By Kelli Skye Fadroski
IRVINE – Gwen Stefani took the Irvine Meadows stage Sunday night as the concert venue’s final performer, 26 years after her band, No Doubt, first played there as an opening act for reggae artist Ziggy Marley.
“Can you imagine? Tonight is one of the most special nights for all of us,” she said. “We, together, will be closing down Irvine Meadows. This is it, right here … I’m so honored to be from Orange County, and I’m so honored to be with you here tonight to celebrate music. Let’s have some fun tonight. Do you want to?”
And with that, Orange County’s first large-scale concert venue began its swan song. The 16,000-capacity amphitheater, which opened in 1981, will be razed soon to make way for the second phase of the Irvine Co.’s Los Olivos apartment community. The amphitheater, which opened in 1981, sits on land leased by the Irvine Co., with the last of those leases expiring this year.
Annette Galindo of Huntington Beach has worked at Irvine Meadows for eight years, first at the front podium and then at the backstage entrance. She has spent those years saying “hello” and “goodbye” to a slew of artists, employees and stagehands. Sunday night she said goodbye for a final time as the venue hosted its last concert.
“It’s heartbreaking that we’re closing,” she said. “I’ve been saying goodbye all year and realizing that it is literally goodbye. I’m looking at the trees and looking around here and knowing it’s going to be torn down. When I worked out front, I watched Wild Rivers go down, so I know the reality of what’s going to happen here, and it’s breaking my heart.”
Fans turned out early Sunday for the final show.
“We just happened to stumble upon tickets to the last show at Irvine Meadows,” Marty Reichman of Fullerton said.
He was tailgating out in the bed of his truck in the parking lot with his wife, Keely. Reichman added that he usually attended multiple shows each season and that his first show at the venue was Rush in 1982.
“It’s quite the dichotomy between Rush and Gwen, but we’re also just happy to be at the last show.”
Others in attendance Sunday also said that being part of the final show was the big draw.
“We’re here because this is history,” Erin Koury of Dove Canyon said. She showed up with a handful of girlfriends who agreed they would have come to the venue to support keeping live music in Irvine, no matter who was performing.
Photo by Ana Venegas, Orange County Registe/SCNG