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(Richfield) Coliseum Rock(ed)!

August 17, 2008
The Richfield Coliseum 1974 - 1994 20 years of the greatest rock 'n roll.

The Richfield Coliseum 1974 – 1994 20 years of the greatest rock ‘n roll!

 Back in the early 70’s for the most part all of us concert-goers went to see the big name acts at relatively smaller venues, like the Akron Civic Theatre, Cleveland Public Hall, Music Hall, Canton Civic Center and others. With the advent of arena rock concerts nationwide northeast Ohio got their own when in 1974 the Richfield Coliseum in Richfield, OH, halfway between Akron & Cleveland and the brainchild of businessman and NBA franchise owner Nick Mileti, opened for business and served as home for the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, WHA’s Cleveland Crusaders, NHL’s Cleveland Barons, MISL’s Cleveland Force, MISL & NPSL’s Cleveland Crunch, the IHL’s Cleveland Lumberjacks, and the AFL’s Cleveland Thunderbolts.
 
Music, particularly rock ‘n roll, figured prominently into the mix thanks to an arrangement with Ohio super-promoters Belkin Productions. The first musical performance to open the Richfield Coliseum was Frank Sinatra. The first rock concert was held soon after with Elton John headlining on November 4, 1974. From there on out during the next two decades it was a non-stop carousel of nearly ever and any band that had a tour bus coming to play the ‘big house’ (seating 22,000).
 
It was a big, big place but, and others may disagree, for the most part the acoustics weren’t that bad (except anytime Aerosmith played). And me and my pals, and dates, and whoever else, were there for the best bands. For instance: KISS, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, The Who, J. Geils Band, Queen, Alice Cooper, Bob Seger, Ian Hunter & Mick Ronson, Rod Stewart, Thin Lizzy, Tubes, Van Halen, Black Sabbath, Foghat, Starz, Sammy Hagar, Boston, Ted Nugent, Babys, Rick Derringer, Angel, Peter Frampton, Black Oak Arkansas, Journey, Michael Stanley Band, Bruce Springsteen, Fleetwood Mac, Mother’s Finest, Heart, REO Speedwagon, ZZ Top, Cheap Trick, and the list goes on and on.
 
Most of my experiences were all positive. The police and security were pretty cool as long as you weren’t obvious or just a dumbass. There were plenty of restrooms with the mandatory pools of piss-on-the-floor of course and lots of eye candy and easy access to seats.
 
And you also had the opportunity over the years to see certain favorite bands multiple times.
 
Some of my memories of the Richfield Coliseum:
 
A big brouhaha immediately after the 1974 Elton John concert erupted when Richfield Zoning Commissioner Richard Crofoot went ballistic after seeing someone light up a joint during Sir Elton’s performance. He attempted to pass legislation to ban rock concerts at the Coliseum. He failed. It made all the local newspapers and regional and national rock publications.

My cousin Sue had two extra tickets to the Eagles in 1975 so I snatched them up for myself and a date. We ended up sitting next to my cousin and her date, a young fellow who eventually became a Mayor, State Representative and State Senator here in Ohio. (Dan Fogelberg, who recently passed, was opening act).


KISS mania had taken hold at high schools all across Ohio and everyone had KISS Alive and Destroyer. We hardcore KISS fans had everything they had done of course. For the March 9, 1976 KISS/Artful Dodger appearance at the Richfield Coliseum Flash and I went to the Ticketmaster location at the Belden Village Mall and bought three complete rows of seats. One row was around six rows below the other two rows. So we went to Orrville and sold most of them (at cost) to our pals (so we could control who we sat with). I had people in school (my senior year) who never spoke to me coming up asking if I had any tickets left and pleading for one. The power! A few tickets we gave away to some very charming young ladies and we kept two each. (I’d tell you the ‘details’ of that night but I have five grandchildren who may read this someday.)

Led Zeppelin on January 24, 1975 that saw a mini-riot erupt and thousands and thousands of dollars worth of broken window glass by a group outside who were unable to get tickets. That made the papers.

The Who on December 9, 1975. Nuff’ said.

I think I saw Aerosmith there at least four times at the Coliseum and only once was the sound working right and you could actually hear the band. Guess they were just jinxed there.
 
After a Ted Nugent/J.Geils Band show Bug, Mott & myself shaking hands with Peter Wolfe. As we came out of the Coliseum we walked by a couple limos and in the back of the first one with the window down was Peter Wolfe sitting between two lovely ladies with a drink in hand. We stopped, told him, “You guys kicked ass!” His response? “I know!” He slapped us each a high five and off we went.

I remember the Foghat/Starz show on February 20, 1978 because my pal Rog caught a flying drumstick from Foghat drummer Roger Earl. The two bands always kicked ass live.
 
I remember not expecting much out of Rod Stewart on November 4, 1977 because he didn’t have Faces with him (they were killer in ’75 at the Stadium). Wrong. Stewart kicked ass that night, had everyone out of their seats and had the audience n the palm of his hand.

Led Zeppelin on April 27 and April 28, 1977. Tickets were available via mail order only with a minimum number of tickets per order. So Flash and I got our money orders prepared and each ordered the maximum number allowed for both nights. We went to the Richfield Post Office and at midnight of the date orders could be postmarked we dropped our order in the mail (along with probably 100 others lined up). We got lucky and each got four tickets for both nights. First night was with dates, second night with buddies. The April 27 performance is a huge bootleg bestseller on the black market. Full details on this night can be found here: https://doclehman.wordpress.com/2008/03/09/

New Year’s Eve 1977 was celebrated at the Richfield Coliseum seeing Todd Rundgren’s Utopia and Derringer. A friendly law enforcement officer stopped us on the way home and inquired about our health and sent us on our way after promises of getting to Orrville ASAP and staying there. Derringer owned the night.
 
I remember taking three or four people for their first Angel concert on March 8, 1978 and them being blown away by Angel’s stage show.

I remember the January 8, 1978 KISS concert at the Richfield Coliseum because it took 20-25 minutes to get there and after the show we went to the car to be greeted by a mountain of snow. We had two blizzards that year (the second one, even bigger, in March) and the night of KISS was the first one. It took nearly three hours to get home, dodging sliding cars going backwards down Route 21 past us as I kept the hammer down on the Cutlass trying to get up those big hills with what seemed like five feet of snow and more coming down. We made it back to Orrville and were snowed in for three days.

I remember seeing Alice Cooper again later that year in ’78 because that was the first concert my older sister Cheryl had ever been to (we broke her in with that one!). That was May 5 and Jay Ferguson opened. A good time was had by all, as is the case anytime you see Alice Cooper.

Boston and Sammy Hagar on my birthday in 1978. Boston was good but Sammy laid the smackdown.

In 1978 went to see Black Sabbath and Van Halen. Had heard maybe one or two Van Halen songs on the radio at that point and none of us that went gave them much thought. We were there for Sabbath. Result: Van Halen whipped Black Sabbath performance-wise and musically like a bastard redheaded stepchild.

New Year’s Eve 1978 at the Richfield Coliseum: Bruce Springsteen. Nuff’ said.
 
Ian Hunter & Mick Ronson on September 22, 1979. One of my favorite concerts at the Coliseum. Too many reasons to list. But what a night!

Ian Hunter & the late, great Mick Ronson

Ian Hunter & the late, great Mick Ronson

There’s more, lots more (Tubes, Babys), but you get the idea. I’d like to hear from others about their experiences at the Richfield Coliseum.


 I know I saw well over 100 bands there during the 70’s and very early 80’s. A couple performances I missed that I always regretted were not seeing George Harrison (’74) and Paul McCartney (’76) on their respective tours because tickets were mail order and my orders didn’t get picked. I also went as far as making plans to buy tickets to see Elvis in 1977. One of my cousins saw him at the Coliseum in ’75 and convinced me I had to see him at least once. But right before the Cleveland tickets went on sale he died.
 
Lots of good memories there and lots of good bands came through many times. I think I saw KISS there four or five times, Aerosmith the same, Alice Cooper four times, Fleetwood Mac four times, the list goes on….
 
With the opening of Gund Arena in Cleveland the Richfield Coliseum was doomed. It shut down in 1994 and in 1999 was demolished and the property returned to woodland and under stewardship of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.  You can find more info here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richfield_Coliseum  


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43 comments

  1. I was there to see Elton John twice. The first concert in 1974 was the first time I ever got high. I was there to see the Eagles in 1975(the worst date I ever had, but good concert.) I saw the Average White Band in 1976. Wild Cherry, from Youngstown opened. And I was there to see Rod Stewart in 1977. Enjoyed them all. One side note. I went to the Coliseum one morning in 1975 to get some Cavaliers tickets and was in a long line. I thought it was because the Cavs might make the playoffs and they were playing the Knicks. I found out after I bought my ticket that it was the morning that Elvis Presley tickets were going on sale.

    The game, though, was the first ever sellout of a Cavs game, and the Cavs won a close one. I couldn’t speak for two days afterward.


  2. i saw lynyrd skynyrd at richfiel coliseum,can you tell me the date and the song list please,i know they played free bird,i was there! my email is gwbarnes3@hotmail.com


  3. Hi
    I have a full set of photos from this show. I own the negatives and rights. They are awesome.
    The date for this show was 4/18/1976.
    If you are interested in seeing them let me know.
    I sell Lynyrd Skynyrd photos and have a website http://www.zebragrafix.com
    The photos I mention above are not yet posted to my site.
    I will be offering these for sale on Ebay soon.
    I noticed your post online at https://doclehman.wordpress.com/2008/08/17/richfield-coliseum-rocked/
    Hope this helps,
    Michael


  4. Didnt STYX The Grand Illusion open for Aerosmith? I saw most of those concerts, Thanks for the memories. some others are Iron Maiden, Judist Preist, Pink Floyd, also just up the road was The Blossom Music center.


  5. Ho ya, Richfield Coliseum is were we had our graduatin ceromony. Brunswick HS


  6. what? no MSB? I worked for a company that had a loge at the Coliseum and went to every concert I could from opening day to Apr ’81 when I moved out of town. Open bar, catered food, no lines in the john and WAY up there where the good smoke rises….. some of the best concerts I’ve ever seen were at Richfield.

    While I have to admit to a twinge of sadness when it was torn down, I always loved the MetroParks when I lived up there and reclaiming that site was an awesome idea. If you listen carefully, I’ll bet the ground still vibrates…… : D

    thanks for a great site!


  7. Does anyone remember the date of the last John Denver concert at the Coliseum?


  8. I think it was shortly before his death in 1997


  9. I have been a cleveander all my life I was at many shows at the colisium my 2 that I recall was jay giles I was dancing on stage the ballons were coming down I was then thrown into the crowd by a bouncer ps I did not even have a ticket for the show. that was the good old days many memories out in richfield.john the babys were great to many concerts to wite about. lets not forget about belkins and maduri productions that gave are era a name. sat in the limo with bob segar till security made me get out bob is A SWEETHEART


  10. I can definitely assure you that tickets for the Paul McCartney Wings Over America tour which landed at the Coliseum were not mail order. I know this because I skipped school that day to wait in line for tickets. And they were expensive tickets too! I think they were $9.50 each, back when many shows were in the $5-$6 range. Ah, the memories.

    That 1975 Zeppelin show was way oversold, and the story is that many ticket holders were denied entry when the fire marshals shut the doors. Apparently there were counterfeits about. Not surprisingly, some people were not pleased.

    So many good memories from this place. How about the Spring ’77 Eagles shows with Joe Walsh, hometown hero playing with the boys? Unbelievable. Little remembered fact is that Jimmy Buffett and his Coral Reefer band were a surprise opening act — not many knew who he was. He was introduced as Jimmy Bimini. Margaritaville hit not long thereafter.

    Bruce Springsteen played his first big arena gig right here in Richfield. February 1977. Apparently he had a phobia about big halls and for this show they hung a curtain across the hall. The show sold out in minutes, which was fast even for the times. $6.50 a pop.

    That Skynyrd show from 1976 was on Easter Sunday. It was a triple bill with the Outlaws opening, Golden Earring as support, and finally Skynyrd hit the stage. I’ve been seeing shows for over 30 years now and I can assure you that I have NEVER seen so many lighters lit for the encore as for that show. Not just a lot, but EVERY single person in there it seemed had a lighter up for the Freebird encore.

    Nice blog.


  11. The Palace on the Prairie “The Richfield Coliseum” was in my opinion THE best place to see a concert in Northeast Ohio. It was ahead of its time when it was built and its demise was way too soon. Do most people realize that the building was used for not even 20 years!?! A very sad fact about a once wonderful venue. I’ll never forget seeing Pink Floyd, Rush, Yes, Robert Plant, Joan Jett, INXS, Rod Stewart, Phil Collins, Fleetwood Mac, Peter Gabriel, Andrew Dice Clay, Aerosmith, Eric Clapton and many other great artists. It was easy to drive to from Youngstown, had plenty of parking and every seat was a good one because you were literally right on top of the action! Long live the 20 years of the Coliseum and the many memories it created for so many of us! -Kevin C


  12. i dont know how……but i got a row of floor seats from the richfield coliseum,well,i know how but you dont !


    • Do tell! Do tell!


      • If you went to the box office instead of Ticketron, they had stacks of tickets pre-pulled prior to the onsale.

        Most times you could buy as many as you wanted.

        July 1977 Yes we had the entire 15th row dead center, all sixteen seats. Section 2 for you who remember. Sections 1 and 3 only had 14 seats in each row.

        Good times.


  13. Wow yeppers I was at that 1978 kiss blizzard concert my first big one. I remeber coming outside with a damn windbreaker on the rain had froze over the car we were using lighters to get the key in. Anyone can tell me who the opener was I cant remember.


  14. In 74 or 75, that concert with J. Geils and Ted Nugent also had a third band. Does anyone remember that opening act?
    It’s making me crazy.


    • My wife and I (who did not meet until 10 or 11 years later) were both at the show and cannot remember the 3rd band either. She says maybe Jethro Tull? The more I think about it, she may be right. I hate Tull, though and can’t imagine forgetting that.

      BTW this was my first concert!

      Thanks

      Phil


      • It was not Tull. In 1974/75 Tull would have easily sold out the joint on their own.


    • I went to the J. Geils/Ted Nugent show. I rememeber Nugent swinging on a vine in a loincloth. Peter Wolf & Co. tore it up. The opening act was a hard rock band called Rex. The lead singer Rex Smith would score a hit single years later with a real wimpy tune called You Take My Breath Away. He was the younger brother of the lead singer of Starz. I remember lots of stupid shit!


    • The band was called Rex! The lead singer was Rex Smith who was later a teen heart throb ala David Cassidy & Donny Osmond. He was the brother of the lead singer of Starz.


  15. I moved away when I was 15, and only got to see Cavs games here. But the venue was visible from the upper floor of my junior high school in Cuyahoga Falls. I remember kids coming to school with $80 cash on the day Rush tickets went on sale. There were Journey T shirts abound at school after their three night run in 1983 with Bryan Adams opening. I remember a Duran Duran concert in early ’84 at the peak of their popularity on the night of a heavy snowstorm. Despite being a sellout, the turnout was slim. There were kids who attended concerts here and kids who didn’t. It was a true litmus test for being cool.


  16. I never attended an event there. Can you believe that? I am from Columbus and always heard about the place. Was driving down 77 the other day wondering where it was. Vaguely knew it was torn down. I am obsessed with abandoned buildings so I was just doing some research. Love all the facts I found.


  17. i saw many concerts there and have lots of pics from my 35m i would sneak in


  18. The Coliseum was an AWESOME place and holds so many special memories for me growing up. Went to many Cavs games over the years – the first in 1975-76 season.

    My first concert there was Elvis Presley, The date for the show was Oct. 23, 1976. A bootleg fan recording of the show exists. It is called “Royal Gambit in Richfield.” Check eBay!!

    It would be easier to mention who I DIDN’T see at the Coliseum. Living in Canton, we could run up Route 21 and be there in no time.

    Some of the shows that stand out are Springsteen multiple times, J. Geils in 1982; Foreigner and Billy Squier in 81; AC/DC in 1991 or 1992; Queen and Billy Squier; Def Leppard; The Who in 1982; The Stones in November of 1981; Robert Plant; Elton John; Chicago; Deep Purple (when they didn’t do “Smoke on the Water” – almost had a riot); Journey in 1982; Scorpions; Neil Diamond; Van Halen in 84; Kinks with Donnie Iris; REO Speedwagon; Pat Benatar. The list goes on …

    I saw Springsteen at the Q … just isn’t the same. Plus, for those of us to the south, the drive is longer and parking is terrible.

    The Coliseum had its drawbacks, but it was a great place for concerts and we sure had some fun!!!


  19. The coliseum opened the day i was born(monday oct 21 1974). My dad took me there several times for tractor& truck pulls,wwf matchs. The last event i seen there was a cavs game in 1993. I can remember the first time my dad took me there i was abot 7 or 8, driving into the parking lot this was the biggest building i had seen, it was so loud in there i loved it. My wife and I went to whiteys last year and drove up 303, you can see were the road widens to turn into the parking lot then stops. I miss it


  20. man, my friend and i saw a bunch of shows there. some of good ones were bob segar and sweet, segar played some tunes off his yet realeased album night moves ( man the memories ) and we wondered who the hell was sweet. saw springsteen new yrs. eve, good show 3 hrs if i remember right. the queen show when they toured on the news to the world album was awsome and of course a snow storm, being from norwalk it got crazy driving home stoned! those where truly the days of good music and a ton of fun, i know i’ll never forget them. rock on man!


    • Those WERE the days ! Tell me more of your memories….


  21. i saw KISS at the coliseum with vinnie vincent in 1983, i think. saw peter gabriel in 83 or 84.


  22. […] between Akron and Cleveland.   It was home to the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team, and the site of musical events too numerous to recount.  In 1987, probably bedecked in ruffles and paste pearls, I saw Madonna perform there. Cuyahoga […]


  23. No mention of any YES concerts? Pink Floyd or U2 Genesis the DEAD
    why they demolished this historic venue is beyond me…
    Think my parents went to the Sinatra concert only to miss alot because the traffic jam….
    The ole place will be in my memory and in my heart forever


  24. Ahhh.. The Coliseum. Hands down THE BEST venue for a rock concert. I thought the acoustics were awesome.7/31/82 my fist concert, Queen! My ears rang for 3 days, and I still have the T-shirt. After that it was nearly a monthly event. Whomever was playing, we were seeing. It was a drive to get there, but we didn’t mind. Tickets and gas were cheap back then. Getting out was a waiting game. We always figured an hour after the concert before you could leave the parking lot. I will always remember The Coliseum with fondness and sadness,as it, along with my youth, has passed. Good times.


  25. Wow, too many concerts there to remember. For any of you that took photos of concerts there, I am putting together a stage design blog and would appreciate any photos from concerts there. Please e-mail me. Thanks
    Ben


  26. I am thinking that the George Harrison concert in 1974 was cancelled due to snow. I had tickets but did not attend because of a blizzard. Can anyone confirm this?

    I worked there an usher during 1976 and 1977 while in high school. Saw many great concerts. My right ear still rings from the loud music.


    • George Harrison 1974 show was in fact cancelled because of the snow. I don’t think he ever played Cleveland again.

      The Grateful Dead also had their Saturday night show in March 1993 cancelled due to the “Storm of the Century”.


  27. My usual band of buddies made a large number of shows at the Coliseum and I recall out first trip. As mentioned, Elton was the first rock show and we made the drive from Sandusky. We had heard the venue also referred to as the Cleveland Coliseum so we thought it wouldn’t be much of a trip from the ‘Dusky. We soon learned. I was always impressed with the sight lines and the acoustics of the place, especially for its size.

    Aside from the tremendous headliners what has stuck out to me was the quality of the overall bills. The opening acts were incredible and that goes for the triple bills. While the shows run together I believe that on one occasion The Jam was the opening act for Blue Oyster Cult with Be Bop Deluxe the second act. Bruce Foxton may be the greatest bass player I have ever seen only to be followed by Bill Nelson, wow. BOC speaks for itself because that was during their peak. Somebody posted about Yes and I have agree. The three-headed dragon and associated light and laser show was beyond description, that might have been a “Close to the Edge” show. A Relayer show a few years later was right up there. Jon Anderson’s vocal performance of Heart of the Sunrise is still burned into my memory as perhaps the greatest I’ve ever heard, it still makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

    So many shows, but I don’t want to hog the old band width. Thanks for the forum, Doc.


  28. Blue Oyster Cult put on the first ever laser beam show on new years eve of 76 if my memory serves me.GREAT !!!


    • I was at that Jam, Be Bop Deluxe, Blue Oyster Cult show. I remember how hard BOC rocked – incredible. So many concerts and so many memories from Richfield.


  29. Parents took me to the circus a handful of times here in the mid-80’s. My last visit was in ’90 for a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles concert with my best friend, Amanda. I had heard about the concert on the radio and BEGGED my mom to buy tix and take us. She vowed it would be the last time…she didn’t appreciate her purse being searched at the door and the restrooms were nasty-dirty.


  30. i saw the dead there in1995 we slept out in the woods by the coliseum all 3 nights it was great


  31. I saw Duran Duran there in 84(my step dad was brave taking me and a bunch of my screaming preteen girlfriends)….U2 “Unforgettable Fire” tour like 85? and then in 89 Metallica’s “And Justice For All” tour. In January of 90 for the Grateful Dead…that was a life changer- with the parking lot full of cool little kiosks of health foods, tie dyes, balloons of “whippits” and psychedelia abounding. My Grandparents lived up the road in Hinkley- super hick farm land roads to get to the Coliseum. Great memories.
    Blossom Music Center was fun too. Loverboy/ Quiet Riot in 83…then a bunch of late 80s obscura- INXS, Berlin, Thompson Twins…i grew out of arena rock and found hardcore punk at small intimate venues downtown…life changing/ rebellion.
    oh to be a teen in Cleveland in the 80s.


  32. Wow I Saw Many Of The Same Concerts As Did The Writer Of This Article..Led Zep, Queen,Aerosmith & KISS Everytime THey Played There..I Ended Up Touring With Peter Criss Of Kiss I Too Was There March 9,1976..Funny Story There I Went To See Boston First Tour There Open For Black Sabbath With Ozzie..I’m Walking After The Concert In A Packed HallWay I Hear People Saying That Dude Is Going To Pass Out,Well Shit That Dude Was Me,I Caught My Senses & Went Out The First Door Going Outside In That Fricken Blizzard Woke My Butt Up..Bad Thing The Car Was On The Other Side I Frooze Getting To It..I Guess I Listened To Murray Sauls On WMMS On Partied A Little To Much…Search Youtube “Ray Carrion” & Check Me Out With Peter Criss & Ace Of KISS…


  33. I worked there for 3 1/2 years as one of your ultra cool security people. It was a blast, most fun I’ve ever had in law enforcement along with working the World Series of Rock events. Except for the Kiss concert when the blizzard blew thru. We were stuck with more than 100 people inside for hours. After we cleared the people out, I was stuck on the clock working for 3 solid days and nights. On the 4th day, someone was able to get thru and I was able to get to the Holiday Inn in Richfield to shower, change and sleep in a bed. Those were the days.


  34. First concert I ever went to… Rush, second show “Moving Pictures” tour. Didn’t even like Rush but a couple of non-driving friends gave me a ticket if I took them. Well… I was blown away. Missed one Rush tour since that night, “Grace Under Pressure”. Must have been to 30 or so concerts at the “Big House on the Prairie”…


  35. Hi: I am from Vancouver Canada and am amazed at everyones memories. Shit, what an era to grow up in ! Our “Pacific” Coliseum [opened in 1968] hosted many of the same acts, and is STILL an operating venue in 2013 !! Sadly, Sir Paul McCartney never played in our coliseum, nor did Elvis. For Richfields Colisum to last LESS than 20 years is a joke. That place should still be there ! Keep the memories coming….its great reading !!



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