Tacoma Dome’s Booking Manager Tom Alexander said his years as a roadie served as character building and resilience training.
One night, while on tour with Pink Noise Test, venue operators told Alexander they couldn’t unload their gear until the main act was finished. In a rush to get back on the road and make it to their next stop, Alexander and the crew were determined to get out and ended up removing the band’s heavy metal gear out of the building using the fire escape.
When he was working with Andrea Bocelli for the Italian singer’s first American arena tour, Alexander was tasked with finding a last minute babysitter who spoke Italian. He went on the hunt, settling on the concierge’s sister who took several years of Italian in school.
“Having those experiences early on gives you hope that you’re less likely to give up on a situation when you know there are tougher things to be had,” Alexander told Amplify. “There is always a solution. You find ways to do things when you’re looking at a situation that may seem insurmountable. ‘No’ can’t be in the equation.”
The same goes for the arena world, Alexander explained. The Tacoma Dome in Washington spent the last five years trying to bring Garth Brooks back to the state after a nearly 20-year absence. The first Garth show (Nov. 3) sold out immediately and the Dome scheduled four more shows for the following two days in order to meet the demand.
“Going into the Garth dates we just had, we had two matinees,” Alexander said. “Our building has 21,000 people per show and to convert the entire building and get all the trash out before we have to open doors again we had everyone on our staff, including myself and Kim Bedier (Director of Tacoma Venues & Events), picking up garbage. It sculpts situations like that where no is not in the equation.”
Amplify caught up with Alexander to find out about five of his favorite shows, and spoiler, the Garth shows made the list.
Oasis with Pink Noise Test at Whisky a Go Go in Hollywood
Sept. 29, 1994
I was the road manager and guitar tech for a band on Interscope Records called Pink Noise Test and we were asked to open for Oasis at The Whisky in Hollywood. I believe it was literally the fifth show for Oasis in the United States.
The club was beyond sold-out and for any opening act, this is the best chance to convert new fans. Pink Noise Test delivered a blistering set of high volume noise pop and, aside from repairing a broken string during the second song, the set was going great. With one song left to go, the singer from Pink Noise Test accidentally knocked over his guitar and the headstock broke right in half. Taking this as a sign from the showmanship gods, he proceeded to smash the guitar into splinters all over the stage and the crowd went nuts. Mission accomplished.
Next, Oasis meanders on stage with the confidence of a British stadium act and a hint of polished recklessness. There was an unmistakable edge in their performance where they sounded INCREDIBLE, but you felt like the show could end at any minute. They opened with “Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” and a minute later someone misses a few chord changes, they stop and start over. You can almost hear the teeth grinding in every verse.
The onstage dynamic between Liam and Noel on this night was noticeably venomous. At one point it appeared that they were getting in each other’s faces with some mild shoving and exchanging of words. Whether it was anger, stress or other influences, this performance was the epitome of electric brilliance. You couldn’t take your eyes off this race car careening down the single lane canyon road. Towards the end of the set, I nearly ran into Liam as he ran up the dressing room stairwell looking for his lost bag. At the time, we had no idea what was going to become of these guys, but it was one of the most memorable and sonically beautiful shows I’ve ever witnessed.
Mike Watt, Foo Fighters & Hovercraft at The Palace in Hollywood
May 19, 1995
I had just left my in-house temp gig at Columbia and Epic Records in Santa Monica to work for PACE Concerts in the L.A. booking office. While I was at Columbia Records, I had many friendly interactions with Mike Watt and loved his new record at the time called “Ballhog or Tugboat?” With The Minutemen and Firehose, Watt influenced and had the respect of countless artists and he was always cool to me and the others in the office. One of my marketing friends at Columbia gave me tickets to this show at The Palace in Hollywood, which is now called The Avalon.
With Dave Grohl’s “new” band Foo Fighters and Hovercraft on the bill, I was beyond intrigued to see what we were in for. Hovercraft was a trio that featured Eddie Vedder’s wife at the time, Beth Liebling, and sometimes Vedder on drums playing a pleasant wash of ambient noise. With this being the Foo Fighters’ first tour, I had no idea what to expect. Was Dave going to sing while playing drums, or what!?! I was very familiar with the Foo Fighters demo cassette that had circulated around a few A&R folks’ desks and I loved all of those songs which ended up becoming the first record. They came onstage with the sonic ferocity of a super-hungry band who wanted to make every second count. Seeing Dave take on the front man role playing guitar and singing well live lifted that crowd to a whole new level.
When Watt took the stage, Grohl joined him on drums, Eddie Vedder was on guitar, and the parade of guest artists ensued such as Pat Smear, Hole’s Eric Erlandson, Nels Cline, Kira Roessler from Black Flag, and Carla Bozulich from the Geraldine Fibbers. While taking full command over his bone crunching bass tone attack, Watt ran through most of his new record with the artists who all contributed to it. With the whole evening taking on a constant state of not knowing what to expect next and continually delivering onslaughts of 90s rock greatness, this show is seared into my brain.
Roger Waters at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York
Oct. 12, 2010
I was working for Live Nation Touring on Roger Waters’ The Wall Live tour and the thought of going to one of the few locations of the original 1980 Wall tour to me was very cool. Nassau Coliseum on Long Island in New York has hosted some of the greatest shows ever witnessed. Everyone on the entire crew and artist party were great people and the vibe was always welcoming. During the second half of the show, the entire band performed from behind The Wall and was hidden from the audience.
One of the backline techs invited me up onstage to watch this portion of the performance from “Hey You” through “Comfortably Numb” while I sat on the front of the drum riser with the entire band interacting around me. Watching the physical transitions and performances that close was mind blowing. The great thing about our business is that sometimes you get to work with artists whose records you listened to on repeat growing up and the imprint of those songs on your conscience becomes indelible.
Rolling Stones with Special Guests Guns N’ Roses at L.A. Coliseum
Oct. 19, 1989
It was the second night of the multi-night run and after listening to the simulcast on KLOS from the night before, everybody thought that Axl was quitting Guns N’ Roses. The house lights went down and Steven Adler started the memorable extended drumbeat to “Mr. Brownstone.” Slash walked to the front of the stage by himself and gave a heartfelt apology saying that he wasn’t going to let certain bad habits take priority over the band. They launched into “Mr. Brownstone” as Axl slinked to the front of the stage. Seeing the original band line-up in their break-through prime was like nothing I’ve ever seen. They ran through just about every song from “Appetite For Destruction” with such precision that they made it seem like they had already played stadiums with regularity.
At one point in the show, Slash spoke to the crowd in childlike awe as he recounted walking those same concourses of the L.A. Coliseum in 1980 seeing the Stones.
During their fifteen minute version of “Rocket Queen,” Duff McKagan hammered away at a second set of Latin percussion while Axl held down the groove on bass.
GNR’s set left everyone with their collective jaws on the ground and it was certainly just the tip of the iceberg for things to come.
Garth Brooks with Trisha Yearwood at Tacoma Dome in Washington
May 3-5, 2017
We had been holding these dates for close to five years and keeping it under wraps during that timeframe was a fun challenge. When we finally put the shows on sale, five shows blew out the door. Garth hadn’t been to the Seattle-Tacoma region in 19 years and the market was ready. I’ve never seen an artist and crew operate at such a high level ever. Garth performed two of the days with a matinee and an evening show with not an ounce less effort with songs added or changed in each three-hour set. With a reasonable ticket price for all seats, a long set list of classics, and a stage show that rivals all of the big productions out there, you can see why his fans are so loyal.
From the second he took the stage to the last strum of his seventh encore song, he had the crowd eating out of his hands singing the words to every song. Trisha Yearwood joined him mid-set and their blended harmonies were flawless. Her solo set of songs spotlighted her massive vocal range and tone.
I really don’t know if we’ll ever see another performer like this in our lifetime with this much crossover appeal.