DURHAM’S MUSIC SCENE: What do Oshawa, KISS, The Hip and Elton John have in common?

Elton John at his sold-out Oshawa show on Sept. 9, 2011. Photo credit: Allan Fournier

Concerts featuring superstar acts like KISS, The Tragically Hip, Mötley Crüe and Elton John are typically associated with Toronto.

However, since late 2006, Oshawa’s Tribute Communities Centre (TCC) has hosted many big-name shows and is gaining notoriety as one of the most successful and attractive concert venues east of Toronto.

Formerly known as the General Motors Centre, the TCC was built to replace an aging Civic Auditorium.

In addition to being the home arena to the Oshawa Generals, the 5,500-seat arena located at 99 Athol St., also acts as Durham Region’s largest concert venue.

Al Fournier, in his mid-50s, is a retired photography professor from Little Britain and has been to more than 100 concerts at the TCC.

He has a clear front-runner for the top concert at the arena.

“KISS,” Fournier said with a smile. “I was surprised they came to Oshawa, but I was very glad they did. The pyro and overall sound made for a very entertaining show.”

The members of KISS saluting the Oshawa crowd at the end of their Oshawa show on Oct. 7, 2009. Photo credit: Nikki Gallant

KISS played in front of more than 6,100 people at the TCC on Oct. 7, 2009.

Fournier, who taught at Durham College for more than 20 years, retired last year but still takes in concerts at the TCC and many venues around downtown Oshawa.

“Being able to get media access at big shows like the Tragically Hip, the Barenaked Ladies and John Fogerty, and shooting photos from the pit are my greatest memories,” Fournier said. “Being so close to bands and coming out with a shot no one else has is always great.”

Nikki Gallant, 39, from Whitby, has been to more than 10 concerts at the TCC and has never been disappointed.

“I love going to concerts [at the TCC] because it’s like a giant family of 6,000 people in an arena singing along to the same band you are,” Gallant said.

Gallant said she chooses the TCC over bigger venues in Toronto every chance she can.

“It’s really important to have the TCC in downtown Oshawa because a lot of people can’t always get to downtown Toronto,” Gallant said. “I will go to Oshawa shows before anywhere else, hands-down.”

Gallant will often take in the concerts with her mother, boyfriend or closest friends.

Kim MacLean, 51, saw Elton John perform on Sept. 9, 2011, with her sister Deb, 64, and her niece Sandi, 44.

The family was just three of the more than 7,600 people in attendance, according to TCC general manager Vince Vella.

“Having Elton John set the stage for the future of the venue,” Vella said in an email.

MacLean said the concert was extremely memorable.

“That tour was just him, his piano and no other instruments,” MacLean said. “He played a lot of songs that I wasn’t familiar with, but I remember the sound was still awesome.”

She added Elton John spent time talking about his husband being from Ontario and the importance of family.

“He talked about how he enjoyed being here with some of his husband’s family in attendance,” MacLean said.

The MacLean family is no stranger to big concerts in Oshawa.

Kim’s mother, Jean Scott, was an employee at the old Civic Auditorium when Keith Richards and the Rolling Stones played there in 1979.

“At the time, my mom was the most popular mom in the neighbourhood,” MacLean said.

The TCC has a record of bringing in concerts appealing to fans of many different genres. Other notable musicians and bands to perform at the TCC are Gordon Lightfoot, Hedley, Bob Dylan, The Arkells, Selena Gomez and Dierks Bentley.

The next concert at the TCC is country artist Kane Brown March 20.

While not having the downtown Toronto aesthetics or population to draw people inside, the TCC uses its ability to bring the community together to sell out shows with the top talent of the music business.