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Concerts at the K

When the baseball blows, go to a show

Three Dog Night Photo by Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty Images

I’ve recently noticed that concerts are making a comeback at the K. I suppose with the baseball team floundering, the extra bodies that a concert brings in, plus the parking and concessions, are a must-needed windfall for the facility.

The Truman Sports Complex has had a storied history of putting on good shows. The first show ever in the complex was held on August 2, 1973, at Royals Stadium featuring Three Dog Night. Three Dog Night has always been one of my favorites and their hit “Never Been to Spain” remains one of my go-to jams.

Way back in the early summer of 1972, I was working with my father one Saturday. We had stopped at a truck stop on the north side of Glasco, Kansas, during the lunch hour. The adjoining restaurant was packed with farmers and truckers, lunching on burgers and that truck stop staple, the hot beef sandwich . I went to the jukebox and selected three songs for a quarter. The first song, of course, was Never Been to Spain. I could see heads nodding as people enjoyed the music. Second song. Never been to Spain. A ripple of discontent ran through the lunchtime crowd. Third song. Never been to Spain. The place nearly erupted and a few swear words were tossed around. I figured my work there was done and headed outside through the kitchen. I briefly considered tossing in another quarter for three more runs at Never Been to Spain, but figured it best not to press my luck with the now agitated lunchtime crowd.

A couple weeks later, on August 19th to be exact, Elton John performed in the first ever show at Arrowhead. That was probably a fantastic concert. This would have been his Goodbye Yellow Brick Road tour and Elton was at his full powers in 1973. Elton was on a major roll from 1970 to 1976, before he slid off into a mid-career abyss. He climbed back into the saddle in the early 1990’s riding what I call the Elton Disney era.

As the calendar turned to 1974, Royals Stadium hosted two major shows: The Allman Brothers in June and Crosby Stills Nash and Young in July. 1976 brought the first Summer Jam to Royals Stadium, a mega-concert featuring Kansas, Fleetwood Mac, and REO Speedwagon. The 1977 Summer Jam at Royals Stadium featured REO, the Little River Band, and Ted Nugent. The stadium hosted one last Summer Jam in July of 1978 headlined by Kansas, the Steve Miller Band, Eddie Money and Van Halen. That’s a righteous lineup. Arrowhead, meanwhile, continued to host an excellent variety of shows including a 1975 show featuring The Eagles opening for The Rolling Stones. That must have been one helluva show.

In the summer of 1979, the Summer Jam tour shifted across the parking lot to Arrowhead. The night before this show, my parents went out of town and left the house to me and my 16-year-old sister. What are two teenagers supposed to do with that good fortune? That’s right, we had a party. It was a blowout and it seemed like everyone in town showed up, including eventually the police. We had it all, girls tearfully arguing with their boyfriends, guys fighting on the front lawn and even a neighbor who set up a gambling parlor in the garage. After the police departed, we went to work repairing the damage and getting rid of the evidence. During the cleanup, a friend said, “Hey, were going to KC tomorrow to the concert, you want to go?” Sure, why not.

We left early, on little sleep. They filled me in on the drive: Heart, The Cars, Sammy Hagar and Uncle Ted. Lovely. A quick internet search shows that a band named Missouri opened the show and I briefly remember them. It also says that Bob Welch came out and played his current hit “Ebony eyes”. If he did, I have no recollection of it. Nor any remorse in missing it. I loved The Cars at the time, and they put on a good show. Sammy Hagar was fantastic. I slept through Heart, which would be repeated two years later when I saw them open for the Rolling Stones at Folsom Field. Just as Ted Nugent was about to take the stage, one of the ladies in the group got her monthly visit from Aunt Flo. She had none of the essentials needed for this recurring event, which necessitated a quick retreat to the car by all of us. As we were walking through the parking lot, Ted opened with Stormtroopin’. The volume level in the parking lot was just about perfect and I briefly thought about sending them home and trying to bum a ride back to Abilene. Youth may be wasted on the young, as George Bernard Shaw once said, but I never felt that way.

After the 1978 Summer Jam at Royals Stadium, the concert business went into hibernation. It would stay that way for forty years, until September of 2018, when the venue, now known as Kauffman Stadium, hosted Billy Joel. Arrowhead, meanwhile, has kept up a fairly steady flow of mega concerts. The Billy Joel show was a smash. I’d seen Joel in 1979 at Ahearn Fieldhouse, just as he was launching into superstardom, and he puts on a fantastic show.

The summer of 2022 is ringing in a few shows. On July 19th, The Stadium Tour hit the K with Def Leppard, Motley Crue, Poison and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. Now bald, I’d have to buy myself a mullet wig to see this show. Business in front, party in the back.

In August, the stadium will host the “I love the ‘90s” tour. Vanilla Ice, Blackstreet and Color Me Badd will perform at this event. I didn’t love the ‘90s that much, but I’m sure a good time will be had by all.