If the history of entertainment in downtown Fresno could be exemplified in a single building, it would be the Warnors Theatre.
The theater, with its Spanish revival architecture and neon marquee, opened as the Pantages in 1928 and operated as a vaudeville stage before being taken over by Warner Bros. (as in the film studio) and becoming a movie house.
In its most recent history, the theater returned to the vaudeville days using its stage (and famous pipe organ) for a variety of live entertainment acts, including concerts.
On the eve of its 90th anniversary celebration, here are four concerts we wished we could have seen at the venue. And one we did.
If you believe the lore, AC/DC was booed from the stage while opening for Aerosmith at Selland Arena in 1978 and didn’t return to Fresno until they played the Save Mart Center in 2009.
In actuality, the band returned to the city in 1979, playing the Warnors Theatre on the “Highway to Hell” tour.
The Youtube channel AC/DC Damnation has the video footage.
The English punk band led by Joe Strummer was on its “Out of Control” tour when it stopped at the theater Jan. 28, 1984.
The band was touring with a new lineup, one without guitarist Mick Jones, according to the site Classic Rock. Still, the show left an impression on a generation of Fresno rock fans.
The rock band from Athens, Georgia, played Warnors on July 19, 1985 on its “Reconstruction” tour.
The concert was promoted in part by the radio stations KFSR and KKDJ, according to a handbill for the show. The year before, the band opened its “Little America” tour at Fresno’s Star Palace, according to REM Timeline.com.
It would be another two years before they released hit song “End of the World as We Know It” and a full seven years before “Everybody Hurts” ruled MTV.
The jazz trumpeter was late in his career when he played the Warnors Theatre in 1990. He died the following year. Reviews on the show — a single two-hour set with 12 numbers and no intermission — were mixed. A review in The Fresno Bee called it legendary.
Stephanie Carter, in a letter to the editor, was less impressed.
“Miles played with his back to the audience and was more concerned with his sunglasses than playing his instrument. Each of the band members had more solo time than Miles.”
Neil Young + Crazy Horse
Neil Young gave his fans a surprise when he announced a series of concert dates at the Warnors Theatre earlier this year. The three-night run of concerts marked the first time Young had played with his backing band Crazy Horse in four years and was presented without rehearsal.
The shows became extra special when it was announced Nils Lofgren would be sitting in on guitar.
90th Anniversary Celebration
And documentary film screening
Six other noteworthy events happening this week:
- Fulton Street Party: Noon Saturday. Tioga Sequoia Brewing Company, 745 Fulton St. Free. All ages. 559-486-2337, tiogasequoia.com
- Zombie Crawl: 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Parking lot at Wishon and Fern avenues, Tower District. $10. Fresno Zombie Society on Facebook
- Zoo Boo: 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Fresno Chaffee Zoo, 894 W. Belmont Ave. $16-$20. 559-498-5910, fresnochaffeezoo.org
- Fresno Grand Opry: 7 p.m. Saturday. Fulton 55, 875 Divisadero. $15. 559-412-7400, fulton55.com
- Tejano and Country Music Bash: 5 p.m. Saturday. Pioneer Village, Selma. $15. 559-891-2235, Search event on eventbrite.com
- Glorious Junk Days: 8 a.m. Sunday. Old Town Clovis. Free. 559-298-5774, oldtownclovis.org