Traffic At The New Haven Arena

The New Haven Arena was on Grove Street in New Haven. It was built for indoor ice hockey in 1914, burned down in 1924, and reopened in 1927. I never saw a hockey game there. My first visit was to see the circus as a very young child. I have a vague memory of the elephants and the tightrope walker, and not much beyond that. The Arena was demolished in 1974, replaced by the New Haven Coliseum that was completed in 1972.

What I remember most about the “Arena” are the rock & roll concerts I saw there. My all-time favorite was Traffic touring in support of the Low Spark of High Heel Boys LP, released in November of 1971. The concert took place on January 11, 1972. I was lucky to be working for the local newspaper at the time and had a New Haven Register ID. This allowed me to go up to the stage and take pictures. 

Generally, the sound at the arena was horrible; it sounded like you would expect a loud rock & roll band to sound like in a cavernous hockey rink. Also, they just put wood over the ice, so it was always freezing sitting in floor seats. 

That night’s show was completely different from all others. The sound was fantastic! JJ Cale opened and did a solo set. I have to say I had no idea who he was and don’t remember his set. 

Then Traffic hit the stage and hit the ground running with a tight set, playing the entire Low Spark of  High Heel Boys  LP. Steve Winwood switched off between a Gibson Firebird (later stolen on tour), a Martin D-28 (that looked pretty much new) and keyboards. Of course, they also played “Dear Mister Fantasy”. My favorite part of the show was when Steve played his D-28 on “John Barleycorn Must Die” and “Rainmaker”. Chris Wood looked like the picture of cool with his sax hanging from him while playing flute. I got right up to the stage and took pictures. This night was one of those concerts I look back on often.