A diversity of entertainment was the winner Saturday night, when hip-hop star Nelly played to a packed house at 1st Summit Arena @ Cambria County War Memorial.
Arena leaders say 4,000 tickets were sold for what they believe was the first appearance by a Black hip-hop artist in the venue’s 70-year history.
Nelly’s concert joined a string of hot-selling shows at the War Memorial, which is offering a wider variety of entertainment – including rappers Nelly and opening act Ying Yang Twins along with “America’s Got Talent” performer Kodi Lee, whose Johnstown visit was postponed and will be rescheduled, arena officials say.
That’s alongside traditional genres – country (Cole Swindell played to a big crowd on Nov. 12); classic rock (Foreigner will be back at the arena on May 23) and contemporary Christian (MercyMe will visit on March 10).
Families can enjoy Disney On Ice – and the show “Let’s Celebrate” – for the holidays on Dec. 22-26. The southern rock/country band Whiskey Myers will take the War Memorial stage on Feb. 25.
Shows such as the Nelly performance allow the arena – and nearby businesses on concert nights – to reach an important demographic. The Nelly audience was largely people under 40 and predominantly female.
Abby Cole, Nelly’s manager, said the tour was bringing hits such as “Over and Over,” “Hot in Herre,” “Ride Wit Me” and “Just A Dream” to a dozen audiences each month this fall.
Nelly – whose local show sold out the same day tickets became available – shared his gratitude about his enthusiastic welcome in Johnstown with The Tribune-Democrat in a statement through Cole:
“They support because the music means something to them personally, and always a good feeling to touch so many from so many place(s) for so long.”
We urge the arena to continue to book diverse acts, and we’re sure venue administrators see the good business sense in doing so.
The Johnstown market proved it will support a hip-hop show – right alongside country and other genres.
Nelly’s fans told The Tribune-Democrat they were happy to have the chance to share in the energy and – especially for those in their 30s – relive their teen years.
Michele Burk, of Cresson, said seeing a great show close to home with affordable prices was a treat.
“Compared to what we usually have to do – driving to Pittsburgh, getting a room and an Uber while paying way too much for expensive beer – this is so much better,” Burk said.
Reporter Hurst encountered several such fans at the arena on Saturday, including a trio of “baseball moms” from Deep Creek, Maryland, who drove up to Johnstown and wore matching shirts for the show.
“When we found out about this, it was like, ‘OK, we’re going,’ ” Amber Martin said.
“We left all of our kids at home with their dads,” friend Jenny Ramsey, of Cumberland, Maryland, said, “so we could enjoy the nostalgia.”
This night of nostalgia should set a new tone going forward for Johnstown’s historic entertainment venue – and other sites across the region.
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