Where concerts last up to 14 hours
is “Like a Mecca for a Muslim - where you have to make a pilgrimage. What an ocean is to a river”. The sports hall was closed in 1998 and was finally demolished forever one year later. From 1958 onwards, it had been Cologne’s most important venue for major concerts. They all played here: the Rolling Stones four times, Frank Zappa, Johnny Cash twice, David Bowie, Queen four times, Prince and Depeche Mode. The website Setlist.fm lists over 450 concerts held in the Kölner Sporthalle. You’d have wanted to be at almost all of them.
The farewell concert of Cologne political rockers Floh de Cologne has become a legend. The 14-hour goodbye show included guest appearances from Hannes Wader to Ina Deter. Can’s triumphal performance in 1972 is regarded as the final breakthrough for the Cologne-based band, and as a watershed in pop history. A key event in the history of the Kölner Sporthalle is the concert given by GDR songwriter Wolf Biermann in 1976, which was broadcast on television. Three days later, it led to his expatriation from the GDR.
The saddest aspect of the story for pop fans today is that there is no memorial stone, and no place of remembrance for the Kölner Sporthalle. On the site where the hall used to stand, there is now nothing more than the functional, boring trade fair halls.
Messeplatz 1, 50679 Cologne (today: exhibition hall 7 and 8)