Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Hollywood Palladium

Hip/Hop and I don't usually mix too well, unless I am invited as a VIP and free guest. I had the opportunity last night to see Jay-Z perform at the opening of the renovated Hollywood Palladium. The Palladium is a land mark on Sunset that unfortunately turned in to the ugly step child of concert venues in the LA area.

The Venue: The first was the transformation of the venue itself, which some might (wrongly) contend is no transformation at all. That's because apart from the shimmering vintage-replica neon sign now serving as a beacon out front, the overhauling is all in the little things that matter.

There are bars – clean, inviting, bars – at key spots in the lobby and inside the hall itself, at least one with a plasma TV to keep you up on what you're missing while getting more Grey Goose or a Blue Moon. There are also more bathrooms – clean, inviting, bathrooms – than ever before.

There is no hassle getting in, only ordinary waits in line and the usual light pat-down you'd get anywhere else.

And what sound! You've never heard a Palladium show so sharp since amplified rock booted big-band swing out of this joint. Loud? Absolutely. Rumbling? Not at all.

Jay-Z's Performance: It wasn't that Jay's performance was so radically altered from appearances last year at the Hollywood Bowl or the House of Blues further down Sunset Boulevard. "American Gangster" material still dominated the first half, the monster hits took over in the second, with "Izzo (Hova)" exhilaratingly dovetailing into "Can I Get a …," setting off a chain-reaction of smashes that peaked with an AC/DC-infused "99 Problems."

Jay dedicated that last cut, by the way, at least in a roundabout manner, to John McCain, suggesting he should follow the song's advice when it comes to his running mate and "homegirl … you know, 'You Betcha!'"

The industry mogul born Shawn Carter is a vocal Obama supporter, but regardless your pick for prez, the sense of black history in the making this night was undeniable and palpable. Here was Jay-Z, performing not long after the first-ever black (and leading) presidential candidate had concluded his final debate before the general election, and in the same hallowed hall that hosted Martin Luther King Jr. just after he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1965.

A bomb threat was called in that night more than 40 years ago. Now, here was Jay-Z exciting and delighting 4,000 fans of every creed and color – none of whom got violent, all of whom danced. The upside-down moon-landing picture silkscreened onto Jay's shirt was a rather fitting symbol, then, one that spoke the significance of this event as loudly as the montage of political figures (from the Kennedy brothers to Nixon to Mandela) during "Public Service Announcement." (article courtesy of Ben Warner)

All in all, it was long, fun and entertaining night. A totally unexpected, but welcoming evening with the finest among Hollywood (slight sarcasm).