Remembering the Kingswood Music Theatre

If you grew up in Southern Ontario in the 80s and 90s, there’s a better-than-average chance that you drove up the 400 to see a summer concert at the Kingswood Music Theatre, the 15,000-ish capacity venue on the grounds of Canada’s Wonderland. I saw a bazillion shows there: Depeche Mode, the Ramones, China Crisis, Kim Mitchell, Elvis Costello, Roger Waters (the Radio KAOS concert was still the best-sounding gig I’ve ever been to), Sister of Mercy, Simple Minds, David Lee Roth, Howard Jones. The list goes on.

It was the only venue in the GTA to host a Smiths concert. We did a series of CFNY Video Roadshow events there. There was the infamous rain-soaked washout of the 1985 CASBY Music Awards. The last edition of the touring edition of Lollapalooza was held at Kingswood. Tool played there, fer crissakes.

I’m not exactly sure when Kingswood stopped being a thing–did the Molson Amphitheatre kill it off?–but when it was around, it was a great place to see a concert in the summer.

Cam Gordon at Completely Ignored created this visual featuring many of the bands that performed at the Kingswood. What other shows do you remember?

Kingswood Music Theatere Infographic

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

49 thoughts on “Remembering the Kingswood Music Theatre

  • August 24, 2016 at 9:55 am
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    I saw Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch there.

    Don’t judge me, I was like 9 or 10!’

    And I could have seen The Smiths – my goodness.

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  • August 24, 2016 at 11:13 am
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    So many shows…

    eurythmics
    zztop
    the pogues and the violent femmes
    roger waters
    howard jones
    santana
    aerosmith
    world party

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  • August 24, 2016 at 11:27 am
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    I was at that roger waters radio Kaos show. It WAS amazing sound! I saw Triumph’s final show there as well. I can’t remember going the for anything else.

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  • August 24, 2016 at 12:14 pm
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    I saw Sisters of Mercy, who were sharing the bill with Public Enemy, and I think Warrior Soul opened. I don’t think Flavor Flav made it across the border for this one. Also saw David Lee Roth and Poison (with Extreme opening)

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  • August 24, 2016 at 12:22 pm
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    I saw Jackson Browne there too. Got to meet him and talk with him for quite a bit, and went backstage.

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  • August 24, 2016 at 12:43 pm
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    Chalk Circle played the first stop on their cross Canada tour supporting Crowded House at Kingswood.

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  • August 24, 2016 at 1:25 pm
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    Too many to remember…a couple not on the list were Honeymoon Suite and Sting (I think 10 Summoners tour).

    Saw Diamond Dave, Triumph, Chicago, and a bunch more. Was a great facility

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    • January 6, 2017 at 11:27 pm
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      I saw so many concerts there myself as well as worked there. Chicago when Peter Cetera was still with them, Honeymoon Suite opening for April Wine ( Cory Hart decided he had a sore throat so HS opened for them) Poison, Glass Tiger, David Lee Roth, and a few more. The only issue with going to concerts there was if you stood up to rock out/dance security told you to sit down.

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  • August 24, 2016 at 1:57 pm
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    As I recall when The Smiths played there it was the same night The Cult played in Waterloo. I opted for The Cult. In retrospect, maybe not the best choice however The Cult had this little known band called Guns ‘n Roses opening for them. Appetite for Destruction hadn’t exploeded yet (although I believe it was relaeased) and the band had a raw energy that you only see with young bands.

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    • August 24, 2016 at 6:43 pm
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      I was at that gig too. I remember GnR didn’t get a great reception. That LA cock rock thing just hadn’t made it to southern Ontario yet. Super skate 7 got pulled apart that night….well the ceiling at least.

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  • August 24, 2016 at 1:59 pm
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    Saw Violent Femmes open for the B-52’s…..good show. I realize Molson Amphithéâtre probably over took Kingswood, but isn’t the GTA/ Golden Horseshoe not a big market to support to venue like that size?

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  • August 24, 2016 at 2:10 pm
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    The question is, Why can’t it be a great venue again?
    I was at Canada’s Wonderland a couple weekends ago and walked by Kingswood thinking how much of my concert summer life was spent their in my youth.
    #BringbackKingswood#Myyouth#Summerconcerts

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      • November 20, 2018 at 11:44 am
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        Hi Alan. I love everything you do. You are an amazing walking encyclopedia of musical knowledge.
        I am wondering if you know anything about The Band when they played at Kingswood?
        Who played that night?The setlist, anything at all. Thanks in advance.

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  • August 24, 2016 at 2:13 pm
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    Saw Depeche Mode for my first concert ever there at age 13 in 1985 (saw the boys playing footie on the back field from the top of the Minebuster. Then worked security at Kingswood for 3 summers. Minimum 75 concerts – several of them solid. Got a ring from Morrissey. Best outdoor venue ever. Except for the sod tossing concerts!

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  • August 24, 2016 at 3:34 pm
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    Definitely saw Depeche Mode more than once. Saw Chicago on thir 30th anniversary tour for my 30th birthday. Did INXS play there?

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    • August 24, 2016 at 6:30 pm
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      INXS played there they open for the Go Go’s

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  • August 24, 2016 at 4:05 pm
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    Don’t forget The English Beat (with BowWowWow) in ….I guess ’82. And Talk Talk opened up for The Furs in ’85(??).

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  • August 24, 2016 at 4:33 pm
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    Saw the 93 Duran Duran show. Terence Trent D’Arby opened up. Such a fun day.

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  • August 24, 2016 at 5:19 pm
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    I saw Little Feat open for George Thorogood. The Feat definitely stole the show!!! There was an awesome thunderstorm that night as well. Lightning flashing all around Kingswood!!

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  • August 24, 2016 at 5:31 pm
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    Saw Erasure and Martha and The Muffins there

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  • August 24, 2016 at 5:39 pm
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    I saw a 1988 (I think) Kenny Logins concert there. The venue is still in use, attended a cheerleading competition there in June 2016. Shame it isnt used for more shows.

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  • August 24, 2016 at 6:00 pm
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    Mastero Fresh Wes opened for Stevie B. Half the place emptyed out after ‘Let your back Bone Slide’ was played. He was just peaking….Steive B was the greatest embasator Freestyle ever had!

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  • August 24, 2016 at 9:16 pm
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    INXS did play there, Marta, they opened for the Go-Gos.

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  • August 24, 2016 at 11:04 pm
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    I saw The Smiths, Siousie and the Banshees, erasure!, Depeche Mode and so many more I love that I could pay $5 for a concert with my seasons pass.

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  • August 25, 2016 at 10:59 am
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    Talk Talk opening for Psychedelic Furs…the Replacements opening for Tom Petty…

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  • August 25, 2016 at 12:48 pm
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    Worked at KMT 1983 -1984
    Sad it’s not used any more.
    It’s still a great venue maybe some day it will have great shows again.
    For now it’s a home for geese and raccoons.

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  • August 25, 2016 at 4:13 pm
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    i remember seeing Little Feat with Lowell George all them years ago

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    • January 13, 2019 at 11:54 pm
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      I remember seeing Little Feat there a few times. But I don’t think they were there with Lowell George. Saw them with Lowell in Buffalo. Also remember seeing Santana there.

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  • August 26, 2016 at 1:00 am
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    ’86 saw depeche mode with book of love opening. sweet memories of high school summer

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  • August 26, 2016 at 11:32 am
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    Lollapalooza 1997…with Orbital, Tool, Korn, Tricky, James, Snoop Dogg, etc.

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  • August 26, 2016 at 8:49 pm
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    I loved that venue, even though I’d only seen a handful of shows there. I saw George Thorogood with Little Feat opening. I saw Kim Mitchell with Haywire opening. And I saw Morrissey … which, combined with the day at Wonderland with 15 or 20 of my friends, was one of the funnest days of my teenage life!

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  • April 8, 2017 at 11:10 am
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    I was at Roger Waters Aug. 17 1987 and the sound was the best I have heard to date.

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  • July 18, 2018 at 9:15 pm
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    Iggy pop with Reverend Horton Heat and only about thirty people in the audience! It Was fantastic. Mid 90,s

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  • October 14, 2018 at 7:57 pm
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    Alan, great article! I’d like to note that the appearance by Depeche Mode in the summer of 1994 was during their legendary, debauchery filled “Exotic/Summer Tour ’94”, which was basically an extension of their Devotional tour, where they looped back around and hit all the outdoor venues during the summer. By this point the band was falling apart. Dave was totally strung out on heroin. Andrew Fletcher had left the band because of a nervous breakdown and a roadie or friend of the band was filling in. Martin was in the throes of his own alcoholism. Alan wilder was finishing the last shows he’d ever play with the band, in part because of all of this. I have read anecdotes written by tour managers and agents who worked with people like Ozzy and Motley Crue who said this was one of the most debauched rock tours ever and DM had those other bands beat…. Literally lucky to finish that tour alive. That said, as I’m rambling on… Cool to think, that show rolled into Canada’s Wonderland! If that backstage area could talk!

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  • November 16, 2018 at 2:57 pm
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    Animotion opened for someone…was it Simple Minds??

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    • November 16, 2018 at 2:59 pm
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      Animotion …It was Howard Jones got it…

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  • July 28, 2019 at 12:28 am
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    I believe I saw the first rock show there.(the first night Kingswood opened it was Paul Anka or somebody like that) It was the English Beat and Bow Wow Wow. Security was basically 17 year old ushers at that time. Everyone rushed the stage. The bassist for Bow Wow Wow proceeded to fight someone in the mosh pit and then got back on stage and continued to play. The Beat were great as usual.One of the best live bands ever.
    Apart from this show, other highlights at Kingswood included Simple Minds, The Furs, Midnight Oil, Ub40, Elvis Costello. The Replacements (my favorite American band) opening for Elvis another highlight. Also so glad I got to see Talk Talk open for the Furs. Prior to seeing them, I had dismissed them as a disposable synth band. I was so wrong. One of the few opening bands I have seen that have blown me away knowing nothing about the band. (English Beat at the ‘82 Police Picnic was another) Easily one of the most under appreciated bands of the Eighties. Their last three or four albums and Mark Hollis’s solo album were light years ahead of most music of the time and clearly a forerunner of bands like Radiohead.

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    • July 28, 2019 at 12:34 am
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      Oh, also forgot to mention those first Kingswood concerts were $2 with admission to the park.

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    • March 27, 2020 at 12:08 am
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      Thanks for posting this JP! A group of us were also there for the Psychedelic Furs & Talk Talk concert at Kingswood. Really enjoyed the show also. Great to hear your exacting remembrances. I just belatedly discovered news of Mark Hollis’s passing on Feb 26 2020.
      Very sad to hear.

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  • April 12, 2021 at 7:35 pm
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    1986 shows I worked security for- The Smiths, The Cure, Depeche Mode x2, Lou Reed, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Van Morrison, Moody Blues, Joe Jackson, Jefferson Starship, Kim Mitchell, Big Country, The Bangles, Honeymoon Suite, Glass Tiger, New Edition. Riot that damaged back fence at New Edition show when they left on their tour bus very early into gig. The Smiths- Morrissey inviting fans on stage -crazy . Kim Mitchell- sod throwing mess. Saw SRV get his gold records from record execs backstage before his gig.

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  • May 26, 2021 at 5:18 pm
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    I can’t believe that no one has mentioned the legendary Kim Mitchel Sod wars! /I have been trying to find news pics or video of it and there is no mention anywhere…I think either there is a publicity ban as they don’t want to give anyone any ideas for other amphitheaters…likely….OR I was never ever really at a Kim Mitchel concert where the crowd ripped up the entire lawns and had a sod fight of EPIC proportions!

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  • June 14, 2021 at 3:49 pm
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    I remember seeing Don Henley, Steve Miller, Winger, Diamond Dave. The fun thing was if you went to the park when it opened at around 11am you would often see the musical acts checking out the rides. It was fun to chat with them, take photos and watch their reactions to the Great Canadian Mind Buster roller coaster!

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  • June 18, 2021 at 11:30 pm
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    I saw The Smiths there twice, Howard Jones opening for Eurythmics, Depeche Mode, and Simple Minds. Fantastic shows! I was a new romantic/new wave girl yet also saw Hall and Oates, Tiffany and Rick Astley there. The venue was very intimate. Great times.

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  • August 30, 2021 at 7:13 pm
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    I saw Eurythmics there twice. The ‘Touch Tour’ and ‘Revenge Tour’.
    I also saw ‘Night Ranger’.

    Reply

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