When Alan Freed hosted the Moondog Coronation Ball — arguably the first rock concert — at the Cleveland Arena back in 1952, he probably had no idea he had spawned a musical form that would change the world. Thanks to Freed, Cleveland will always be known as a rock and roll city. And for the past 40 years, it has certainly lived up to the rep. David Bowie played his first-ever stateside show here, and classic rock acts like Bruce Springsteen and Meat Loaf were embraced in Cleveland before they became big elsewhere. Founded 40 years ago as a music magazine, Scene has been part of that history through it all. In honor of our 40th anniversary, we look back at some of the most memorable concerts from the last four decades.
Featuring the memories of Anastasia Pantsios, Michael Gallucci, Jeff Niesel, and others.
September 22, 1972
Before Bowie ever touched American soil, Clevelanders knew and loved him, thanks to WMMS and its program director, Billy Bass, who pushed Bowie's groundbreaking 1972 glitter-rock album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars. So anticipation was high for his sold-out show at Cleveland's 3,000-seat Music Hall, Bowie's first-ever concert in the U.S. With their dyed, rooster-shag haircuts and sparkling jumpsuits, Bowie and his band introduced a whopping dose of theatricality to a music scene mired in earnest granola folk and the flannel-shirt rock of bands like the Allman Brothers — an influence already clear in the satin and velvet sported by audience members. Bowie delved into Ziggy Stardust and its predecessor, Hunky Dory, for tunes like "Moonage Daydream," "Suffragette City," "Hang on to Yourself," "Life on Mars," "Changes," and the soon-to-be-released single "The Jean Genie" — all tunes that would eventually become classic-rock staples, but were fresh and offbeat at the time. The show only whetted Clevelanders' appetite for Bowie: He wedged two more Cleveland shows into the brief tour, returning in November to play two sold-out nights at the 10,000-seat Public Hall, one of the city's busiest music venues at the time. (Anastasia Pantsios)