Stars from Taylor Swift to Tyler Perry have performed the auditorium – Way of life – GoUpstate


Simply after bringing his “Madea’s Farewell” tour to the Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium in February, the present’s creator and predominant star Tyler Perry took to the official @Madea Twitter account and wrote, “Thanks! Spartanburg, 25 years in the past 300 folks have been within the viewers and 25 years later two sold-out nights. Thanks! Thanks! Thanks!”

A couple of days later, the Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium introduced that not solely had each performances been sell-outs however that “Madea’s Farewell” set a file for the highest-grossing two-day present within the historical past of the venue.

“Tyler Perry hit the file books on that one,” mentioned Steve Jones, who has served as normal supervisor of the auditorium for the previous 33 years. “It was the highest grossing present we’ve ever accomplished. The (file) earlier than was Neil Younger (in 2010), however that was for one present.”

The overwhelming success of “Madea’s Farewell” may give Jones an ammunition enhance when making an attempt to lure different top-notch leisure to the auditorium, nevertheless it stays to be seen if it may be parlayed into future successes. Nonetheless, Jones is inspired by the feat.

“That’s an indication of what we will do when we’ve these reveals,” Jones mentioned. “This can be a implausible historic venue. We’ve received one of many largest phases within the nation, and we’ve received one of many largest theaters with a capability of over 3,200. And, so, after we do have these big-name reveals are available right here, most often, they do very, very properly.”

Whereas the auditorium, which homes a predominant theater upstairs and a smaller venue downstairs, continues to function a preferred web site for quite a few neighborhood features such because the recently-held “Dancing with the Spartanburg Stars” fundraiser for the Most cancers Affiliation of Spartanburg and Cherokee Counties, performances that includes nationally-recognized leisure are sometimes few and much between.

Following a live performance by Motown legends The Temptations and The 4 Tops that was held there on March 29, there isn’t one other main present presently scheduled on the Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium till Could 24 when New Version’s Ronnie DeVoe, Bobby Brown, Ricky Bell and Michael Bivins convey their RBRM “four The Love of It” tour to the venue.


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In fact, such prolonged gaps weren’t all the time the case. Spartanburg native and native musician Invoice Fletcher has many fond recollections of attending live shows on the auditorium way back to his teenage years within the 1970s when he noticed such legendary artists as New Riders of the Purple Sage and Todd Rundgren play there.

“It’s one of many nicest auditoriums of its dimension within the Southeast, there’s little doubt about that,” Fletcher mentioned. “The acoustics are good, it’s snug and I believe it may actually be part of the expansion that’s occurring proper now in Spartanburg business-wise, musically and culturally.”

Fletcher, who additionally noticed Bob Dylan on the Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium in 1994 and, extra just lately, Neil Younger and the Tedeschi Vans Band, mentioned he couldn’t assist however consider how excellent a venue it could have been for the Little Feat live performance he attended a number of weeks in the past on the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium in Asheville, North Carolina.

Altering with the instances

The Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium was inbuilt 1951 and, at the moment, was thought-about a state-of-the-art facility. The constructing, which was christened because the “Showplace of the South,” has since undergone main renovations within the late 1980s and, most notably, within the late 1990s when it was closed for greater than a 12 months.

For the reason that final renovation, the auditorium has hosted live shows by top-notch artists starting from Taylor Swift, Kenny G and B.B. King to Willie Nelson, Lindsey Buckingham and John Prine. These days, nevertheless, such reveals haven’t been coming to Spartanburg with anyplace close to the frequency that they as soon as did.

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“I’ve been making an attempt for thus lengthy to get some extra nation and rock reveals in right here,” Jones mentioned. “For years, we had every little thing. However, now, we’re not getting as lots of these sort reveals.”

A number of the blame could be attributed to the consolidation of music promotion firms into behemoth entities comparable to Reside Nation Leisure. Whereas, up to now, Jones may depend on tight-knit relationships constructed with particular person promoters to convey particular reveals to the auditorium, now the big firms are placing complete excursions collectively that normally bypass markets the dimensions of Spartanburg.

And artists on the rise, comparable to Swift was when she performed there in 2008, are merely not doing many reveals at theater-sized venues lately.

“There’s been a paradigm shift so far as how issues are accomplished on this trade,” Jones mentioned. “I miss these reveals again (within the ‘90s) after we had folks like Phish, Ben Harper and Jack Johnson. What’s occurring now could be that these (promoters) are saying, ‘OK, let’s exit to the massive arenas — 16,000 seaters — and get 4 or 5 artists collectively and we’ll earn more money.’ They’re placing 4 or 5 bands collectively that (every) must be in our constructing and (these bands) are going from the golf equipment and leaping proper into the arenas.

“They’re lacking out on all these theaters our dimension. They’re not constructing the celebs up like they used to within the ‘70s and ’80s when the file labels would regularly construct these artists into megastars. And I believe what’s going to occur is that three or 4 years down the highway persons are not even going to know who most of those artists are.”

Hold the highlight shining vibrant

One of many newer success tales when it comes to an up-and-coming artist taking part in the auditorium was a sold-out efficiency by rising nation star Justin Moore in February 2018.

Brad Garrett, managing associate of the St. Louis-based Police Productions, was the promoter for that present and beforehand promoted live shows on the Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium by nation stars Kenny Chesney and Aaron Tippin in 2000 and 2001, respectively.

“I received sidetracked with a lot bigger artists, which is why I wasn’t again in Spartanburg for some time, however there are benefits to that market,” Garrett mentioned. “It’s an excellent constructing and it’s run properly.

“For us, it’s like shifting a military day-after-day after we’re on tour. Justin’s tour was a few semis and 6 buses and we have been feeding 60 folks for dinner, so we’re depending on a employees that understands what our wants are the day of the live performance, and I’ve discovered that they’ve that in place there in Spartanburg.”

Whereas occasions comparable to dance recitals, commencement ceremonies and pageants which can be held on the Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium be certain that the constructing doesn’t go dormant, there’s something to be mentioned about having a gradual movement of nationally-renowned leisure onstage there. One of many advantages is that such reveals sometimes draw viewers members to Spartanburg who may not in any other case come to town.

“It’s all the time a win when Spartanburg can appeal to a nationally acknowledged act comparable to ‘Madea’s Farewell’ tour,” mentioned Chris Jennings, vice chairman of the Spartanburg Conference and Guests Bureau. “Reveals like this draw locals and regional guests into our metropolis. The financial influence of tourism in Spartanburg County depends on our means to draw in a single day guests who keep longer and spend extra.”

Recalling earlier instances

In 2002, the Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium was certainly one of a choose few cities to host the “Down from the Mountain” tour, which was impressed by the overwhelming success of the “O Brother, The place Are Thou?” soundtrack and featured quite a few acclaimed roots music artists together with Alison Krauss, Patty Loveless, Dan Tyminski and the late Ralph Stanley.

Spartanburg native and native musician Randy Foster was in attendance for that present, which he described as “an incredible expertise,” nevertheless it’s his auditorium recollections from when he was a young person that proceed to face out most in his thoughts.

Foster mentioned that, within the early to mid-1960s, the downstairs space of the Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium hosted quite a few live shows that includes top-notch R&B performers of the period.

“This was earlier than the South was built-in, they usually had segregated dance occasions for the blacks downstairs,” Foster mentioned. “There have been only a handful of whites who would come and watch the present from up above on the bleachers, and there have been instances when me and two or three pals have been the one ones up there.

“And also you’d look down, and the place was simply packed. They’d have completely different artists are available comparable to Main Lance and James Brown and the Well-known Flames, who have been, after all, most likely the largest draw.”

Whereas nothing corresponding to that’s possible ever to occur once more anyplace, Foster does see a chance for the auditorium to make the most of its downstairs house for intimate music performances comparable to those up to now decade which have featured such artists as Delbert McClinton and Sam Bush.

Plans for the long run

Jones mentioned he’s already begun laying the groundwork for a “Second Stage SMA” live performance sequence that he needs to gear towards the faculty market.

“We’re going to begin bringing in some reveals downstairs for 800 to 1,000 folks,” Jones mentioned. “We’re planning to begin doing that in October and we’re already making gives to some bands. Our goal is to try this possibly two or thrice a 12 months and possibly cost $10 in order that it’s an reasonably priced and enjoyable night time for college students to return out and revel in.”

If the sequence is profitable, Jones sees it as an opportunity to forge relationships with up-and-coming indie rock bands which may then be extra inclined to offer the auditorium’s predominant stage an opportunity after they outgrow the extra intimate downstairs house.

“These items snowball, and we hope to enhance as we go alongside,” Jones mentioned. “However, proper now, folks love coming right here (and) we’re making an attempt to maintain the auditorium as recent and as good as attainable.”


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