Rock History At The Pine Knob Theatre

The Oakland Press
Pine Knob/DTE amphitheater has hosted buckets of rock history
Friday, May 18, 2012 4:45 PM EDT

Forty years ago, the hills – or at least the lawn – in Independence Township came alive with the sound of music.

Pine Knob Music Theatre, now known as the DTE Energy Music Theatre, opened its doors on June 25, 1972, to the screaming teen hordes for a concert by heartthrob David Cassidy. Two days later, their parents came out to hear crooner Andy Williams, and one of the country’s most active and successful amphitheaters was in full swing.

At the time, Pine Knob was the largest amphitheater in the country, with a capacity of 12,500, later swelling to 15,000 when the tunnel that bisected the lawn was filled in during the early ’80s. And where other “sheds” to that point had served as the summer homes to symphony orchestra, jazz and middle-of-the-road performers, Pine Knob gave a summer home to rock, pop, R&B and other contemporary styles, creating a template that was followed by more, and increasingly larger, outdoor venues.

Pine Knob/DTE has remained a Cadillac in the field, however, with more than 32 industry awards since 1991, including Billboard’s Top Amphitheatre for attendance in 2011 and Pollstar’s Top Amphitheatre Venue Worldwide for total tickets sold in 2011.

And, of course, the theater has piled up 40 years worth of memories – too many, really, to chronicle. But as DTE prepares to open on Friday, May 25, with its traditional Eddie Money concert, here’s a look at 40 key events in its history:

June 25, 1972 – “Partridge Family” heartthrob David Cassidy opens PIne Knob with a 3 p.m. matinee performance.

June 27, 1972 – Andy Williams and Quincy Jones join forces for a five-night run that was considered the venue’s “official” opening.

July 13-14, 1973 – The Temptations are the first Motown act to play Pine Knob, sharing a bill with Earth, Wind & Fire. Stevie Wonder plays 10 days later.

July 1, 1974 – KISS, already establishing itself in Detroit’s smaller venues, makes its first venue appearance opening for Blue Oyster Cult.

November 1974 – Joni Mitchell’s live album “Miles of Aisles” features a cover photo from the Pine Knob Pavilion during her Aug. 8-9 stop, though the tracks were recorded in California.

July 27, 1977 – Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band play the first of what will become 25 sold-out shows at the venue.

Aug. 21, 1977 – Jackson Browne and his girlfriend are photographed by Joel Bernstein by the Pine Knob stage loading door. The image was included in his “Running On Empty” album four months later.

Sept. 2, 1978 – Bob Seger and Bruce Springsteen meet for the first time backstage at Pine Knob. Springsteen had performed at the Masonic Temple the previous night and Seger was in the midst of seven-show run.

Aug. 9, 1982 – Many fans headed to Blondie’s show were actually there for the opener – Duran Duran, which had just started its early ’80s hitmaking run.

Aug. 26, 1982 – Headliners Heart are upstaged by opener John Cougar (later known by his real name, Mellencamp) in the midst of his “American Fool” success.

Sept. 1-6, 1982 – The J. Geils Band’s six-night stand closes out its world tour supporting the multiplatinum “Freeze Frame” album and is also recorded for the live “Showtime!” that came out in November.

Sept. 25, 1982 – The Steve Miller Band records its “Live!” album at Pine Knob, which was released in 1983.

July 18, 1983 – The B-52’s sold-out show is the biggest crowd the group has played to at that juncture.

July 27, 1983 – Bette Midler collapsed onstage during a performance and was treated for exhaustion and an upset stomach at Pontiac General Hospital. She made up the show later in the summer, with the road crew creating a diagram chronicling the collapse backstage.

Sept. 12, 1983 – Neil Young decides the Pine Knob crowd isn’t enthusiastic enough on this night, so cuts a planned segment of the show with his rockabilly band the Shocking Pinks, sending fans home mystified.

Aug. 17-21, 1984 – Fan complaint about an overcrowded lawn are rampant during Neil Diamond’s five-night stand. The venue blames picnic baskets and lawn chairs, but many suspected tickets were sold for more people than the space could accommodate.

June 29, 1985 – Phil Collins halts the final show of a three-night stand because of voice problems, causing a fan furor and a major traffic jam on I-75 southbound.

July 4-5, 1985 – Huey Lewis & the News celebrates its “Sports” album reaching No. 1 with two sold-out holiday weekend shows.

June 30, 1986 – Bob Seger steps out for a guest appearance with Bob Dylan and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, singing “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.”

May 20, 1989 – Eddie Money begins his reign as Pine Knob/DTE’s first weekend opener. With one exception (1995) he’s played on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend of every season since.

Nov. 29, 1990 – Palace Sports & Entertainment purchases Pine Knob, sinking in $8 million in renovations including video screens in the pavilion.

May 7, 1991 – Bill Cosby inaugurates the PS&E era on a bitter cold night, after which he’s whisked away to catch the end of the Pistons’ playoff game at The Palace.

Aug. 4, 1991 – The inaugural Lollapalooza tour, the surprise hit of the summer, sells out Pine Knob with Jane’s Addiction headlining.

Summer 1995 – Video screens are installed on the pavilion roof for fans on the lawn.

June 14, 1996 – Sarah McLachlan plays on an all-female Lilith Fair prototype show with Patti Smith, Lisa Loeb, Paula Cole and Aimee Man. Lilith’s inaugural 1997 run was the top-grossing festival tour of that year.

July 22, 1996 – The Vans Warped Tour plays the first of two straight years at Pine Knob before heading to downtown Pontiac, the Pontiac Silverdome and Comerica Park. This year it comes full circle (sort of) for a July 6 stop at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

June 12, 1997 – After two California festival dates in 1996, the first full-scale, two-stage OZZFest tour comes to town with namesake Ozzy Osbourne playing his own set and with Black Sabbath.

July 10, 1998 – Sod thrown by revelers on the lawn penetrates deep into the pavilion, knocking out the soundboard during Jerry Cantrell’s opening set for Metallica and jeopardizing the entire show. A Metallica crew member gives fans a stern talking-to before the band goes on.

Sept. 14, 1998 – During a day-off in the middle of a two-show stand, Aerosmith films a performance of its chart-topping hit “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” for British TV and plays a few more songs for fans who turned up to be part of the taping.

July 17, 1999 – Peter Frampton records and films his show for the 2000 album and DVD “Live in Detroit.”

Aug. 25, 2000 – Kid Rock and his Twisted Brown Trucker band plays the first of three shows that summer at Pine Knob and the first of the group’s 14 DTE sellouts.

Jan. 25, 2001 – Amidst much fan outrage, PS&E announces that the venue’s name will be changed to the DTE Energy Music Theatre. The first DTE show is the WDRQ Summer Heat Rave with Nelly, Jessica Simpson and more on May 25.

July 6, 2003 – Kid Rock and Uncle Kracker – and horizontal rain that even reached the stage – are surprise guests at Kenny Chesney’s final DTE show before before Ford Field became his Detroit venue of choice.

Aug. 21, 2003 – Eminem makes his only DTE appearance, guesting with headliner 50 Cent during the Rock The Mic Tour’s metro area stop.

Aug. 2, 2005 – Bob Seger makes at guest appearance with Three Doors Down to sing “Landing in London,” which he also performed on the group’s album “Seventeen Days.”

June 17, 2006 – Bruce Springsteen plays his one and only show (to date) at the venue, with his Seeger Sessions Band.

June 15, 2007 – Barenaked Ladies record the album “Talk to the Hand: Live in Michigan,” released five months later.

July 5, 2007 – An intense storm knocks out DTE power, delaying Toby Keith’s sold-out concert by more than two hours. Opening act Flynville Train strolls the pavilion playing acoustically, and Keith ends at a curfew-busting midnight.

June 22, 2010 – Poison’s Bret Michaels joins Jimmy Buffett for “Margaritaville.” Michaels plays two nights later with Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Aug. 23, 2010 – Green Day’s performance of “J.A.R. (Jason Andrew Relva)” will go on to be included in the band’s 2011 live album “Awesome As F***.”

June 1, 2011 – Tom Gores and Platinum Equity purchase PS&E, including DTE.

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