Hallowed Ground: Cobo Arena

“Hallowed Ground” will be a regular feature on Clore Chronicles, exploring important physical locations in music history.

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The live venue is arguably the most important physical location in all of music. It is where fan and star come face-to-face. It is where dreams come true and life-long fans are made.

I have always been fascinated by the history contained inside the halls where we enjoy our favorite bands perform. The “Hallowed Ground” feature is meant to bring attention to the importance of these physical locations, some of the key events that have occurred there and how it has impacted music.

Detroit’s Cobo Arena, sometimes referred to as Cobo Hall, has been the epicenter of countless important moments in music history. Situated on the banks of the Detroit River, in America’s “Motor City,” Cobo Arena has played “live” recording studio to the following projects (in part, or in whole):

The Doors – Live In Detroit – Recorded May 8, 1970

Bob Seger – Live Bullet – Recorded September 4-5, 1975

KISS – Alive! – Recorded 1975 (produced/engineered by Eddie Kramer)

Yes – Yesshows – Recorded August 17, 1976

Madonna – Live – The Virgin Tour (concert video) – Recorded May 25, 1985

Kid Rock – Live Trucker – Recorded March 26, 2004

Photo Credit: Lisa Hagopian

The 12,000-seat Cobo opened in 1960 and was home to the Detroit Pistons from 1961-1978. It is the arena portion of Detroit’s primary convention center, Cobo Center. One end of the arena is flat and contains no seats.

Jay-Z performed a free show in support of presidential nominee Barack Obama at Cobo on October 4, 2008, in an effort to get people to register to vote. After a five-year hiatus, jam band mainstays Phish opened up its tour at Cobo Arena on November 18, 2009.

Alive!, the fourth album from KISS (and recorded at Cobo), was the band’s breakthrough project. In a 2009 ABC12 interview, KISS’s Paul Stanley shared:

“Detroit for us is kind of like the holy land. It’s where it all started for us. KISS really became a headlining act in Detroit before anywhere else, before anybody else understood us. So, the cover of KISS Alive! is actually taken at Michigan Palace, and the actual back cover [below] and all of the recording, was done at Cobo Hall. So, Cobo Hall is the hall where it all started.”


The following video is an interesting look at the stage being set up inside Cobo for a 2009 KISS show.

Unrelated to music, but interesting nonetheless: Cobo Arena is where Nancy Kerrigan was attacked in 1994.

*Originally published December 31, 2009

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11 thoughts on “Hallowed Ground: Cobo Arena

  1. Being a fan of “Live” albums, I’d have to agree. Part of Journey’s “Captured” was done there as well.

    On “Live Bullet” Seger is talking to the crowd in the middle of the first song “I read last night in Rolling Stone magazine where they said Detroit audiences are the greatest rock audiences in the world.” (huge roar)…”Hell, I’ve known that for ten years!” (even bigger roar). : )

  2. Mark, thanks for the comment. I really appreciate you reading, and adding to, the story.

    Now back to that Larry Norman DVD… I look forward to catching up with you once I’m done watching it.

    Talk with you soon.

    John Clore

    • Jean, thanks for the comment, and for reading.

      The KISS shows a couple of months back were supposed to be the last shows, but Cobo is still alive and hosting events. In researching for this story, I was trying to find an updated explanation of its future, but couldn’t find anything. If you hear of any news, please pass along.

      Thanks again.

      John Clore

  3. interesting site. i worked at cobo arena for 13 years starting in 1980. people always ask me how many concerts i’ve seen and i think it’s gotta be close to a couple hundred. in the early days, we were the only venue in town. any ideas on where i can find an event history of cobo? haven’t had much luck so far. thanks, rick.

    • Rick, I’m really glad you came across my post. It’s very cool that someone that spent so much time there would read my thoughts.

      To answer your question, about an event history, I’ve had no luck either. In my original research I spent considerable time trying to track something like that down. I’m hoping someone has kept track through the years. I will continue to look, and let you know if I come across anything.

      Thanks for reading. I appreciate it.

      John Clore

    • For fans of Cobo Arena and history in general, rock and social, you may find my site beneficial. I am producing the Official Cobo Arena Documentary, LET’S GO COBO, and the actual history of this unique venue is more amazing that most would guess. The personalities participating include a whose who of music royalty…As to the question of Cobo Arena going away; The money is appropriated for inevitable reconstruction to expand Cobo Hall. It’s life as a performance arena will be over soon…Jake Hall

      • Hey Jake, many thanks for reading, and for this great info! I’m very excited to know that this documentary is being created. As I was researching for this post, it was obvious to me there are few “official” sources of info on this amazing arena’s history, so I’m really glad to know you all are doing this. I can’t wait to see it. Please let me know how I can help spread the word further (I just twittered about it).

        Thanks again, and I’ll be in touch.

        John Clore

    • Hey Rick, I just heard from a guy named Jake Hall, who is involved in producing a documentary on Cobo called “Let’s Go Cobo.” You can learn more about it at this website: http://bit.ly/a7xyQT

      Sincerely,

      John Clore

  4. Pingback: Black History Month & Music: Part 6 of 12 « Clore Chronicles

  5. Hey, I would also be interested in an event history. I would like to reminisce about some of the High lites of my life. So many concerts. Also, I believe that a portion of J Geils ” Blow your face off ‘” was recorded at Cobo.

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