In Part One of this series, we looked back on 10 significant North Texas concerts that took place between the ‘60s and the ‘80s. It was a different time, and given the importance of radio and the revolutionary introduction of MTV, the music world progressively became more of a monoculture. Pinpointing concerts within that era that have the most cultural significance is relatively easy, given that artists such as the Beatles and Michael Jackson boasted inescapable ubiquity and influence.
For this installment, we look back on the greatest concerts that took place between the ‘90s and the ‘10s. Reaching a decision for Part Two was much more difficult for one reason: the internet.
While MTV still had some strong footing in the early ‘90s, that began to change as the internet’s ability to streamline communication fragmented the culture and gave rise to many subcultures. By the ‘00s, there was no consensus. Outkast, the Strokes, Jimmy Eat World, Aaliyah, Radiohead, Marilyn Manson and Maroon 5 each achieved mainstream success, but seldom did you run into anyone who listened to them all.
Despite this, we’re pleased to announce that we have reached a verdict.
5/7-5/8/1990 — Madonna: Blond Ambition Tour at Reunion Arena, Dallas
Two years before Sinead O’Connor’s infamous Saturday Night Live performance, Madonna’s Blond Ambition Tour sparked outrage from the Roman Catholic community because her provocative stage antics were tied in with Catholic imagery. At her Toronto stop, police even mandated changes to the performance under threat of cancellation.
The show comprised five different chapters: Metropolis, Religious, Dick Tracy, Art Deco and Encore. Needless to say, the set rehearsals were cumbersome. Music director and frequent Madonna collaborator Patrick Leonard turned down an opportunity to work this tour, saying, “She showed me the stage design, and the band was like, down in the pit. So I said, ‘Forget it.’”
8/22-23/1991 — Lollapalooza 1991 at Starplex Amphitheater, Dallas
What started as a farewell tour for Jane’s Addiction would blossom into a destination festival in Chicago years down the road, but the festival’s first year was much more famed for two reasons: 1. It captured the Generation X zeitgeist, and 2. It was prototypical of future touring festivals such as Lilith Fair, Ozzfest and the Vans Warped Tour.
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The festival’s debut offering had a relatively humble curation for its time — besides Jane’s Addiction, the only other billed artists were Nine Inch Nails, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Ice-T, Butthole Surfers, Living Colour and Rollins Band. It was a small but mighty lineup that boasted a who’s-who of acts that would help define a generation.
While the current incarnation of Lollapalooza includes VIP cabanas and golf carts, Patient Zero was far more edgy. Gibby Haynes would fire shotgun blanks at the audience in the early afternoon, and Henry Rollins was, well … Henry Rollins.
10/19/1991 — Nirvana: Nevermind Tour at Trees, Dallas
Darryl Smyers provided an incredibly detailed account of this show for the Dallas Observer in 2011, but suffice to say, it was Nirvana, they played Trees and Kurt Cobain really pissed off a bouncer.
12/5/1993 — Nirvana: In Utero Tour at Fair Park Coliseum, Dallas
This time, Cobain wouldn’t start any altercations (that we know of), but this show is still legendary simply by virtue of it being Nirvana’s last DFW show and taking place exactly four months before Cobain’s death. The Breeders and Shonen Knife opened.
3/10/1999 — Sleater-Kinney: The Hot Rock Tour at Trees, Dallas
In the ‘80s, hair metal dominated the rock landscape, and the genre’s misogynist tendencies were anything but subtle. Its caste system essentially entitled men to potential artistic success, while women were nothing more than prized concubines for those who achieved it.
As alternative rock took over in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, this changed drastically as bands with female members such as Hole, Pixies and Sonic Youth got airplay. While an astonishingly progressive achievement, there was an underlying assumption that because women had a more significant presence in rock music, sexism was no longer an issue.
That assessment was naive, as rock music was still a boy’s club even in ostensibly progressive subcultures. Sleater-Kinney’s presence in the indie music circuit was an affront to this proclivity and would bring to light the residual male-dominated hierarchy many pretended didn’t exist.
Their 1997 full-length album Dig Me Out was a game-changer, and the 1999 follow-up The Hot Rock would be accompanied by a tour that had the trio making its triumphant debut in Dallas.
9/22/2001 — Janet Jackson: All For You Tour at American Airlines Center, Dallas
When Janet Jackson came through Dallas in support of her album All For You, the trauma following 9/11 was as fresh as ever. Despite this, she performed with an upbeat and colorful demeanor to a nearly sold-out crowd. Her optimism was manifested in her choreography and the finesse behind her stage presence, and it was nothing short of a refreshing tonic for a confused and terrified collective consciousness.
12/5/2006 — Dixie Chicks: Accidents and Accusations Tour at American Airlines Center, Dallas
Dallas’ own Dixie Chicks attracted ire after lead singer Natalie Maines criticized George W. Bush at a 2003 show in London, getting them blacklisted from essentially every space in the entire country music industry. Three years later, they took a Scrooge McDuck swan dive back into the public arena in announcing a North American and Australian tour.
As Emily Robison recalled in an interview with 60 Minutes, “There was one specific death threat on Natalie. (It) had a time, had a place, had a weapon. I mean, everything. …’You will be shot dead at your show in Dallas.’”
Despite this, the show went on. From the time they arrived at the airport to the time they returned, an overwhelming police presence was there to escort the trio. Even amid such tensions they played to a sold-out crowd at the American Airlines Center as a defiant middle finger to the multitudes that tried to blackball them. This would be the Dixie Chicks’ last DFW show until a comeback tour stop in 2016 at what is now the Dos Equis Pavilion.
12/6/2011 — Jay-Z + Kanye West: Watch the Throne Tour at American Airlines Center, Dallas
Co-headline tours have become so commonplace that they have lost their luster, but make no mistake: This was the co-headline tour to end all co-headline tours.
Jay-Z is such a juggernaut in hip-hop that his protégé Kanye West alone is one of the most respected rappers of all time. Between the repertoire of these two are some of the greatest albums in the entire genre: The Blueprint, The Black Album, The College Dropout, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and the collaborative album celebrated by this tour, Watch the Throne.
To see these two legends stand on stage together alone would be worth the price of admission, but their 41-song set had banger-after-banger: “99 Problems,” “Big Pimpin’,” “Empire State of Mind,” “Izzo (H.O.V.A.),” “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem),” “Runaway,” “Stronger,” “All of the Lights,” “Gold Digger,” “Touch the Sky” and much, much more.
The song that closed out the entire set? “N**gas in Paris.” This song hyped the crowd up so much that they played it four consecutive times. After the fourth reprise, everybody left the American Airlines Center high on life and in unbridled awe at what they witnessed.
Ye put it best when he said, “I’m sorry if this is your first concert. It’s all downhill from here.”
6/7/2014 — George Strait: The Cowboy Rides Away Tour at AT&T Stadium
George Strait is the King of Country, and when the king steps down from his throne, that’s an unarguably historical moment. Our community was lucky enough to bear witness to the final show of his final tour, and it drew a record 104,793 people, the highest attendance at a concert with single-billing in the United States.
Strait didn’t go quietly, either. Eric Church, Vince Gill, Jason Aldean, Martina McBride, Sheryl Crow, Alan Jackson, Faith Hill, Kenny Chesney and Miranda Lambert each got on stage to duet with him. In a poetic and frisson-inducing farewell, he and the aforementioned guests banded together and performed “The Cowboy Rides Away.”
If you’re not completely overcome with emotion at the thought of King George singing, “Oh the last goodbye’s the hardest one to say / This is where the cowboy rides away,” and departing on that note, you have no soul.
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5/17/2018 – Kendrick Lamar: The Championship Tour, Dos Equis Pavilion, Dallas
For a generation so fragmented, Kendrick Lamar has unarguably been one of this decade’s load-bearing cultural pillars. Amid the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, his 2015 single “Alright” became an unofficial anthem and has channeled into this generation’s political dissent and social unrest better than just about any other song.
After his album DAMN. became the first non-classical and non-jazz album to win a Pulitzer Prize in 2018, he took a victory lap with his friends and Top Dawg Entertainment labelmates SZA, ScHoolboy Q, Jay Rock, Ab-Soul, SiR and Lance Skiiwalker. During K-Dot’s set, the LED screen displayed scribbled text that read, “PULITZER KENNY.”
As he ended his one hour, 15 minute set with “HUMBLE,” he stood back as the nearly sold-out crowd belted every single word. Noticeably overcome with emotion at the love the audience displayed, he played the entire song again to an indefatigable, adoring crowd.
Kung-Fu Kenny has played Dallas a handful of times — he opened Kanye West’s Yeezus Tour in 2013, he played American Airlines Center with Travis Scott and DRAM in 2017 and he played South Side Music Hall twice. But something about witnessing a proven literary artisan and the voice of a generation with over 18,000 like-minded people made this go-around truly special.