It appears that high profile entertainment acts are finally beginning to return to the Capital District, and I have high hopes that this will eventually trickle down to the RPI campus.
As a fairly local resident, I have followed the various concert offerings in the Albany area for sometime and have also researched the subject in general, so here’s a little history of what has transpired. For the 30 years between the 1960s and 1990s, the main venue for popular acts to perform in the region was none other than the Houston Field House. Legendary acts such as The Doors, Bob Dylan, Rush, Jimi Hendrix, and Bruce Springsteen, have played right here on campus between that time period. The years of high profile concerts, some of which included as many as seven in a single year, culminated in 1991. This was of course the show headlined by the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Pearl Jam supported by The Smashing Pumpkins on November 5, 1991. These three bands were the pinnacles of cutting edge in the music industry at the time of the concert, with the equally massive albums Blood Sugar Sex Magik and Ten releasing just months before, and the Pumpkins’ breakthrough album Siamese Dream still two years away.
However, in the previous year, a new venue opened in downtown Albany which would eventually pull just about all the major acts off the hill in Troy. This new venue was the Knickerbocker Arena (now renamed twice, first the Times Union Center), whose grand opening took place January 30, 1990 with a Frank Sinatra Concert. Throughout its history, the venue has hosted countless massive acts in the 25 years since opening. An example of a season is 2003 which included Bon Jovi, Elton John, Billy Joel, Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Queens of the Stone Age, Fleetwood Mac, Dixie Chicks, Cher, Eagles, Def Leppard, Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, KISS, Aerosmith, and Phish. As the shows in Albany grew in prominence, the RPI campus held fewer and fewer shows with only 10 shows large enough to be held at the Field House since 2000.
While the opening of the venue in Albany seemed to be the reason for decline of conerts on campus, eventually by 2011 concerts there had begun to die down as well. There were fewer acts that I would list in the same class as those which performed in the Capital District following the 2010 season, which was highlighted by the final Face to Face date ever by Billy Joel and Elton John.
It might not be all bad though, as things appear to be turning around for shows in the region starting this year, with the current Times Union Center season that includes Kanye West, Bruce Springsteen, Rod Stewart, Paul McCartney, Bruno Mars, and Justin Timberlake. These names are a drastic increase in star power and the record sell-out times of both the McCartney and Timberlake dates proves that the demand for events like these more than exist.
Beyond the legendary artists like these coming to downtown Albany, other venues like the Upstate Concert Hall in Clifton Park has also been booking high-demand and up-and-coming bands like Of Mice and Men, Capital Cities, Phantogram, and Bastille.
With things going well in the area my question is: Why can’t things get better here on campus as well? The strongly attended Passion Pit and Matt & Kim show last spring semester seemed like a change was in store, however, with no Field House concerts this academic year, I fear RPI students will not be getting large concerts again soon. This is the ultimate shame, because it seems unlikely that the demand doesn’t exist here on campus. Therefore, it is my hope that someone here on campus, whether it is the Rensselaer Union, Institute administration, or even another student group, works to get a Field House level concert here next year.