Thursday, 2 Feb 2023

Most Legendary Events in Frank Erwin Center History

By Max Rosenfield

Over the years the Frank Erwin Center has hosted over 2,500 concerts, featuring the most talented and famous musicians of the past 40 years. Today I am going to go through and highlight the most legendary events that have ever graced the Frank Erwin Center Stage. It was a difficult task to pick between all of the incredible events that the venue has hosted in the past 40 years, but without further ado present to you my Top 5 most legendary events in Frank Erwin Center history:


Dalai Lama “Individual Responsibility in the Global Community” – Sept. 20, 2005 – Photo by Carlos San Miguel

In 2005, the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyasto, the leader of the Tibetan people and winner of the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize stopped by the Frank Erwin Center to give a talk on individual responsibility in the global community. The event was free and staff witnessed the Dalai Lama speak to a capacity crowd of over 12,000 people.


Prince “The Purple Rain Tour”- Jan. 29-30, 1985

This event was not only legendary due to the dearly departed funk legend Prince performing in Austin for the first time, but it was also the very first two night run in the history of the Frank Erwin Center. Prince sold out both nights, making this also the first back to back sell out show at the Frank Erwin Center. With the two sell out shows, Prince claimed the title as top grossing act to perform at the venue in 1985.

Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jeff Beck- Aug. 20, 1989

This was an absolutely historic night, as it marked the Austin-based guitar legend’s only headline performance at the Frank Erwin Center. Vaughan tragically died in a helicopter crash a year later while on tour with Eric Clapton. There is no doubt that he would have returned to play the Austin staple numerous more times if not for his untimely passing. For this reason, this show will forever live in history as the largest show ever played on his home turf of Austin.

Sir Paul McCartney “Out There Tour”- May 19-20, 2013- Photo by MJ Kim

It doesn’t get much more legendary than The Beatles. Make it a two night run, add that on top of the fact that these shows marked the first time that Sir Paul performed in Austin and you have yourself a formula for a seriously special event. I wasn’t able to catch Sir Paul at the Erwin Center in 2013, but I was lucky enough to see him at Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival just a month after his stop in Austin. And let me tell you, to this day, it is hands down the best concert I have ever attended.The May 19 and 20 shows hold the record for highest grossing event in Frank Erwin Center history.

Lawrence Welk– March 12, 1978

The year is 1978. You have been driving past the new state of the art arena being built for the past four years. The wait is over. The first concert to ever take place at the arena was a performance by entertainer and television personality Lawrence Welk. The show was a sellout. Imagine the energy in the building that night. This was the start of it all, and what a way to start. FUN FACT: The 1st events to take place at the Frank Erwin Center were a Texas Longhorns Men’s and Women’s Basketball double header.

What legendary event would you add to this list?

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