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  • Steven D. Desmond

Photo essay: Music lives!

After more than a year without concerts, a look across genres and eras

at influential artists who visited the Niagara region in the past 35 years


1993: Buffalo's own Bobby Militello, who has played with Maynard Ferguson and the Dave Brubeck quartet, at a music store near Main and Transit Roads.

Music lovers, it's been too long.

The pandemic has affected so many people, in so many ways, and none are good. Among the things our society has recently lost is the ability to gather to celebrate live music.

But there is encouraging news: signs point to that changing soon.

“We don’t know when we can open, but our staff is back together and we’re waiting for the green light,” said Dave Fillenwarth, Executive Director of the Riviera Theater in North Tonawanda. “The mental health angle has been the worst thing. Everyone who works here loves concerts, and that’s been taken away from us. The real thrill is artists having live interaction with the fans.”

As venues prepare to open for attendance — the Riviera is targeting late June, depending on state regulations — it's worth pausing to reflect on the stream of iconic musicians who have traveled through Western New York during the past three decades. Our photographer, Steve Desmond, has captured many, including homegrown talents like Bobby Militello, the late Rick James, and Johnny Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls. (There are advantages to getting older!) While this is not a comprehensive list, included here are legendary artists, some of whom have passed away, alongside classic and contemporary acts that still produce new music and continue to tour.

Enjoy the memories!


1990s: Another local favorite, Chuck Vicario, better known as Big Wheelie, performing with his band, The Hubcaps, at Southgate Plaza in West Seneca. Sadly, Vicario passed away from Covid in April 2020.

January 1987: the late Rick James, another Buffalo native, accepts a gold record at the Marriott Hotel in Amherst for his work as a producer with the Mary Jane Girls.

March 2016: favorite son John Rzeznik returned to Western New York to perform alongside Daryl Hall for a "Live From Daryl's House" show at Seneca Niagara Casino.

1989: Canadian rocker Bryan Adams at Buffalo's Memorial Auditorium.

July 1986: Jerry Lee Lewis at Buffalo's War Memorial Stadium.

February 1987: Billy Joel at Memorial Auditorium.


October 1986: Stevie Wonder, backlit in the round at Memorial Auditorium.

March 1997: trumpet great Maynard Ferguson at the University at Buffalo Center for the Arts.

July 1987: Tiffany at the Thruway Mall, during the height of her mall tour across America. Tiffany is scheduled to perform at North Tonawanda's Riviera Theater on September 15.

1999: Rock & Roll Hall of Fame members Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac, at what was then called Marine Midland Arena.

June 1988: Daryl Hall at Darien Lake.

At the same show, guitarist John Oates solos at the stage's edge.

1988: Late bassist Tom "T-Bone" Wolk was known for playing with Hall and Oates, as well as performing with the Satruday Night Live house band. He toured with many industry veterans, and co-produced Buffalo native Willie Nile's 1991 album "Places I Have Never Been." He died in 2010 at age 58.

June 1997: David Crosby performed with fellow bandmates Stephen Stills and Graham Nash at Shea's Buffalo Theater.

December 2011: Big Time Rush at the Kissmas Bash at First Niagara Center.

November 1986: The Fabulous Thunderbirds are honored with a gold record at the Broadway Bowling Center.

December 2011: Jason Derulo at the Kissmas Bash in First Niagara Center.

1987: following their album "Third Stage," Boston performs at Memorial Auditorium. Left, band leader Tom Scholz. With the beard is late vocalist Brad Delp.

July 1997: Huey Lewis at Melody Fair.


July 1986: Fats Domino at War Memorial Stadium.

June 1993: Sting at Rich Stadium, opening for the Grateful Dead.

The same show, with a unique view as the Grateful Dead prepare to take the stage.

December 2011: We the Kings at the Kissmas Bash at First Niagara Center.

June 2019: John Ford Coley, who plays solo since the passing of his musical partner England Dan, at the Riviera Theater. Coley, the subject of a Buffalo Tales feature that can be found on this website, is scheduled to perform again at the Riviera on September 14, 2021.

February 1987: Bruce Hornsby in Rochester.

December 1987: As part of their "Big Generator" tour, Yes performed at Memorial Auditorium. From left, guitarist Trevor Rabin, Tony Kaye on keyboards, vocalist Jon Anderson, and on bass, the late Chris Squire.

December 2011: Fans photograph Demi Lovato at the Kissmas Bash at First Niagara Center.

June 1987: the late Kenny Rogers at Melody Fair.

October 2019: Amy Grant and her band fill the lighted stage at the Riviera Theater.

All photos © Steven D. Desmond


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Also, if you're in Hamburg on between 6:30-7:30 on Friday, May 21, stop by Turn the Page Bookstore at 79 Main Street, where Jeff Schober will be signing copies of his books.


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