On the Scene: Blaisdell memories

Jan. 12, 2014 | 1 Comment

BY JOHN BERGER / jberger@staradvertiser.com

I can’t begin to count all the concerts, shows and other events I’ve seen in the Neal S. Blaisdell arena, concert hall and exhibition hall, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Here are 11 that stand out for various reasons:

Herman’s Hermits and the Dave Clark Five (1966)

The Dave Clark Five did a public meet-and-greet before their show. I took my favorite Dave Clark Five album. They all signed it.

The Rolling Stones (1966)

Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones performed for more than 8,000 fans at what was then known as the Honolulu International Center Arena in 1966. (Star-Advertiser File)

Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones performed for more than 8,000 fans at what was then known as the Honolulu International Center Arena in 1966. (Star-Advertiser File)

The Stones’ first concert in Hawaii was over in less than 30 minutes. Bassist Bill Wyman barely changed position from start to finish, and Brian Jones spent much of the show standing with his feet pointing straight forward and his knees turned in. It looked very strange.

Smokey Robinson & The Miracles Farewell Tour (1972)

Robinson had been one of my favorite performers and songwriters for more than a decade. His decision to leave the Miracles was the end of an era.

Japanese Pro Wrestlers (1977)

The Beauty Pair, wrestler/recording artists Maki and Jackie, beat the Black Pair and then did a concert.

“The Ultimate Event” with Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., and Liza Minnelli (1989)

From left, Liza Minelli, Sammy Davis Jr. and Frank Sinatra on stage at Blaisdell Arena in the first of two 1989 performances. (Star-Advertiser File)

From left, Liza Minelli, Sammy Davis Jr. and Frank Sinatra on stage at Blaisdell Arena in the first of two 1989 performances. (Star-Advertiser File)

Davis and Minnelli were sharp, Sinatra seemed less so, but there was no question that Sinatra was the headliner.

UB40 (1993)

UB40 lead singer Ali Campbell. (Star-Advertiser File)

UB40 lead singer Ali Campbell. (Star-Advertiser File)

By the end of the show everyone in the arena level “double letter” sections was standing on the seats of their chairs. Some were standing on the arms on the chairs. It was the only show I’ve ever seen in the arena where the ushers stepped back and let a crowd go for it.

“Les Miserables” (1996)

Hawaii resident Janel Parrish was part of the 1996 cast of "Les Miserables" at the Blaisdell Concert Hall. (Star-Advertiser File)

Hawaii resident Janel Parrish was part of the 1996 cast of “Les Miserables” at the Blaisdell Concert Hall. (Star-Advertiser File)

The national road show production of “Les Miz” opened in Honolulu in the Blaisdell Concert Hall with Moanalua Elementary School student Janel Parrish, 7, as Little Cosette. Parrish had demonstrated her vocal talent as the winner of local talent contests. “Les Miz” showed she could do musical theater as well.

Snoop Dogg and Ludacris (2001)

Snoop Dogg performed at the Waikiki Shell in 2005 after a lackluster performance at Blaisdell Arena a few years earlier. (Star-Advertiser File)

Snoop Dogg performed at the Waikiki Shell in 2005 after a lackluster performance at Blaisdell Arena a few years earlier. (Star-Advertiser File)

One of the worst shows I have ever seen at the Blaisdell sputtered through almost three hours of appallingly bad filler acts and lengthly periods when there was no entertainment at all before Ludacris finally performed. He did a fine job, but there was another hour of dead air after his set before Snoop Dogg deigned to perform. In retrospect the show is most notable as the Honolulu debut of comedian Jo Koy, who won the crowd over time and time again despite being stuck with the nightmare assignment of having to repeatedly tell an angry audience the two main acts hadn’t arrived yet. Koy “paid his dues” in full that night.

Ben Vereen with the Honolulu Symphony (2009)

Ben Vereen. (Star-Advertiser File)

Ben Vereen. (Star-Advertiser File)

The union musicians had played their contracted time but Vereen wasn’t ready to quit. He told the concert hall audience that if it was OK with them, he and his personal musicians were going to do a few more songs. Vereen then asked symphony guitarist Zanuck Lindsey if he’s join them. Lindsey did, and when Vereen asked for “Over the Rainbow” in E-flat, Lindsey played it for him.

Glen Campbell (2012)

Glen Campbell performs at the Blaisdell Concert Hall on Sunday, Sept. 2. (Photo by Kat Wade, Special to the Star-Advertiser)

Glen Campbell performs at the Blaisdell Concert Hall in 2012. (Star-Advertiser File)

Everyone in the concert hall knew that Campbell had Alzheimer’s and was experiencing sporadic memory loss. Everyone in the audience was pulling for him to get through the show without problems. He did!

Alan Jackson (2013)

Alan Jackson performs at Blaisdell Arena in February. (Star-Advertiser File)

Alan Jackson performs at Blaisdell Arena in February. (Star-Advertiser File)

Jackson did all the songs his fans could reasonably ask for, was on stage in the arena for more than 90 minutes, and spent several minutes signing things that fans handed up to him. It was the first concert I’ve seen where fans asked a star to autograph their footwear.
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John Berger has been a mainstay in the local entertainment scene for more than 40 years. Contact him via email at jberger@staradvertiser.com.

  • John Wong

    Charice performed @ Blaisdell on November 3, 2012 as the last stop of her Infinity Tour.