August 27, 2015

[Summer Concert Series] Judas Priest at the Mid-South Coliseum

Summer is concert season, and as part of our own summer concert series, we're putting the spotlight on places that have witnessed some of the most memorable musical performances in American history. Some are traditional venues, and others… well, not so much. But they all have two things in common: terrific music and fascinating history.

Liner Notes

Performer(s): Judas Priest (Rob Halford, K.K. Downing, Glenn Tipton, Ian Hill, and Dave Holland)
Venue: Mid-South Coliseum
Location: Memphis, Tennessee
Date: December 12, 1982
Memorable Moment: The absurd coordinated guitar playing/dancing of Downing and Tipton, sometimes joined by Halford when the mood struck him.
Show Vibe: Hey man, it was the ‘80s. (Thrusts thumb, index, and pinky fingers into the air.)
Exterior view of the Mid-South Coliseum

photo by: Wikimedia Commons

Memphis' Mid-South Coliseum quickly became the center for the region's entertainment after it was completed in 1964.

The Full Program

Judas Priest’s 1980 album British Steel was the metal band’s first release to break into the U.S. Top 40, but its 1982 album Screaming for Vengeance went platinum and its subsequent tour cemented the British band into the American popular music scene.

On December 12, 1982, the tour rolled into Memphis, Tennessee’s Mid-South Coliseum. The band, clad in studs and leather, and shrouded in smoke and burnt hair, wowed the packed house with hits like Breaking the Law and You’ve Got Another Thing Coming.

The performance was later released on VHS (remember those?) as Judas Priest Live in 1983 and again on DVD in 2006 as Live Vengeance ‘82. (No news yet as to when it’ll be streaming on Netflix.)

Was it Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison or the Talking Heads at the Pantages Theatre? No. But it was the perfect manifestation of early ‘80s teenage angst, and for that, it’s worth remembering.

In 2000, the National Park Service thought the Mid-South Coliseum was also worth remembering and listed it in the National Register of Historic Places. Built in 1964 at a cost of $4.7 million, the Modernist brick and concrete building hosted everything from minor-league hockey to professional wrestling. (Anyone remember Mr. Perfect?)

The Coliseum hosted several other historic shows, including Elvis in 1974 and the Beatles’ lone stop in the South on their 1966 North American tour (which did not go off without controversy).

Though the Coliseum closed in 2006, the Coliseum Coalition organization was formed in January 2015 with the goal of saving the historic structure and returning it to good use.

David Weible was the content specialist at the National Trust, previously with Preservation and Outside magazines. His interest in historic preservation was inspired by the ‘20s-era architecture, streetcar neighborhoods, and bars of his hometown of Cleveland.

Forty of the most important, most interesting, and quirkiest American places 40 years old or less. See the list and vote for your favorites now through January 18.

Vote Now