by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com
That headline may sound a bit over-dramatic, but the first place I saw a rock concert was the Omaha Civic Auditorium.
It was 1977 or ’78, the band was Kansas, who was on the road supporting their LP, Point of Know Return, which came out in ’77. I was 13 and had just moved with my family from Omaha to Ft. Calhoun. My new pal Scott Humphrey had gotten his hands on comp tickets from his dad. I have no idea how we got down there or how we got home, but I remember how cool it was going to a rock show.
Kansas wouldn’t have been my first choice — I didn’t have any of their records — but, come on, who didn’t like “Carry On Wayward Son” at the time? Bad-ass. Like all shows at the Civic back then, all seats were General Admission. We got there early, waited in line, and chanted “Open the Fucking Door!” just like everyone else. We pushed through the gates and got seats on the first tier along stage left. Down below on the floor hippies sat in circles and passed around doobies or threw Frisbees in the foggy smoke.
I don’t remember an opener, just the lights dropping and Kansas taking the stage, surrounded by curtains of green laser lights — the first time I’d seen real live lasers! I was surprised at the sound level — ear-splitting but awesome. And the band was on point. This was an era when arena prog-rock bands like Kansas, Yes and Genesis ruled FM radio. Afterward, I ended up buying a couple Kansas albums (and still listen to their 1978 live album, Two For the Show, which sort of documents that tour that came through Omaha).
Over the next few years I went to a lot of shows at the Civic — Journey, Styx, The Cars, Van Halen among them — and always had a great time. The first time I drank beer was before a Pink Floyd laser-light show at the Civic (It was Old Style, btw, and it sucked). The last concert I attended at the Civic was Prince, sometime in the ’90s. I never saw a bad show at the Civic, and by far preferred seeing bands play there rather than at CenturyLink, which has been nothing but a disappointment from day one.
And now come the bulldozers. I suppose it was time. If the city or MECA wasn’t going to book the place (and they certainly could have — a 9,000-seat arena has its advantages) then they might as well tear it down. We’ve got The Baxter now, and the one in Ralston. And arena rock has sort of died away, for me anyway. I’d much rather see a band at O’Leaver’s or a 1% club than at an arena. Still, like any part of your past, it hurts to see it go…
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We’re in a mini-drought show-wise, which I guess is fine considering the Maha Festival is this Saturday…
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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.