September 22, 2023
Music History

Weekly Survey: What is your best CNE musical memory?

Apologies to readers outside Southern Ontario, but this week’s question is focused on folks in the Greater Toronto Area and its environs.

The Canadian National Exhibition has been a thing since 1879 and has gained a reputation as the summer’s last big blow-out. When it starts this Friday for its 18-day run (despite the IATSE picket lines that might slow things down), there will be the usual lineup of concerts both at the CNE Bandshell and the Budweiser Stage across Lake Shore Boulevard.

Music has always been a big part of the CNE. People of a certain age will remember the gigs at Exhibition Stadium that began decades ago and only stopped when it was demolished to make way for BMO Field (which holds almost zero music events for a variety of reasons, including, I’m told, the high cost of union labour).

Some big names have played over the years: Ozzy, Elton, Diana Ross, Cher, Van Morrison, Billy Idol, Fleetwood Mac. Then there are all the CNE Bandshell shows. And we can add in any CNE-related gigs at the Molson Amphitheatre (now the Budweiser Stage).

A simple question, then: What are your favourite CNE-related (i.e. late-August) concert memories?

Alan Cross

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12 thoughts on “Weekly Survey: What is your best CNE musical memory?

  • Over the years I went to a lot of great shows there. I’ll name them off, and a few were the choices of girlfriends, not mine. David Cassidy, The Guess Who, Glen Campbell, Waylon & Willie, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath (Heaven & Hell Tour), Pink Floyd (Momentary Lapse Of Reason Tour), David Bowie (Serious Moonlight Tour), Echo & The Bunnymen with New Order and Gene Loves Jezebel, but my favourite was Three Dog Night, with April Wine and T Rex.

  • I forgot Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band (Born In The USA Tour), and the time we were sitting in the beer garden nearby, listening to the Stones doing their quite lengthy soundcheck for the Steel Wheels show.

  • The CNE has always been a part of my life over the years, and not just concerts, from a teenage sweeper in the 80s to doing security at the Bavarian Taverns (bar at the end of the Alpine Way) in the 90s. The funny thing is that those Conklin ride-attendants look like they’re stuck in time, scruffy looking with mullets.

  • I remember an excellent Neil Young show – Sept. 2, ’87. Opening act – Neil Young – acoustic, Main act – Neil Young & Crazy Horse – electric. And then there was the Bowie – Glass Spider tour, Aug. 25, ’87. I still have the stubs – $26.75 for Neil and $31.75 for Bowie, tax incl. plus $.25 CNE Users Fee.

  • Bachman Turner Overdrive, my very first concert. Then over the years..Bob Dylan with Santana. ELO with Heart and the new hit maker Meatloaf. The Rolling Stones. David Bowie as the Thin White Duke. Robert Plant right aftrr the Live Aid show, as we hoped Jimmy Page might show up. He didnt. Bruce Springsteen on his Born in the USA tour. Yes, Kansas & Foreigner, along with many others.

  • Stone Temple Pilots and the Rolling Stones. The Voodoo Lounge Tour. With my dad on a trip he won from a radio station. One of my favourite bands at the time, in their prime, and one of the greatest acts ever. Among my favourite concert experiences ever.

  • The Clash and Black Uhuru.

  • The Cult’s Electric Tour with little known opening band Guns & Roses. ‘nuf said

  • Wow, what year was it? ’87 sleeping out overnight at the CNE to get tickets to David Bowie Glass Spider with Duran Duran and ’87 again U2 Joshua Tree.

  • Throwback to a misspent youth (and can’t remember if it was actually during CNE week) but caught Kiss and Whitesnake at Exhibition stadium years ago when there was a lot of bickering between Paul Stanley and David Coverdale about who was the “headliner”. If I am not mistaken, this was the tour that broke up Skid Row! More recently, One Republic and Rob Thomas at the beer tent (I think both were during CNE week) were certainly excellent shows by two amazing vocalist/songwriters.

  • Queen, CNE Grandstand 1980.

  • The Clash September 1982 was pretty amazing, great crowd, full on mosh pit and they played all of their hits and some great early ones. London Calling, The Guns of Brixton, Police on My Back (The Equals cover), Bankrobber, The Magnificent Seven, Janie Jones, English Civil War, Somebody Got Murdered, Career Opportunities, I Fought the Law (The Crickets cover), Armagideon Time (Willie Williams cover) Police and Thieves (Junior Murvin cover). Encore: Straight to Hell, I’m So Bored With the U.S.A., White Riot.

    So Bored with the USA went over particularly well I remember, I guess as the saying goes, the more things change the more they stay the same. With thanks to, my memeory is not nearly that good


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