If you go to Wikipedia and search for the Brown County Veterans Memorial Arena in Green Bay, Wisconsin, this is the picture you’ll see. It’s from a dozen years ago, 2007, but that doesn’t matter. What you see now is what you saw then and pretty much what you’ve seen since forever.
Soon, though, they’ll be tearing down the Arena.
Earlier this month, they had the last concert — Bret Michaels, Lita Ford and Warrant, a show that was peak Green Bay. Today, they had the farewell ceremony, with speechifying from officials. But you could take home a set of four wooden seats for $50, so a bunch of regular folks turned out.
I saw two concerts at the Arena.
On Saturday, June 16, 1979, the young lady I’d been seeing for three months wanted to go to a show in her hometown. So we saw Eric Clapton with Muddy Waters opening.
It was one of the last dates on Clapton’s American tour in support of the “Backless” LP. Sadly, I remember almost nothing about this show, least of all anything Clapton may or may not have played. Others who claim to have been there say Clapton was pretty fried. Sorry, can’t confirm or refute that. My lingering memory of the show is of someone sitting up above us, throwing firecrackers down below.
I was 21, and this was only the sixth concert I’d ever seen.
(The lovely Janet and I are still together almost 40 years later. Important to note because of what follows.)
On Wednesday, Dec. 9, 1992, I accompanied another young lady who wanted to see a show at the Arena. So we saw Def Leppard.
The second young lady was a co-worker who was going through a separation or a divorce. She wanted to go, but not by herself. I was going, but I’d planned to go by myself. (Janet had no interest in seeing Def Leppard.) Understandably, there were certain rules for this outing. Everything had to be quite proper. It was.
We saw a tremendous show, a great rock band at the peak of its video-driven popularity. It came roughly halfway through their Adrenalize “Seven-Day Weekend” world tour, on which Def Leppard played 244 shows over 18 months. Ticket demand was so great that they added a second show in Green Bay, the show we saw. That almost never happens in Green Bay.
I remember a lot more about this show. So much energy. Def Leppard played the show in the round, a setup rarely seen in the Arena. Still not quite sure how the band got on stage without being noticed, but the stage was built up above the Arena floor. Whatever. Everything they played was great.
The Arena opened on Veterans Day 1958. Seating capacity has always been about 5,200. Elvis Presley played the Arena 42 years ago last night, on April 28, 1977. He performed 23 songs in a show that lasted 1 hour, 10 minutes.
There were hundreds of memorable shows at the Arena over almost 61 years. I’ve lived in Green Bay for roughly half that time, and I have no explanation for why I saw only two shows. For the record, here are some of the others …
Bryan Adams, America, April Wine, the Association, the Beach Boys, the Beau Brummels, Pat Benatar, Chuck Berry, Len Berry, Black Oak Arkansas, Black Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult, Bodeans, Brownsville Station, Canned Heat, Freddy Cannon, the Carpenters, Johnny Cash, the Changing Times, Harry Chapin, Cheap Trick, Chicago, Cinderella, Alice Cooper, the Cryan’ Shames, the Cyrkle, Damn Yankees, the Charlie Daniels Band, John Denver, Ronnie James Dio, the Doobie Brothers, Bob Dylan, Duke Ellington, Emerson Lake and Palmer, the Enemies, Faster Pussycat, Fleetwood Mac, Peter Frampton, the Front Line, Foghat, Foreigner, Rory Gallagher, Golden Earring, Bobby Goldsboro, Goo Goo Dolls, Great White, the Guess Who, MC Hammer, Head East, Heart, Herman’s Hermits, the Hollies, Hollywood Undead, John Lee Hooker, Danny Hutton, Bryan Hyland, the James Gang (with Tommy Bolin), Jefferson Starship, Waylon Jennings and the Waylors, Jethro Tull, Tom Jones, Judas Priest, Kansas, KISS, Korn, Leo Kottke, Lake, the Left Banke, the Lettermen, Huey Lewis and the News, Loggins and Messina, Loverboy, the Lovin’ Spoonful, Manassas, the McCoys, Megadeth, John Mellencamp, Metallica, the Monkees, Melba Montgomery, Montrose, Motley Crue, Nazareth, Nelson, New Colony Six, Ted Nugent, Ozzy Osbourne, Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Pantera, Papa Roach, Paris, Poison, Powerman 5000, Queensryche, Quiet Riot, Ratt, Renaissance, REO Speedwagon, the Robbs, Linda Ronstadt, David Lee Roth, Rush, Santana, Scorpions, Sha Na Na, Skid Row, Slade, Slaughter, Sonny and Cher, Soundgarden, Rick Springfield, Billy Squier, Starcastle, Stephen Stills, Steppenwolf, Styx, Supertramp, the Sweet, Tesla, This Moment, Richard and Linda Thompson, George Thorogood and the Delaware Destroyers, Three Dog Night, Triumph, Trooper, Robin Trower, the Turtles, UFO, Uriah Heep, Van Halen, White Lion, Wishbone Ash, Jesse Colin Young, Frank Zappa and ZZ Top.