Music vet and New Times scribe Lee Zimmerman offers his insights, opinions, and observations about the local scene. This week: Feeling like a VIP!
I have to admit that I'm easily spoiled. That's especially true as far as concerts are concerned. I don't need to be in the first few rows, but give me a seat with a decent vantage point, and I'm perfectly content. I've had my share of crappy seats in the past, so any time I'm close enough to make out the color of the guitarist's shoes, I consider myself fortunate.
That's one reason why I'm so enthusiastic about this new trend in upscale seating undertaken by some of our local venues. A couple of weeks ago, we were given an opportunity to experience the club level area in the newly remodeled mezzanine of the Broward Center of the Performing Arts' Au Rene Theater.
We were there to see the smash hit Broadway production of Million Dollar Quartet, a fanciful recreation of that night in December 1956 when Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash turned a recording session by Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis into an all-star jam session.
The play was terrific of course -- it received a multitude of kudos on the Great White Way -- but the ambiance really made it an extraordinary experience, what with the sophisticated décor that makes it seem like you're relaxing in an exclusive country club-like setting.
Plus, there are some fantastic amenities, like complementary valet parking (although I'm told you still ought to tip!), all the cocktails you can down within an approximate two hour performance (which alone is worth the cost of admission) and enough of those fancy hors d'oeuvres to make dinner a nonstarter (and guarantee a relatively cheap date as well). Best of all, You're only a few feet away from your seat, which is located just in front of the lounge area, where you can relax in plush seats that offer a bird's eye view of the stage... And it takes only a couple of more steps before you're back at the bar for a refresher.
Happily too, you can take ample advantage of the hospitality by arriving up to an hour early and lingering for 45 minutes past the final curtain before they politely ask you to leave.
Of course, private boxes have long been a staple at venues like the BB&T Center, where you can peer through the glass for a far view, and get the advantage of continuous catering. Even certain clubs like Revolution have their own private seating areas. Yet, the Broward Center's Club Level not only seems far more intimate and upscale, but provides a better view as well.
Hard Rock Live offers a similar set-up with their VIP Club. It's used to best advantage for smaller shows, when half of the Hard Rock's 5,500 seats are cordoned off towards the rear of the house, thereby giving the small balcony perfect viewing. The dessert table greeted us as we entered, and it looked expansive indeed. However until the finger foods got passed around, we figured we'd have to rev up our sweet tooth so as to substitute these goodies for an actual dinner. Happily, the finger foods almost sufficed, and combined with half a turkey sandwich from the vendor downstairs, proved perfectly adequate. Ply me with enough cocktails and everything else becomes incidental.
Happily then, the VIP seats were plush and comfortable and gave us an ideal view of the stage which was set up Vegas-style for the evening's entertainment, an Aussie quartet called Human Nature. The group specializes in recreating classics from the Motown catalog, and while the four singers themselves mirrored the initial skepticism of their audience ("Four white guys from Australia singing Motown?"), they offered dazzling renditions of the nearly two dozen songs that fill out their repertoire, among them, classics from the Supremes, the Temptations, the Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson, and practically everyone else ever associated with this fabled All-American institution.
The fact that they've gained the blessings of Smokey Robinson, who gives them their nods in a video greeting, further adds to their credibility, as does their 23 year collective career which has yielded five hit LPs. An ample dose of self-effacing humor, precise choreography, and a respectable amount of audience interaction (sadly, we were a bit too removed to become the source of any remarks) ensured their endearment with the audience. Given our special seating, it felt like more than a concert, but a real special event.
So now, I'm spoiled, I'm afraid. Although on my paltry budget, I'm also scared that I can't always afford to be treated like royalty. So if you do happen to take advantage of these special accommodations on your own, and you pass a guy begging for a wristband as you make your entrance, give him a little thanks for the recommendation. It's most likely me.
Human Nature performs at Hard Rock Live at 8 p.m. through Friday and at 7:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.Saturday. Tickets cost $344 - $54. Call 800-745-3000 or go to Ticketmaster.com.