1991
My mom wouldn't let me go because she had heard of some kid getting trampled to death at a show on the tour. The news — she claimed — had painted a picture of total chaos and destruction, an abyss of anarchy as the bands played. I didn't really believe her, and even if she was being truthful, I knew I had to see it for myself. She absolutely refused because I would've been trampled to death as well strictly due to irrational maternal paranoia. Even if some random metalhead had gotten a stubbed toe walking into a venue in god-knows-where on this tour, my mother would have said no.
She was convinced that metal was responsible for my underage smoking, drinking and rebellious behavior. I was convinced metal was responsible for making me so cool and, naturally, I pouted in my room and played my drum rudiments so loud and obnoxiously they couldn't enjoy Roseanne that evening. Because that's how you hand out justice at 16 years old — by playing drums poorly. KRISTY LOYE

The Astrodome, September 4, 1992
The Astrodome hosted its fair share of big rock concerts in its heyday, but probably none were as ecstatically ear-punishing as the Guns N’ Roses/Metallica stadium tour that rolled into town like a Panzer tank in 1992. The massive tour, also featuring inspired openers Faith No More, was a rather hit-or-miss affair, with incendiary sets on many nights being overshadowed by rioting and stage accidents on others. I’m pretty sure Metallica singer James Hetfield had to hand off guitar duties during the Dome show due to having one of his arms blackened during a pyro mishap weeks earlier, but that would have hardly ruined the opportunity to hear deep cuts like “Of Wolf and Man” and “The Shortest Straw” inside the world’s greatest stadium. And capping the whole evening off with “Paradise City”? They don’t make rock concerts like this anymore. NATHAN SMITH

Compaq Center, November 22, 2003
The final show of ZZ Top’s 2003-long “Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers Tour” has the air of myth. It was also the last concert at the old Summit after 28 years, with only a few Disney On Ice performances left before Joel Osteen and his Lakewood Church team inherited the keys. Even the openers, Cross Canadian Ragweed and Los Lobos, suggested an epic party was in the offing. According to Billboard, it was ZZ’s 23rd time to play the Greenway Plaza venue, six more than runners-up Neil Diamond and Willie Nelson. “It's been like a second home to us when you consider that, besides the gigs we've done there, all three of us have attended hundreds of games and shows by artists we wanted to see, just like everybody else in Houston,” bassist Dusty Hill told the magazine. KLOL did a live broadcast from the arena, and dignitaries on hand included Texas Gov. Rick Perry, then serving his first elected term. Dressed in a Top T-shirt and track pants, the Gov strode onstage and sat in on drums during the encore. He may have had trouble remembering which cabinet departments he would get rid of at that infamous GOP debate eight years later, but by all accounts he had no trouble staying on tempo during “La Grange.” CHRIS GRAY
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