A Spectrum memory

If you’re a Philly sports fan, or a lover of pop music, a little piece of you is going to die today.

They will start knocking the Spectrum down at noon.

The legendary sports palace will give way to something called PhillyLive, an entertainment-nightlife-shopping center. And proving true to the Spectrum’s heritage, the size of the development is already being scaled down, with developers struggling along with everyone else in this economy.

The Spectrum is the place where Kate Smith belted out 'God Bless America' propelling the Flyers to win back-to-back Stanley Cups. In the process they changed a city’s image forever.

We weren’t losers anymore.

It is the place where the Sixers won a world title.

It is the place where Duke star Christian Laettner hit the “shot heard ‘round the world’ after a full-court pass to beat Kenturkcy in the final seconds in the 1992 NCAA Tournament in what many believe is the greatest college basketball game ever played.

But for all its lofty sports heritage, I’ve been surprised at how many people I’ve talked to whose most vivid memories are the concerts.

Me, too.

Maybe it’s a generational thing. It’s where we grew up. It was one of the first places we went on our own, without our parents tagging along.

It is the place where we embraced our music heroes, Springsteen (even after he was booed as the opening act for Chicago in 1978), Billy Joel. It was where The Allman Brothers Band would come in each holiday season for their annual Eat a Peach Jam. It was where it seemed like Foghat opened every show.

My greatest Spectrum memory? No problem.

It was a concert, but probably not one you would expect. I got the tickets for my wife for a birthday present, although I can admit I was the one who really wanted to go.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. It certainly wasn’t going to be the same crowd – or atmosphere – I had associated with my “glory days” at the Spectrum a couple decades before.

I was bummed when we first got into our seats and I noticed a lot of empty seats. Not to worry, it was simply the thing to do, arriving fashionably late.

By the time the lights started to dim, the place was packed. I noticed a buzz in the crowd, no, not the one that had been a mainstay of so many concerts when I was a kid. This was different. I was an an adult, in my late 30s, a parent of two young kids.

The place was electric.

Then a single spotlight was cast on the entrance and the seemingly small man in a tuxedo slowly sauntered to his spot on the stage. He would prove true to his reputation. He was a giant.

The place erupted.

It is one of a handful of times in my life when I can honestly say I felt the hair stand up on my arms.

Frank Sinatra was that big. And on that night, celebrating his 75th year with his Silver Jubilee Tour, he was that good.

The best concert I have ever seen.

I have a lot of memories of the Spectrum, but only one is “A No. 1, top of the heap.”

Thanks for the memory, Frank.