Bruce Springsteen, Venue Promoters Help Say Goodbye To L.A. Sports Arena

Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic
Steven Van Zandt, Bruce Springsteen and Patty Scialfa perform on stage at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena at Exposition Park on March 17, 2016 in Los Angeles.

Saturday night, March 19, marked a farewell in the Los Angeles music scene as the city bid a raucous goodbye to the L.A. Sports Arena after more than five decades, with Bruce Springsteen performing his 34th and final concert at the famed venue before it is demolished and replaced by a new soccer stadium.

As only as he could, with three marathon shows all crossing the three-hour-and-30-minute mark, Springsteen and the E Street Band celebrated their long history there, dating back to the original The River tour in 1980. “We’re so glad to be here in the beautiful Sports Arena tonight,” Springsteen said from the stage at the first of the three sold-out shows. “They’re gonna knock this beautiful building down.” He then introduced “Wrecking Ball,” a song written for the Meadowlands when his hometown stadium in New Jersey was demolished, as “One for the Sports Arena.”

The shows were fittingly co-promoted by AEG Live and Nederlander, both of which have worked with Springsteen and the Sports Arena many times over the years. Nederlander CEO Alex Hodges and AEG Live/Goldenvoice President West Coast Brian Murphy -- who brought many shows there during his years as head of Avalon Attractions -- are the two who have the longest track record there, and when Hodges says, “It’s such a remarkable, historic building," he's also talking about his own career.  

Hodges brought late guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan there when he managed the bluesman in the '80s. “In 1989, when Stevie Ray Vaughan won the best tour package of the year when he teamed up with Jeff Beck, we were there,” he recalls. “Stevie had been on an arena tour and I made a couple of promises to him that when I was managing him he’d sell out an arena in L.A. and he’d sell out Madison Square Garden in New York, and we did both before he died in that helicopter crash [in August 1990]. Stevie had recorded some with David Bowie in ’83 and they had not seen each other since [then]. They had a reunion and I got a picture in my office of Stevie and David Bowie together at the Sports Arena on Dec. 1, 1989. They’re actually giving each other a hug. That’s as good as it gets.”

Murphy has his own memories. “I did Bowie [in ’87], the Kinks, I did all the U2 dates; I think ’84 was their first arena show in Los Angeles. That’s when I got involved with them, and [manager] Paul McGuiness was convincing them to play an arena,” he says. “The Kinks were never as big on the west coast as they were in the northeast and the east. They took on a new manager and said, ‘We want to play an arena.’ And I was like, ‘You know what? It’s time.’ That show sold out and it was a real justification for them. The other band that played the Sports Arena for the first time was AC/DC, who in their first 12 or 14 years probably canceled L.A. three or four times. So when they got a new manager I said, ‘Screw it, let’s go to the Sports Arena.’ That was a big deal for AC/DC.”

Because of his past with both Springsteen and U2, some of Murphy’s favorite memories there revolve around those acts. “When I got my first Springsteen shows at the Sports Arena [for] The River, we did four shows. It was, at that point in time, his biggest record ever,” Murphy remembers. “And the first time I did U2 at the Sports Arena we did multiple nights and it was a pretty heady time."

He smiles at the memories. "It’s such a small big arena.”