Remembering When the Dean Dome Used to Rock

stones90Does anybody remember when it was Hammer Time at the Dean Dome? Looking through some of the digitized copies of the Yackety Yack available on DigitalNC, one of the things that struck me was that, beginning shortly after its opening in 1986, the Dean E. Smith Center was one of the premier concert venues in central North Carolina.

bocephus89Looking through the concerts listed in the yearbooks from 1987 through 1991 you find many of the top names in rock, rap, and country visited Chapel Hill, some more than once. The first concert held in the Dean Dome was Kenny Rogers on April 12, 1986. For the next several years, the venue welcomed some of the biggest names in music, including the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Pink Floyd, Fleetwood Mac (twice), and Billy Joel. The acts coming through weren’t just limited to “classic” rock music: Public Enemy, Hank Williams, Jr., New Kids on the Block, and Bill Cosby all performed on campus. And nobody who was here at the time is not likely to forget the two nights that the Grateful Dead came to town in the spring of 1993.

publicenemy90By the mid 1990s, the number of concerts at the Dean Dome began to dwindle. These days, we rarely see big musical performances there. With so many newer and more convenient venues now spread throughout the Triangle, it’s unlikely that we’ll see a return to the golden era of big concerts on campus. We’re left only with photos and memories of a few fun years when the Dean E. Smith Center was not just home to some of the best college basketball in the country, it also rocked.

Concerts at the Dean E. Smith Center by School Year, 1986-1991 (Source: Yackety Yacks):

Kenny Rogers (first concert, April 12, 1986)
Lionel Richie and Sheila E.
Jimmy Buffett
Billy Joel

Fleetwood Mac
David Bowie
James Taylor
Pink Floyd
Level 42
Tina Turner
Whitney Houston
Jimmy Buffett
Bruce Springsteen

INXS and Ziggy Marley
Amy Grant
The Temptations
Robert Plant
Bon Jovi
Hank Williams, Jr.

Mötley Crüe
New Kids on the Block
Elton John
Bill Cosby
Public Enemy
The Doobie Brothers
Tom Petty
Janet Jackson
The Rolling Stones
The Cure
David Bowie
Eric Clapton

Neil Young
Billy Idol
ZZ Top
Paul Simon
James Taylor
Fleetwood Mac
They Might Be Giants
Faith No More
Jane’s Addiction
MC Hammer
En Vogue
Randy Travis

29 thoughts on “Remembering When the Dean Dome Used to Rock”

  1. I remember sitting on the balcony at Hinton James and being able to hear a lot of these shows. I asked a girl in my Spanish class to the Cosby show with me and it was hilarious. Janet Jackson was my first concert, then went to Aerosmith, Billy Idol, Hammer, Sting, Bel Biv Devoe and others. After the DeanDome show, Public Enemy showed up at Cat’s Cradle for a surprise show. Vanilla Ice was supposed to open for Hammer along with En Vogue, but no-showed. BBD brought Rick Fox up on stage during their show which went over well, but then brought up Dook’s team which had just won the NCAA title and the crowd turned on BBD for the rest of the show. Hinton James was overrun with Deadheads the weekend of the Grateful Dead shows. We found two camped out in our suite one night.

  2. The Stones did not play the Dean Dome in 1989, they played in Carter Finley Stadium……………………

  3. Thanks for this! I was trying to remember all of the concerts I had seen there, (Genesis, Buffet, Billy Joel, James Taylor, Pink Floyd, Springsteen, REM), and I knew I was missing one: Yes. Looking at the list, I wish I had had the time & money then to see more.

  4. The main reason for the concerts stopping was EHS made it too strict on the use of pyrotechnics inside the dome. Promoters had other venues that were much easier comply with the local rules and regs. So thank our wonderful EHS department for stopping the concerts. I worked the last big concert, Springsteen at Kenan Stadium in 2003, great show.

  5. I remember so vividly several shows there because it was a remarkably good arena for sound. Usually all the hard bouncy surfaces give the music a harsh quality, but something just worked really well in there for me.. I remember specifically seeing Pink Floyd (Momentary Lapse of Reason” tour….after Waters left the band. I was never a huge Roger Waters fan, but I was surprised to no end at great that first night was from Shine on You Crazy Diamond until the end. I got in for $5 as there were just a ton of scalpers and not many people needing tickets on a Sunday night.. The show was so great I just could hardly believe how good they were. As I was leaving a good many of the same people were selling their tickets for the next night and I bought 2 more for $5 each and took my girlfriend the next night. I’ll have to say it was the best $15 I ever spent on music. She was not a Pink Floyd fan but really enjoyed the show and was astonished at the great sound also. I saw several excellent shows there.. Sting, Clapton, INXS, ZZ Top with Black Crowes… I was a bit dumbfounded they quit the shows there because the attendance was always outstanding. It was good while it lasted.. It was there I first saw Steve Ferrone play drums with Clapton and he has been one of my very favorite drummers ever since and got me really interested in the instrument…. He was and still is astounding….

  6. Great list but the Cure played at Duke in Cameron in 1989. They have never played the Dean Dome. Also REM played at Duke in 1988. I did see Bowie, Pink Floyd, the Dead, and Depeche Mode there.

    1. REM played the Dean Dome, I was a member of IATSE and remember working that show. Also have my all access pass from that show.

    2. Hi, Chris–I beg to differ as I worked for the promoter as the production assistant who promoted The Cure show at the Dean Dome! It was in the summer of 1992. I was quite pregnant at the time, and Robert Smith was very protective of me–even going as far as putting headphones around my tummy during soundcheck! I always marveled at how my baby son would perk up whenever he heard “Friday, I’m In Love”, which is one of the songs they played during the soundcheck! I worked many shows at the Dean Dome–the two David Bowie tours and the Pink Floyd weekend (remember when bands used to play 2 nights back-to-back at the Dean Dome?!) definitely have a special place in my heart and memories. It was one helluva venue for sure.

  7. In 91′ I was a bellmen at Sheraton Imperial RTP
    I gave bus driver directions to the Dean Dome
    And saw Stevie & Mic come back late night.
    I saw Bowie with Adrian Belew their to a crowd of 8,000.
    The N&O
    Said “Damage Control” based on spring break . So seating upgrades were available . Last show was REM

  8. Fleetwood Mac played there first in 1976 touring behind “Rumours”. But the best music years at Carolina were Jubilee in the late 60s and 70s. Off the top of my head I remember seeing the Allman Brothers, the Association, Petula Clark, Blood Sweat and Tears, J. Geils, the Temptations . . . great days!

  9. oh yeah – forgot Paul Butterfield and New Riders of the Purple Sage – and a bunch of others I am sure – it was a LONG time ago.

  10. I just randomly ended up on this page when googling something about the Dean Dome, but….Chris Johnson…I, too, doubt that The Cure played the Dome in 1989, but they definitely played it later. I was there. It was the tour for their Wish album.

    I was at UNC from 1990-1994. Jane’s Addiction did not play the Dome in 1990-91. I would’ve been there. As a Raleigh high-school student, I saw them at multiple Triangle venues (Rialto and Brewery in Raleigh, Page Auditorium at dook opening for Love & Rockets) before 1990-91. They did play Memorial Hall on campus around that 1990-91 time with 24-7 Spyz opening.

    Also, I was no fan of They Might Be Giants so I did not keep as close a tab on them, but there’s no way they played an arena of 20,000 people unless they were an opener. I’d also be surprised if Faith No More really played that large a venue.

  11. The Stones did not play the Dean Dome in 1989, they played in Carter Finley Stadium ……………………yep, I was arrested at that show.

    Great list but the Cure played at Duke in Cameron in 1989. They have never played the Dean Dome. Also REM played at Duke in 1988…The Cure was amazing, especially on shroons, and REM did play the Dome on April 22, 1989. REM played at Duke in 1986 and 1987. Great shows.

    Jane’s Addiction did not play the Dome in 1990-91…They did play Memorial Hall on campus around that 1990-91 time with 24-7 Spyz opening…yep, on November 13, 1990, I was there, great show.

    The Monkees (first concert, October 17, 1986) : saw this show.
    Lionel Richie and Sheila E. : was outside the venue.
    Genesis : I think they played 3 shows, saw them all.
    Jimmy Buffett : was outside the show.
    Billy Joel : was outside the show.

    Fleetwood Mac : was outside the show.
    David Bowie : minor scandal, first major tour to go over $30 a ticket, was a good show.
    Boston : saw the show.
    James Taylor : saw the show.
    Pink Floyd : saw the show.
    Level 42 : have no idea, but seems too big a place for them.
    Tina Turner : saw the show. She rocked.
    Whitney Houston : saw the show. She was such a bitch, complained about everything even in the middle of songs. Hate to be mean but she did not want to be there and hundreds of people walked out and were trying to get refunds. Have never seen anything like that night.
    Sting : saw the show.
    Jimmy Buffett : outside the show.
    Yes : I think I saw this show.
    Bruce Springsteen : I think I was outside but did not make it in.

    INXS and Ziggy Marley : I think I missed this show but saw other shows on this tour. Hung out with Ziggy on this tour at the Holiday Inn in Roanoke, VA.
    Amy Grant : was outside the venue.
    The Temptations : was outside the venue.
    Robert Plant : nah, but I made around $900 that night scalping tickets, went to see my girlfriend in her dorm, I pulled the money out of like 10 pockets and put on her bed, it was like the movie Indecent Proposal, all the money made her horny, good night for me. Did meet him backstage in Greensboro on this tour, what a cool cat.
    Bon Jovi : maybe?.
    Hank Williams, Jr. : maybe, was definitely outside.
    REM : yep, I never miss REM if I am in town.

    Mötley Crüe : crazy show, Tommy Lee had the drum cage that they raised to the ceiling. Big ticket outside, people just kept coming.
    New Kids on the Block : I do not think I saw this show but I did take kids to see the show somewhere. Good show actually.
    Elton John : probably? Have seen him so many times.
    Bill Cosby : saw the show. Funny.
    Public Enemy : I do not think they played the Dean Dome, maybe Memorial Auditorium.
    The Doobie Brothers : have no memories of this one.
    Tom Petty : saw this show.
    Janet Jackson : saw this show.
    The Rolling Stones : was arrested in Raleigh at this show.
    Aerosmith : saw this show.
    The Cure : saw this show in Durham.
    David Bowie : saw this show.
    Eric Clapton : saw this show.

    Neil Young : I think I saw this show.
    Billy Idol : my memory of this show was my friend who I was in love with, she got a ticket from me but I do not think I made it in.
    ZZ Top : saw this show. Good music, corny show.
    Paul Simon : was outside this show.
    James Taylor : saw this show.
    Fleetwood Mac : Might have seen this show.
    They Might Be Giants : I think this was at Cats Cradle, maybe Memorial Auditorium, did not see show.
    Faith No More : I saw them somewhere, do not think it was the Dean Dome.
    Jane’s Addiction : a good show at Memorial Auditorium.
    MC Hammer : saw this show.
    En Vogue : nope.
    Randy Travis : nope.
    Sting : saw this show.

  12. Saw Bon Jovi in 89. Skid Row opened. Original show was snow out and cancelled till the next night. We got a room at the same hotel Skid Row was staying at. We saw what room they went in and tried several times to call the room. Last time someone picked up the phone and put a curse on us. The phone stayed busy the rest of the night. It was my first concert ever.

  13. Found this page late in the game, but I can assure you The Cure DID play The Dean Dome in late summer 1992. I was the production assistant for ProMotions Concerts, and I was waddling around backstage doing my job all clad in my Goth gear. Trust me–The Cure DID play the Dean Dome. It was one of the last shows there.

    I worked many others prior to that show at the Dean Dome, as well as more than I can count at Memorial Hall, Page Auditorium, Kenan Stadium, etc. Best of times for sure!

  14. How can we forget the ‘92 Rush stop in the Dean Dome on the Roll the Bones tour? Lucky enough to sit first row watching Neil. Great memories reading this blog.

  15. Anyone who can tell me who opened for Clapton in the 1990’s at Chapel Hill ? He was an awesome blues guitarist, but I can remember his name.

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