Tina Turner’s 1985 sold-out show at the Aitken University Centre came at the peak of the venue’s popularity and signified the beginning of the end for large indoor concerts in Fredericton.
Tina Turner died yesterday at the age of 83. Known to many as the Queen of Rock and Roll, Turner holds a unique place in the fabric of New Brunswick’s music history. Or more specifically, in the history of live music performances in Fredericton. Turner’s performance at the Aitken University Centre (AUC) in 1985 was one of the last big sold out rock shows to take place at what was then the city’s largest concert arena.
Touring in support of her fifth solo album, Private Dancer, Turner’s legendary performance on Sunday July 14 came at the height of her popularity. Six days prior to the show, on July 8, Capitol Records released the single, We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome) from the soundtrack for the film Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome which was released two days later on July 10 and featured Turner in a leading role. This combination of a breakthrough album, a chart-topping single, and a starring role in a blockbuster movie helped to further interest in her one and only Fredericton performance.
But in true Fredericton fashion, tickets didn’t move immediately. While most of Turner’s North American tour performances sold out in a matter of days, her Fredericton date was not declared a sell-out until the day of the show.
By 1985, attendance at large concerts in Fredericton was beginning to decline. Following Turner’s performance, AUC director Gordan LeBel noted how the venue’s slower-than-average ticket sales were causing some acts to bypass the city in favour of larger centres. LeBel said after seeing the slow response to Turner’s show, certain promoters no longer considered Fredericton an option.
“It’s very frustrating,” said LeBel in an interview with The Daily Gleaner, adding that if Saint John ever built a large venue of its own, Fredericton’s big concert days may be over for good. Harbour Station opened in 1993. By then, large concerts, once a frequent occurrence at the AUC, had become a rarity.
Photo: AP/Ray Stubblebine