Protect your source for what’s happening in Detroit and around the world. Make your gift of support for WDET today »

Bonfires & Bonham: The Pontiac Silverdome Was an Insane Place to See a Concert

Raz Mataz Magazine

Led Zeppelin performs to over 76,000 people at the Pontiac Silverdome on April 30th, 1977.

Click the audio player to listen. CultureShift airs weekdays at 12 p.m.

When the Rolling Stones played the Pontiac Silverdome in 1981, there was a bona fide battle between fans and security staff.

Fans [were] jumping over the rail in order to get on the floor,” remembers one CultureShift listener, who recalls the ”very aggressive conduct of the guards chasing the people around and tackling them.”

That same listener remembers the last Monday Night Football game at the Silverdome with the Detroit Lions — a 15-10 victory over the Dallas Cowboys.

If I remember correctly, there was a fire in the upper deck,” he says.

A perfect venue for the Pope & WrestleMania

Today, there’s not much left of the Silverdome after a successful implosion (preceded by a failed one) leveled the stadium late last year. Now the property sits vacant, waiting for its chance to be redeveloped. In an article from last year, The Guardian described the Silverdome as a dream arena that became a symbol of America’s decay.

Courtesy of WXYZ Channel 7

The Pontiac Silverdome was in disrepair before it was imploded in December of 2017.

When it first opened in 1975, however, it was a major destination for massive touring acts like The Who (who christened the stadium with its first-ever show), the Clash and many others over the years. It also hosted an NBA Finals, a Pope, a Super Bowl and WrestleMania III, which reportedly broke attendance records at the Silverdome in 1987 with over 93,000 fans in attendance.

Led Zeppelin breaks a world record at the Silverdome

David from Dearborn saw Led Zeppelin at the Silverdome in 1977.

It was the craziest concert I’ve ever been to,” says David. “They were lighting fires on the floor of the Silverdome with empty beer cartons. There will people throwing M-80s and half-sticks [of dynamite] off the balcony.”

At the time, the Led Zeppelin show set a new world attendance record for a solo indoor attraction with 76,229 people at their concert.

Previously, the record was held by The Who, who performed the first concert there in front of 75,962 fans in 1975.

Source unknown

The crowd gets hosed down at The Who concert in 1982 at the Pontiac Silverdome.

What could possibly be wrong with that stadium?”

CultureShift listener Mick from Richmond saw Eddie Money, the Clash and the Who — all on the same bill and sponsored by Schlitz beer — at the Silverdome in 1982.

It was so hot in there that they had hoses and they were hosing off the people that were in the front of this crowd,” remembers Mick.

It wasn’t the only concert that Mick saw there.

I saw U2, I saw Madonna there,” says Mick. “It’s a waste to let it go. What could possibly be wrong with that stadium?”

Image credit: Motor City Radio Flashbacks

Aired on: CultureShift
About the Author

Ryan Patrick Hooper

Producer / Host, CultureShift

Ryan Patrick Hooper has worked as an arts and culture journalist in Detroit for over a decade.

hooper@wdet.org   Follow @hoopingtonpost

We want to hear from you.
Share your thoughts and opinions: