The Metrodome's musical history: A look back

The Metrodome's musical history: A look back
Photo by Bobak Ha'Eri

On Sunday, the final Vikings' game will take place at the Metrodome, their indoor football home since 1982. And beginning shortly afterward, the Dome will be demolished in order to build the new Vikings stadium. In addition to all of the unforgettable (but mostly frustrating) sports' memories that have occurred under the white Teflon ceiling of the Dome, there were some truly massive music events that took place in the Metrodome over the years.

So, as we all say goodbye -- or good riddance -- to the Homer Dome, we can also take a look back at some of the memorable concerts that happened under the artificial sky of the Metrodome.

There never really was a small production put on in the Dome (other than those poorly attended Gopher football games of the early '90s). And any concert that was set to take place there was going to be a big one -- in scale, scope, and especially name recognition.

While younger music fans only know of the Metrodome parking lot as playing host to the initial offering of the Soundset festival in 2008, the Dome itself hosted some enormous musical gigs beginning in the mid-80's. Most notably, the Grateful Dead/Bob Dylan/Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers triple-bill in 1986, a wildly successful and ambitious tour that led Dylan to collaborate and record more frequently with the Dead and Petty in later years.

Pink Floyd brought their towering light and laser show (but not Roger Waters) to the Dome on two separate occasions -- in 1988 on their Momentary Lapse of Reason tour, and in support of The Division Bell in 1994.

Not to be outdone, the Rolling Stones played the Dome multiple times -- a two night stint in November of 1989 as part of the Steel Wheels tour, on their Voodoo Lounge tour in 1994 (sadly, the only time that I've ever seen the Stones), and a Bridges to Babylon concert in 1997.

The Guns N' Roses, Metallica, and Faith No More show on September 15, 1992 is one of my favorite personal Metrodome musical memories, as the two hard rock titans (and the buzz-band du jour Faith No More) sold-out the Dome, with 50,000+ head-banging fans packing the place. I was one of the 5,000 or so dedicated fans who showed up early to see Faith No More, a move which ended up making for an over seven-hour concert experience. And while the sound was a bit echoey at times, the show was an absolute spectacle, with all three bands delivering inspired, deafening sets that ended with actual fireworks. As with any concert at the Dome (or most games, for that matter), you just felt like you were part of a big event.

The same can be said for U2's memorable show at the Metrodome just days before Halloween in 1997. The band brought their enormous PopMart tour into Minneapolis, and damn near blew the roof off of the place. Their lengthy set that night was filled one anthem after another, as well as the over-the-top bravado and showmanship of Bono. I remember they even briefly worked a bit of Prince's "Sexy M.F." into the start of their encore, as a knowing nod to one of Minnesota's most famous musical sons. It was a grand, electrifying performance that used the surroundings and space of the Dome to the band's advantage, and certainly will go down as one of the best moments, musical or otherwise, of the Dome's long history.

Metallica also took part in the Monsters of Rock tour in 1988, but their appeal was still growing at the time and they ended up serving as an opening act for Scorpions and headliners, Van Halen. Metallica also came back in 2003, headlining their Summer Sanitarium tour which was another rousing success for the Dome and for Minnesota metalheads.

Classic rock and metal always drew well in the Metrodome. Genesis played to a big crowd in 1992, and Paul McCartney filled the place for his special performance in 1993. Metal fans swarmed to the Dome for Ozzfest in 1997, as Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne rocked the packed Metrodome, along with Marilyn Manson, Pantera and other heavy hitters.

For most of these shows, the sound was iffy at best, and the views from the cheap seats weren't all that good -- but the sheer spectacle and massive quality of these events were enough to draw in enormous crowds and send most of them home happy. In this day and age, most concerts will never come close to approaching the sheer size and scope of the concerts held at the Dome, and for that reason those shows and the Metrodome itself should be celebrated. It was the age of excess, and the Dome properly fit the bill as the host with the most.

The music industry itself has changed drastically over the years, and traveling tours featuring musical behemoths just don't happen with much frequency anymore. Headliners are far more greedy and want to have the spotlight all to themselves -- because touring is where nearly all of their money comes from in this digital age where album sales are sluggish at best. While music fans are interested in experiencing more intimate shows that bring their favorite artists closer to them (while raising ticket costs considerably).

I just hope that the new Vikings stadium takes its cues from both Target Field and TCF Bank Stadium, and looks to host music events that add to the long legacy of spectacular shows that have taken place in the stadiums and arenas of the Twin Cities.

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