The Altria Theater’s history of classic concerts

Richmond’s iconic theater has seen legendary performers, turned swimming pools into storage, and still hosts memorable events.

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“The Mosque” in 1994, just before becoming the Landmark Theater.

Photo via VCU’s online collection.

The Altria Theater is one of Richmond’s most iconic venues, and for good reason — numerous superstar performers have graced its stage over its nearly 100-year history.

The Altria — for decades called “the Mosque” for its striking Moorish Revival architecture — has been hosting concerts since it opened on October 28, 1927. Since then, the Altria has attracted touring musicians and performers from all over the world.

Several early rock stars came to the Mosque in the 1950s — Bo Diddley played the venue 11 times throughout the 1950s and 1960s and Chuck Berry took the stage for a total of six performances.

Elvis’ 1956 trip to Richmond was documented by photographer Alfred Wertheimer. The photos, later featured by the Smithsonian, feature a 21-year-old Elvis eating at the Jefferson Hotel before performing to a packed theater. He would go on to play the Mosque five more times over the course of his career.

The Mosque's marquee in 1994, a year before becoming the Landmark Theater.

The Mosque’s marquee in July, 1994.

Photo via VCU Library’s online collection

A decade later, the Mosque was still hosting legendary performers. The Jimi Hendrix Experience played the theater on Aug. 20, 1968. The Who took the stage in July of that year, and Buffalo Springfield opened for Canned Heat on Feb. 23, 1969.

When Ike and Tina Turner came by on Oct. 11, 1970, balcony tickets were $4.50. Their opening act was a young New Jersey band called Steel Mill, fronted by a 21-year-old Bruce Springsteen. The Boss would go on to play the Mosque two more times — once in 1974 and again in 1975.

In 1994, Frank Sinatra collapsed onstage at the Mosque during a performance of “My Way” and spent a night at MCV.

In 1995, it was renamed as the Landmark Theater. World-class performers continued to grace the stage, including B.B. King in May of 2000 — that show is on YouTube.

Renamed once more in 2015 to become the Altria Theater the quality of performers has remained world-class — Gladys Knight, Patti LaBelle, and Bob Dylan all played the theater in 2023.

We want to know: What are your favorite memories of the Altria? Share your classic concert stories.

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