Saturday, August 21, 2010

Memorial Hall, Kansas City Kansas

Last fall I began taking photographs of the many places I have seen rock concerts over the years.  And there have been a lot of them.  Gradually one by one, I will cover them here on my webpage.  I have decided, for no particular reason, to start with Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kansas. 

You see here a photo I took of the majestic front entrance of the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall.  The venue opened in 1925 and has been the site of countless concerts, speeches, sporting events, and other gatherings over the years.  The main arena holds 3,500 people. 1,000 can be seated on the floor, with 2,500 in the surrounding seats and balconies.  Upstairs there is a banquet hall that seats 500, and is often used for large wedding receptions. 

Photo from inside lobby looking towards entrance doors.

On March 3, 1963, when I was 15 days old, Patsy Cline played the final concert of her life right here in Memorial Hall.  The concert was a benefit show for the family of "Cactus Jack Call", a local disc jockey who had died in a car wreck. Two days later she died in a plane crash while en route from Kansas City to Nashville.  During the 1970's, Thursday night professional wrestling was very popular at Memorial Hall.  Now they regularly hold Mixed Martial Arts competitions.

View from stage looking out into arena.

Based on my recollections and concert ticket stub collection, I have concluded I have seen four concerts in Memorial Hall.  The first was in June, 1985, and the band was Tears For Fears.  They were a popular New Wave synth band in the mid 80's, and I saw them on the tour for their very successful "Songs From the Big Chair" album. 

Number one album for 5 weeks in 1985.

Tears For Fears was essentially a duo with a backing band.  I had started listening to them in 1983 with their album "The Hurting".  Songs From the Big Chair had a more commercial sound, and proved to be popular worldwide.  Four long years passed after Songs From the Big Chair until their next album, then they kind of ended their working relationship and went their separate ways.  Finally, about five years ago, they reconciled and toured again, and I saw them at a casino in Kansas City.  I don't have a ticket stub from the 1985 concert, none of my old stubs from prior to 1988 have survived.

The next Memorial Hall concert I attended was the best of the four.  The performer was Lou Reed.  The date was April 10, 1989.  Reed was a member of the 1960's band the Velvet Underground.  That band had a strong connection with Andy Warhol and was part of the New York avant garde world.  They never sold many albums, but were extremely influential and broke down a lot of doors that later bands passed through to greater success.  It is for their important influence that they were elected in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.  I  have also seen another member of the Velvet Underground in concert, a man named John Cale.

Through the 1970's and 80's Lou Reed released a series of gritty, harsh solo albums.  He covers a lot of ground that most artists won't.  His songs often discuss the hard life of the unfortunate addicts, prostitutes, hustlers, and homeless of the New York streets.  He is as much poet as musician, and he comes closer to speaking than singing in most of his songs.  In January, 1989 he released the album New York, and I immediately liked the song "Dirty Blvd". 

Lou Reed's "New York" album cover.

He was still singing about the underbelly of New York, only he was surrounding himself with top-knotch musicians and writing songs that were more accessible. The whole New York album really appealed to me.  He was already kind of an elder statesman of rock even back in 1989 and was greeted warmly by the audience all evening.  He had chain link fence, trash barrels, graffiti, and other things strewn about the stage to give the appearance of giving the concert from some vacant lot in New York.  I still chuckle to myself as I remember a guy just a few feet to my right who was so drunk he literally just fell down on the floor and passed out right in the middle of the show.  I can still remember everyone around laughing at him.

It's now March 19, 1994 and the band is UB40.  They are a reggae band from England.  They formed in 1978, and at that time UB40 was the number of the government form you filled out to request unemployment benefits. 

I first saw UB40 back in 1983 in Kemper Arena when they were the opening act for the Police on their Synchronicity tour.  I had been listening to UB40's Labor of Love album ever since it came out the previous year, so I was glad to see them with the Police.  The 1994 concert, however, just wasn't that inspired.  They seemed kind of bored, and didn't interact with the audience much. 

UB40 in the 1980's.

I was invited to go to the concert literally 2 hours before it began, so maybe I just didn't have time to get psyched up or something, but whenever I think of that show it's always with a sense of "it was ok, but not great". 

The last concert I've seen to date at Memorial was the alternative rock band Everclear, on June 16, 1998.  They were around the peak of their popularity.  It was during the tour for the album So Much For the Afterglow. The concert included two other bands that were hot at the time- Marcy Playground and Fastball. 

Sponsored by Doc Martens, of course.

For a long time Everclear was Lyndy's favorite band.  During their mid to late 1990's heyday she saw them in concert many times.  We have determined that this particular Everclear show at Memorial was one of two or three concerts we both attended before we knew each other. 

The So Much For the Afterglow album cover.

My strongest memory of this show was of the leader of Everclear, Art Alexakis, playing a different guitar on almost every song, and every one of them was a Gibson.  He had a very flashy, glittery, gold colored Les Paul that he seemed to favor that night.  I remember him being pretty profane as he talked to the audience.  It was good show and I remember the crowd seemed to really get into it.

So that concludes the tour of my Memorial  Hall concerts.  Considering how many concerts I've been to, four is not that many for such a cool old building.  It doesn't have the greatest acoustic sound in it.  There isn't a parking lot, you park on the streets in the surrounding neighborhoods.  But I'm glad they keep the old barn up and running in this, it's 85th year.  I took the photos of the outside of the building.  The interiors are from the Memorial Hall webpage.


  1. Hi Darren,
    I'm writing The Encyclopedia Of Jerry Garcia Music Venues. I'm interested in using the top photo. I'd need it at least 1mb or larger. Please email me at

    Thank you
    Harry Angus