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Bruce Springsteen (right) and Clarence Clemons during their 1978 tour. (Photos from Getty Images)

 

Born in 1929 and mostly demolished in 2011 to make way for the new Tobin Center, Municipal Auditorium was a Swiss army knife of a building, hosting everything from Elvis to Golden Gloves boxing to “The Phantom of the Opera.”

As a concert hall, it wouldn’t have been able to hold a candle to the new performing-arts space, which was actually built for music and sounds like it. But it was an adequate building, sound-wise — certainly preferrable to the old HemisFair Arena or the Freeman Coliseum — and it had its share of great moments. Elvis played there in 1956; Jimi Hendrix, in 1968. I wasn’t lucky enough to catch either of those (the former, because I was only 2 years old), but two of my all-time favorite concerts happened there, along with my absolute worst.

Here’s a quick look back. It’s far from a definitive list; it’s culled from the shows I happened to attend or review for the Express-News. Your results will vary.

The Best

Bruce Springsteen, July 14, 1978: The Boss’ first and sadly, still his only visit to San Antonio was a party from start to finish. Coming off a three-year hiatus thanks to a nasty legal dispute with his former manager, Mike Appel, Springsteen hit town just a month after the long-awaited (and overdue) release of his fourth album, “Darkness on the Edge of Town.”

Perhaps because he had been away for so long — it had been three years since “Born to Run” made him a star — the show wasn’t even sold out. But the 3,200 folks who showed up (that was music writer Hector Saldaña’s estimate) got to see an energetic, sweat-soaked, 3 1/2 hour show that began with “Badlands” and ended with a cover of Gary U.S. Bonds’ hit “Quarter to Three.”

And no opening act to mess with, either — just wall-to-wall Springsteen and the E Street Band. There was even an intermission, with Act 2 starting with the rousing instrumental “Paradise by the ‘C,’ ” which showcased sax man Clarence Clemons and keyboardists Roy Bittan and Danny Federici. Here’s a set list, in case you’re interested. I think it’s pretty accurate, with one caveat — it doesn’t include a cover of Mitch Ryder’s “Little Latin Lupe Lu,” which Hector remembers vividly.

(On a more personal note, my date that evening has been my Incredibly Signifcant Other ever since. Between Springsteen and the Beatles, I guess she was impressed by my taste in music. It sure wasn’t my whopping journalist’s paycheck).

 

The worst

Vanilla Ice's star-spangled stage costume in 1992.

Vanilla Ice’s star-spangled stage costume in the early ’90s.

Vanilla Ice, Feb. 21, 1991: It’s no fun being in the middle of a riot, especially when you’re sitting on the front row. About 20 minutes before he wrapped up an incredibly padded two-hour show, the Iceman told the crowd “You paid good money. Come on down and let’s get with it.”

And they did.

Soon the front of the auditorium was like a can of sardines, with me in the big middle. Waves of humanity buffeted me; I had to work hard to stay anywhere near my seat. Eventually, the brass railing that separated stage from crowd gave way. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but Mr. Ice got himself a ticket for inciting a riot.

Up until that point, the show had been mostly boring. Ice, who had opened in S.A. for M.C. Hammer just months earlier, essentially padded that 40-minute set out to headliner length with lots on inane banter and a 10-minute audience-participation intro into his big hit, “Ice Ice Baby.”

And how did I end up on the front row? Well, I walked down to Municipal the afternoon of the show and bought a single ticket. When I entered the hall, an usher said, “You’re in the front row.” I thought she was pointing to the front row of one of the back sections. She said, no, you’re in THE front row.

Great. I would have killed to be in the front row of hundreds of shows (including all the ones listed above), and my first front-row seat is effin’ Vanilla Ice.

____________________________________

The SPL Rocks!

 

Pulled up to my house today
Came and took my little girl away!
Giants Stadium 8/28/03



Oats

Last edited by Oats
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