Tag Archives: 1981 concerts

Ray Charles, November 13 1981, Mershon Auditorium, Columbus Ohio

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I had the good fortune of seeing Ray Charles perform twice, and this was the first — and far more memorable — of the two.

The concert itself was killer. Ray was backed by a full jazz ensemble, plus backup singers the Raelettes, and the stage was full of energy and excitement. They played well-known tracks like “What’d I Say?” “Georgia on my Mind,” “Take These Chains From my Heart” and “Hit the Road Jack,” as well as songs I wasn’t familiar with. Thanks to my close relationship with the promoter, I was able to sit in the 6th row, center section, to take it all in.

As memorable as the concert was, the real highlights for me came before the show. Because of my connection to the promoter — OK, it was my dad — I was able to hang out for a couple hours before the show to watch the sound check and other preparations. I also got to meet and shake hands with Ray Charles himself — something you can bet I mention if I’m talking to someone and the topic of meeting famous people ever comes up.

While meeting Ray was certainly a thrill, the thing that impressed me the most about that evening was watching the sound check. When Ray first arrived backstage, he was treated like the legend he was, and seemed to enjoy all the glad-handing and fawning he got from people. But when the sound check began, he was all business. He repeatedly would stop mid-song and tell a horn player to come in earlier on the stabs, or tell the bass player to loosen the groove, or tell one of the Raelettes to sing louder or softer. Sometimes he would run the band through a particular measure four or five times before he was satisfied. I was amazed at how he could focus on each element of the orchestra, picking out things that the audience never would have noticed. It was then I realized I wasn’t just watching some famous guy, but a real musical genius.

Bruce Springsteen, October 4 1980, Riverfront Coliseum, Cincinnati Ohio

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The first time I ever saw Bruce Springsteen perform wasn’t at this concert. It was at the sound check to this concert, a couple hours before showtime. My dad drove some friends and I from Columbus to Cincinnati for this, and I’m still not sure how it worked out that we got there so early and that we were allowed to go in for the sound check, but we did. Bruce and the E Street Band played three songs during the sound check, but the only one I’m sure of is “Growing Up.”

This show happened about a week before The River was released, and this was in the days before new albums would get leaked weeks or months before their release date, so the crowd mostly wasn’t familiar with the songs they played from that album. But it was a typical three hour-plus show, so there was no shortage of well-known songs, too.

Here’s the setlist, pulled from another site. Talk about ending strong.

Prove it All Night / Badlands / Tenth Avenue Freeze Out / Darkness on the Edge of Town / Wreck on the Highway / Jackson Cage / Factory / The Promised Land / Out in the Street / Racing in the Street / The River / Thunder Road / Cadillac Ranch / Fire / Sherry Darling / I Wanna Marry You / The Ties That Bind / Point Blank / Crush On You / Ramrod / Independence Day / Because the Night / Backstreets / Rosalita / Born to Run / Jungleland / Detroit Medley

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The River turned out to be a big hit for Springsteen, and he and the band came back to Cincinnati for another show nine months later on another leg of the same tour. That time the songs from The River were very well-known to the crowd, and when the band played “Hungry Heart,” Bruce let the crowd sing the whole first verse.

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 I saw Springsteen again in 1984, this time in Cleveland, as part of the Born in the USA tour.

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With that album also being a huge hit, Bruce again came back around for another tour the following year, and I saw him at Cleveland Municpal Stadium again.

While I was a big Springsteen fan in the early ’80s and enjoyed all of his shows, I really got turned off by the way he kept jacking up the ticket prices each year. If you look at these stubs, you’ll see that he charged $6.50 in 1980, $12.50 in 1981 and $15.00 in 1984. It’s not visible on the 1985 ticket, but he charged $24.50 for that show, which I thought was outrageously high. Of course, he’s charging upwards of $100/ticket these days.