Mark McGuire has a list of the Top 20 events for attendance in the history of the Times Union Center, which was known as the Knickerbocker Arena when it opened in 1990 until the naming rights were purchased by Pepsi in 1997. In 2007 the naming rights were granted to the Times Union, owned by Hearst, in a deal that I’ve been told relied heavily on the newspaper providing advertising for events at the facility.

Wait, what events?

Here’s the Top 20 events in terms of attendance:

  1. July 8, 1990 Billy Graham 17,500
  2. Nov. 8, 1993 Neil Diamond 16,861
  3. Jan. 20, 1994 Billy Joel 16,691
  4. Nov. 16, 1991 Jerry Garcia 16,648
  5. March 24, 1990 Grateful Dead 16,563
  6. Sept. 4, 1992 Garth Brooks 16,499
  7. Nov. 25,1998 Phish 16,465
  8. Jan. 30, 1990 Frank Sinatra 16,436
  9. Feb. 18, 1990 World Wrestling Federation 16,421
  10. Nov. 21, 1999 Bruce Springsteen 16,339
  11. Jan. 19, 1992 WWF-Royal Rumble 16,307
  12. June 20, 1995 R.E.M, Luscious Jackson 16,287
  13. March 21, 1992 U2 16,258
  14. Feb. 15, 2000 Backstreet Boys 16,245
  15. Dec. 5, 1998 Dave Matthews Band 16,093
  16. April 26, 2003 Billy Joel and Elton John 15,984
  17. Oct. 11, 2003 Shania Twain 15,928
  18. Feb. 2, 1990 Bill Cosby 15,396
  19. Nov. 18, 1990 Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton 15,393
  20. (Tie) March 17, March 19, 1995 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament (1st & 2nd rounds) 15,109
All but three occurred in the 1990s. That means only three events in the last twelve years cracked the top 20, and nothing since 2003.

The list was compiled as part of a feature the paper is doing on an upcoming visit from Joel Olsteen, America’s favorite new polyester preacher with an empty smile and a message devoid of much save charisma. In terms of bookings, it’s a bright spot in an otherwise pretty hollow 2012 lineup. Bruce Springsteen is coming in April and…that’s it.

I wish I could say I was joking. Of course, if I’m fair, I’ll also note that the circus is coming to town in May, along with an equally hideous display called “Michael Jackson: Immortal,” put on by Cirque de Solei and Jackson’s estate.

Part of the problem is our proximity to New York City, but the other problem is that for the last several decades, people have only come in droves to see nostalgia acts. “That’s not true,” you’ll cry, but outside of the major metro areas of the United States, it’s slim pickings. The days of having several acts that can fill arenas touring at one time are long gone. It’s looking like the biggest tours of the year, nationwide, will be Bruce Springsteen and that strange (and I’m willing to bet kinda bad) pairing of Van Halen and Kool and the Gang. That’s not rock and roll, that’s a wedding reception.

Le sigh. We’re all getting old and arena rock is dead. But hey, Joel Osteen is coming with his special brand of homophobia with a smile. But he’s not out to bash homosexuals, folks, it’s just what the good book says! (Quick, check his suits for consistency of fabric!)