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Jammin’ at the stadium: A look back at Tampa Bay’s biggest concerts

Bill DeYoung

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Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant at Tampa Stadium, May 5, 1973. Photo by Rick Norcross.

From the road, the two venues appeared pretty much the same. Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was constructed in 1999 – bigger, higher, more modern and certainly more comfortable than the aging Tampa Stadium it replaced at 4201 N. Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa.

There’s been football at that address since the mid 1960s, and five Super Bowls – including the 2021 edition, in which the Bucs defeated the Kansas City Chiefs – have been held there.

But Raymond James Stadium, like its predecessor, is also one of Florida’s most spectacular outdoor concert venues. With a capacity of up to 75,000, it is the ideal location for major musical stars – the biggest of the big – to bring high-tech, explosive productions to massive crowds of fans.

Earlier this month, Beyonce packed the place, a virtual repeat feat from her previous RayJay performance in 2016; Taylor Swift, who’d also filled the stands in 2016 and 2018, sold out three consecutive nights this past April.

However, with seven concert appearances since 1999, country music superstar Kenny Chesney is the Raymond James concert MVP.

There have been many repeat performers over the years, mostly from the rock ‘n’ roll 1970s, when outdoor stadium concerts, in the wake of Woodstock, became acceptable and commercially viable. Those were the acts deemed too popular to squeeze into Curtis Hixon Hall, the Bayfront Center or the Lakeland Civic Center.

Ten dollars would have been an unusually high ticket price in those innocent days.

This list was compiled from a number of sources, including online concert databases, ticket stubs and newspaper ads, listings, reviews and article archives. As with our previous story about Curtis Hixon Hall, neither the city nor the venue administration (in this case, Tampa Sports Authority) kept files on concerts, which are technically rental events. Every attempt was made to cross-check this information with other sources.

Tampa Stadium. Postcard image.

Tampa Stadium

Built in 1967 as a home for the University of Tampa Spartans football team, it was hoped – by the Tampa Sports Authority, which had been created for the purpose – to attract NFL exhibition games (which happened almost immediately) and an expansion team for the city (this would take eight years). High school and college ball was played there regularly. It was home to the Tampa Bay Bandits of the United States Football League, and the Tampa Bay Mutiny and the Tampa Bay Rowdies, two professional league soccer teams. Vice president Spiro Agnew gave a speech in the stadium in 1969; Billy Graham was there 10 years later with a week-long “crusade.” Original capacity was 46,000, and the north and south end zones were open, although temporary bleachers could be placed in one or both endzones if needed, adding several thousand seats. After a 1975 expansion filled in the endzones with permanent seating, the stadium’s unusual hybrid high-top appearance resulted in the nickname “The Big Sombrero.”

Concerts

6-15-69 James Brown. Rain-delayed for two hours, the stadium’s first big-name concert was the summer kickoff for the Mayor’s Council on Youth Activity summer recreation program. 8,000 people heard opening sets from the Tampa Police Band and the Princeton Footnotes a capella group before the Godfather of Soul appeared.

3-4-72 Chuck Berry, Spirit, Cactus, James Cotton

3-25-72 Joe Cocker

4-30-72 Rod Stewart & Faces, Free

7-1-72 Three Dog Night, Humble Pie, Buddy Miles

3-10-73 Leon Russell

3-24-73 Santana, Bobby Womack

The east stands during Led Zeppelin’s history-making show in 1973. Photo by Rick Norcross.

5-5-73 Led Zeppelin. Just three years earlier, Led Zeppelin had played for 7,000 at Curtis Hixon Hall. The band’s rise was meteoric, and this show – touring behind the just-released Houses of the Holy album – attracted 57,000, breaking the Beatles’ record for attendance at a single concert. Four years later, Zeppelin was back at Tampa Stadium, with a decidedly different result.

5-26-73 Chicago, Steely Dan. On Steely Dan’s second-to-last heyday tour– plugging Countdown to Ecstasy – Donald Fagen, Walter Becker, Jeff Baxter and the other musicians wore matching baseball caps and unfirms with STEELY DAN stenciled on the front. The St. Petersburg Times critic wrote than the ‘Dan stole the show, and Chicago was listless and boring.

6-16-73 Deep Purple, Blue Oyster Cult, Savoy Brown, Billy Preston

6-29-73 Pink Floyd. Dark Side of the Moon had reached No. 1 on the American charts two weeks before, and would go on to become one of the bestselling albums of all time. This show has been heavily bootlegged. 

12-9-73 Allman Brothers Band, Wet Willie. Rescheduled from Dec. 8, which was totally rained out.

12-22-73 Alice Cooper, ZZ Top

2-9-74 Yes. Tales From Topographic Oceans tour.

3-17-74 Chicago, Lynyrd Skynyrd

3-30-74 Grand Funk Railroad

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Aug. 23, 1974. Photo by Rick Norcross.

8-23-74 Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Jesse Colin Young. Stephen Stills once told a reporter, half-seriously, that this reunion tour was strictly “for the money.” An under-rehearsed band, a generally arrogant attitude (it’s become historically known as both “The Cocaine Tour” and “The Doom Tour”) meant that things were pretty ragged. Neil Young looked as if he’d rather be anywhere else. Big moment: As he attempted to play the plaintive piano ballad “Simple Man” for the restless and sweaty late afternoon crowd of 42,000, Graham Nash became rattled by an exploding firecracker near the stage. He stormed off, prompting Stills to emerge from the sidelines and chide the audience, saying he’d gone to Plant High School (true) and he knew just what sort of person would do such a nasty thing. “We’re trying our best to keep our shit together,” he said, “so I would suggest that you do the same.” Nash would return later, but the “bad show” vibe never went away.

1974: The National Football League awards Tampa Bay an expansion team; with a $13 million price tag, the end zones are closed up, increasing capacity to 72,000. Luxury suites are added. The Buccaneers will begin seasonal play in 1976.

4-5-75 Doobie Brothers, Marshall Tucker Band, Outlaws, Baker-Gurvitz Army. Controversy erupted when stadium officials – perhaps because of the ongoing expansion project – refused to allow the promoter to sell any tickets on the west side of the stadium. So the 35,000 that attended were jammed into the east side stands and on the playing field, while guards kept everybody off the “closed” side.

5-31-75 Eagles, Seals & Crofts, Linda Ronstadt, Charlie Daniels Band

6-14-75 Eric Clapton

8-5-75 Santana

6-26-76 Yes, J. Geils Band, Charlie Daniels Band

7-4-76 Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Loggins & Messina, Dan Fogelberg. The bay area’s big Bicentennial Bash found pre-Rumours Fleetwood Mac sharing top billing with pre-Hotel California Eagles. Within a year, both bands would only get bigger.

7-31-76 Jethro Tull, Robin Trower, Point Blank. Tull’s Too Old to Rock ‘n’ Roll, Too Young to Die extravaganza, with giant-screen “Tullavision.” A video is available on YouTube.

4-24-77 Pink Floyd. The second show on the big-production Animals tour. Stadium management refused to allow the 40-foot inflatable pig to hover over the crowd, saying high winds could snap its cable. So there were video projections but no inflatables. Both the St. Petersburg Times and the Tampa Tribune called the performance “weak.”

6-3-77 Led Zeppelin. One for the record books. Zeppelin (touring the poorly-received Presence) stopped playing after three songs, as a thunderstorm threatened overhead. Robert Plant promised the crowd of 70,000 the band would be back after they waited out the rain; when they didn’t return, a “riot” erupted, resulting in multiple injuries (fans and police officers), numerous arrests and a pledge from the Tampa Sports Authority that there would be no more rock ‘n’ roll at Tampa Stadium for half a year.

7-2-77 Emerson, Lake & Palmer (canceled). ELP was hemorrhaging money dragging a 70-piece orchestra around the country, and had just decided to send them all home, continuing the tour on budget, as a trio. Only 600 tickets had been sold in by June – so coupled with fallout from the Zeppelin fiasco, canceling this show was an easy call.

1-26-80 Eagles, Jimmy Buffett. Apparently, enough time had elapsed since the riot of ‘77. The Eagles were touring The Long Run (their last album for 27 years) and Buffett had just released the smash hit Volcano.

5-14-83 Charlie Daniels Band

1-22-84 Barry Manilow performs the National Anthem at Super Bowl XVII.

12-785 Rod Stewart, The Hooters, Starship

7-4-87 Whitney Houston, Beach Boys, Starship

9-19-87 David Bowie. The Glass Spider Tour.

10-30-87 Pink Floyd. Touring A Momentary Lapse of Reason.

12-5-87 U2, Los Lobos, Buckwheat Zydeco. U2 riding high with The Joshua Tree.

3-28-88 George Strait, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Lee Ann Womack, John Michael Montgomery, Asleep at the Wheel

Eddie Van Halen, “Monsters of Rock” tour, June 5, 1988. Photo by Christopher Lee Helton.

6-5-88 Van Halen, Scorpions, Metallica, Kingdom Come, Dokken. The Monsters of Rock tour.

7-2-88 Rod Stewart, Hall & Oates, Chicago

7-29-89 The Who

10-26-88 George Michael

11-18-89 Rolling Stones, Living Colour. The Stones’ Steel Wheels tour, their last with founding bassist Bill Wyman.

4-12-90 Paul McCartney. The ex-Beatle’s first show in Florida since the Fab Four played Jacksonville in 1964.

Whitney Houston and the Florida Orchestra, Jan. 27, 1991. Photo: Wiki Commons.

1-27-91 Whitney Houston and the Florida Orchestra perform the National Anthem at Super Bowl XXV. This becomes an unlikely hit record (like many outdoor “performances,” it had been pre-recorded in a studio). In 2001, the orchestra sued Arista Records over unpaid royalties on the release. The suit was later dropped.

5-17-92 Genesis

10-10-92 U2, Public Enemy

10-18-92 Spin Doctors, Bad Company, Stranger

5-6-94 Pink Floyd. Touring The Division Bell.

11-22-94 Rolling Stones, Spin Doctors. The Stones are promoting Voodoo Lounge.

4-7-95 Grateful Dead, Black Crowes. The Dead’s last-ever bay area show; Jerry Garcia died five months later.

4-11-95 Elton John & Billy Joel

1995: Businessman Malcom Glazer purchases the Buccaneers for $192 million; he re-names the venue Houlihan’s Stadium, after one of his properties (even through there are no Houlihan’s restaurants in Florida).

11-10-97 U2, Third Eye Blind (as Houlihan’s Stadium)

Raymond James Stadium. Photo: Wiki Commons.

Raymond James Stadium

The Tampa Sports Authority had long had its eye on a more modern stadium with better amenities. At a cost of $169 million, this was built slightly south of the old stadium, on the site of the former Al Lopez Field, and officially opened Sept. 20, 1998. Raymond James Financial bought the naming rights – after several extensions, it is set to expire in 2027.

Tampa Stadium was torn down piece by piece, and the skeleton was imploded on April 11, 1998.

Malcom Glaser died in 2014. His family still owns the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Concerts

3-27-99 George Strait, Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, Dixie Chicks, Jo Dee Messina, Mark Wills, Asleep at the Wheel

1-28-01 Aerosmith and Britny Spears (separately) perform the halftime show at Super Bowl XXV.

7-31-01 N’Sync

10-6-03 Santana

7-1-06 Kenny Chesney, Gretchen Wilson, Big & Rich, Dierks Bentley, Carrie Underwood

5-11-08 Shinedown, Three Doors Down, Theory of a Deadman, Five Finger Death Punch

12-6-08 Blake Shelton

2-1-09 Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band perform the halftime show at Super Bowl XLIII.

10-9-09 U2

3-19-11 Kenny Chesney, Billy Currington, Zac Brown Band

6-2-12 Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, Grace Potter & the Nocturnals

3-16-13 Kenny Chesney, Eric Church

Harry Styles on the video screen during One Direction’s concert Oct. 3, 2014. Screengrab from fan video.

10-3-14 One Direction

8-22-15 Jodeci, Dru Hill, 2 Live Crew, Trick Daddy, SWV

10-31-15 Taylor Swift. The 1989 Tour.

4-29-16 Beyonce. The Formation World Tour.

6-14-17 U2

4-21-18 Kenny Chesney

8-14-18 Taylor Swift. The Reputation Stadium Tour.

11-7-18 Ed Sheeran

9-8-19 Tim McGraw (pre-game concert)

2-7-21 The Weeknd performs the halftime show at Super Bowl LV.

10-29-21 Rolling Stones

3-19, 3-20-22 Green Day, Lumineers, Goo Goo Dolls, O.A.R., Incubus, 311, Jimmy Eat World, Neon Trees. Incubus Festival.

4-23-22 Kenny Chesney

6-14-22 Coldplay

8-4-22 The Weeknd

3-18, 3-19-23 Dave Matthews Band, Marcus Mumford, Avett Brothers, Third Eye Blind, Imagine Dragons, Weezer, Pitbull. Innings Festival.

Taylor Swift during the April 14 “Eras” show. Photo by Mardi Bell Bessello.

4-13, 4-14, 4-15-23 Taylor Swift. The Eras Tour. A total of 206,000 fans over three days.

5-20-23 Ed Sheeran

7-8, 7-8-23 Luke Combs

8-5-23 George Strait, Chris Stapleton

8-16-23 Beyonce. The Renaissance World Tour.

 

 

 

 

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1 Comment

1 Comment

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    Chuck Bonnell

    August 26, 2023at11:25 am

    I was at that concert that was a hell of a riot they had at that concert.

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