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October 2, 2014

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Thomas & Mack Turns 25:

No. 17: The Boss makes ‘em scream

Springsteen one of many musical acts to play 25-year-old arena

Click to enlarge photo

A collage of ticket stubs line the hallway of the Thomas & Mack Center, showing the variation of musical acts that have performed in the 25-year-old arena.

Beyond the Sun

Editor's Note: In conjunction with the 25th anniversary of the Thomas & Mack Center's opening on Nov. 21, 1983, the Sun is celebrating the building's colorful history with a top 25 countdown - to No. 1 on Nov. 21, 2008 - of the biggest events held inside the arena located on UNLV's campus.

"B-R-U-U-U-C-E!"

That was the battle cry at the Thomas & Mack Center on Aug. 18, 2002 when Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, one of the most prolific touring acts of all time, hit town to promote "The Rising" CD.

Actually, it wasn't quite as raucous as most Springsteen concerts. For starters, it was a Sunday night. It was just the sixth show of the tour and the E Street Band, to paraphrase the lyrics of "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out," was still searching for its groove. Plus, of the 23 tracks Bruce and the band played that night, eleven were from "The Rising" -- a compilation of mostly introspective and brooding songs that Springsteen wrote in the aftermath of 9-11.

But that only lasted for about a half-hour or so.

Everybody began chanting "B-R-U-U-U-C-E" again. And, in "Spinal Tap" terms, it went from 10 to 11 on the enthusiasm and energy meter.

If you drove in for the concert on a rattlesnake speedway in the Utah desert -- as The Boss says in "The Promised Land" (song nine on the set list of 23 that night) -- you were not disappointed.

In fact, you were probably tapping your foot, thrusting a fist in the air and yelling "B-R-U-U-C-E" right along with everybody else.

Springsteen certainly was one of the more noteworthy acts to play the Mack, but he certainly wasn't the only one. Nor can he take credit for the first concert, or the largest show.

Loverboy performed the inaugural show on Dec. 18, 1983, when 7,816 swayed in their seats to the sounds of the newly released Keep It Up album, the band's third.

The largest single concert came on Sept. 30, 2000 when Phish lured 18,300 into Thomas & Mack.

Garth Brooks packed in more than 70,000 for a concert series in 1998.

Van Halen rocked out in 1984, while Lionel Ritchie slowed things down with a different sound that same year.

Rat Packers Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis held a Christmas concert during the arena's opening week, while legendary tenor Pavarotti performed two years later in 1985.

Rock acts Guns N' Roses came in '92, with Metallica following suit with a little help from Alice in Chains in '94, and then performing on their own in '97.

Before their record-setting show, Phish performed in 1998, with Pearl Jam and Celine Dion also taking the Mack's stage that same year. The unlikely pairing of Elton John and Tina Turner joined forces in 1999, while a large contingent of rap superstars shared the same stage for The Up and Smoke Tour in 2000. U2 put on one of the building's most stirring concerts with a tribute show after 9/11.

While these are just a few sampling of the hundreds of acts that have performed in the 25-year-old arena, perhaps none had a more fitting, or enduring, chant than that of Springsteen's "B-R-U-U-U-C-E."

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