CLASSIC CONCERT: The Clash @ Aragon Ballroom / Chicago, IL / May 17, 1984

The Clash - Aragon Ballroom - 5-17-84

Business travel frequently took me around these United States of America in the 80’s. Many trips were short notice, and most of my evenings were free to go hear live music. In the pre-internet days, it wasn’t easy to find out in advance what concert opportunities might be awaiting me. Sometimes, I’d call ahead to a familiar venue or a local record store. Often, it wasn’t until I got to town and found a newspaper or the weekly entertainment rag that I found out what was going on.

On one such trip to the Windy City, I was able to catch the second generation Clash on their Out of Control tour. This was the version of the band without Mick Jones that would later release Cut the Crap, the final record under the band’s name. A new drummer, the band’s third, remained with the group after joining them for the final show with Jones at the 1983 US Festival in California. Surviving original members Joe Strummer and Paul Simonon were now joined by a pair of young guitarists.

The show holds no real memories other than hearing a few new songs and missing the occasional change from Strummer to Jones on lead vocals. I recall the unpleasantness of the overcrowded, seatless, 4,500-capacity Aragon Ballroom (dubbed “brawl-room” by the locals). Arriving late and missing any opening band(s) that there might have been, I remember never finding a comfortable vantage spot. The cavernous room made me claustrophobic as well, and after trying several spots, I settled on a distant location in the balcony.

After the show, I visited a bar next to the venue where I think that local band The Hounds were playing. Leaving an hour or so after show time, I stumbled upon Joe Strummer leaving the front of the venue carrying a large shoulder bag. He was chatting friendly with some fans, and to this day I regret not approaching the late artist who I truly admire.

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2 comments

  1. Dave McKenna · · Reply

    I was at that show as well wearing camouflage pants and Who tshirt. Sweated my ass off as we were about 10 people from the stage. Opener was some reggae/ska band which was forgettable. They basically got booed off the stage. It wasn’t the same without Mick in the lineup but still very cool for an 18 wanna be punk rocker that I was…

    1. I missed them, but my note says the opening act was called Heavy Manners.

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