It's been a little lively in the basement of City Hall lately. The Dallas Municipal Archives has turned its patient eye on where many North Texans saw their first sporting event or concert: Reunion Arena.
Photographs of a heyday Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran or David Bowie glamming it up in an all-red outfit are not exactly what one expects to see in the largely sterile confines of 1500 Marilla St. After comprehensive work digitizing the Dallas Police Department's President John F. Kennedy artifacts and "other historic police case files including Bonnie and Clyde," according to archivist John Slate, the Dallas Municipal Archives may now have a chance to lighten up a bit.
At more than 315,000 square feet, Reunion Arena once gobbled up 4 acres of prime real estate and was "thought to be the largest frame system ever built" at the time of its construction, according to an Aug. 23, 1979, copy of Engineering News-Record magazine.
Slate has been sifting through items that include signed sports memorabilia, plaques, signs and the aforementioned photos of pop, rock and country stars who graced the considerable stage in the years before it was demolished in 2009.
The Bar-Kays and Parliament-Funkadelic performed the first concert at Reunion Arena, despite the fact that the Who are often remembered as the first act to play Reunion. It was a sell-out, which is documented in the collection with a plaque.
Archives volunteer Kelley Smith worked in UNT's Digital Projects Lab and also contributed to the JFK Dallas Police Department collection. She is now helping with the Reunion Arena material, scanning documents and "creating metadata" in the same manner she did with far graver relics.
As for what's next for the Dallas Municipal Archives following the Reunion Arena project, Slate is very specific. "We are set to digitize the earliest minutes of the Dallas City Council, 1866-1872, and to prepare the records of the former Dallas Health Department for public use," Slate says.
Take a look at some of the concert photos unearthed as part of the Reunion archives project.
David Bowie, Oct. 10, 1987
This was the first of a two-night stand on Bowie's Glass Spider tour, which is not well-remembered, due mostly to the musical-like theatricality of the show. There was much less of a raw rock 'n' roll element, and instead featured backup dancers and Bowie singing to a video screen in a brightly colored suit. Peter Frampton played on this tour, which is noteworthy for the fact that Frampton could probably still have been headlining decent-sized venues at that time.
Garth Brooks, Sept. 20, 1991
Clearly this 1991 appearance made an impression; Mr. Brooks recently sold out American Airlines Center for a run of seven shows, which is unprecedented at that venue. This was not his last appearance at Reunion Arena. He set a record for a trio of shows in 1998, where he sold over 50,000 tickets. This is noteworthy for being the tour stop that served as the scene for This is Garth Brooks, the country icon's Elvis-like television appearance that aired on NBC in 1991.
Simon Le Bon, of Duran Duran, Feb. 11, 1984
Thanks to Duran Duran bassist John Taylor's 2012 tell-all, In the Pleasure Groove, it's safe to assume that at least some if not all of the band is likely to be under the influence while they perform here. Simon Le Bon's fantastic jacket - and the band's overall visual aesthetic - is said to have been influenced by a line of military toys. That's certainly believable judging by this photo.
Robert Smith, of The Cure, Aug. 21, 1996
The goth pop legends were in Dallas promoting their 1996 Wild Mood Swings record, and this tour was known as 'The Swing Tour.' "Mint Car" is arguably the band's last good to great single.
Belinda Carlisle, of the Go-Gos, Oct. 12, 1982
This was the year of "We Got the Beat" and therefore the group was able to play a room of this stature. They would return two years later to perform at the Dallas Convention Center Arena.
Hall & Oates' Daryl Hall, March 29, 1982
If there is a list of shows we wish could have attended, this is high up on that list. Hall and Oates, free of the irony that's been attached to them in the decades since, at the height of their powers would have been something to behold. "Maneater" is pure camp now, but they weren't smiling on that famous album cover for H2O. One hit single after another made them unstoppable.
Freddie Mercury, of Queen, Aug. 9, 1980
Who else but Freddie Mercury could get away with wearing a necktie and no shirt and leather pants to boot. The music video for "Another One Bites the Dust" was filmed at Reunion Arena on this tour stop.
Diana Ross, Jan. 26, 1982
Not that Ross needed the help, she had some pretty famous friends as contributors on her 1982 record, Silk Electric, which is the album that warranted a stop at Reunion Arena. The cover featured Andy Warhol's interpretation of the iconic singer, while Michael Jackson penned the first single, "Muscles." Ross is as glamorous as ever here, and was just as fantastic when I caught her at the Meyerson Symphony Center last year.
Tears for Fears' Roland Orzabal, Feb. 5,1990
The band was in the middle of a tour for its most successful record by far, 1989's The Seeds of Love, with a single that was inescapable at the time. The group's somberness made for a more natural transition into the fashionable dourness of 1990s alternative music, when compared to some of their new wave counterparts.
Stevie Wonder, July 11, 1980
Mr. Wonder's dramatic look is very much on display here, on a stop at Reunion Arena was for his hugely successful album, Hotter than July. It was not the critics' favorite era of Stevie, but it marked a time where he was receiving the money and recognition he deserved for the slightly more challenging material he had made in the '70s.