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Jay-Z reopens the Hollywood Palladium

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In 1940, the Hollywood Palladium opened with an engagement by the Tommy Dorsey Band, then fronted by Frank Sinatra, before he came down with a case of Lead Singer Disease. Last night, after a year-long, $18-million renovation, the Palladium had its grand reopening with a gig by a guy with an only slightly smaller ego, Jay-Z — and he didn’t shy away from the comparisons. “The last person to open the Palladium was Frank Sinatra,” the rapper said a few songs into his show, “and I consider myself….” He paused, as if considering what to say. Humbled? Nah. “Ol’ Brown Eyes, baby!” he gleefully bellowed. (Hova even performed “Pray,” with its line “Frank Sinatra havin’ dinner with the Genovese,” though whether this song choice constituted a deliberate or incidental shout-out wasn’t clear.)

Whether you were attending as a Jay-Z fan or a Palladium veteran (or both), it was a fairly triumphant night. General  admission tickets were pricey at $150, but the racially diverse crowd got its money’s worth with a set that included highly effective arrangements of the performer’s biggest hits with a bigger band — nine pieces, including a three-piece brass section (which made the case that horns are severely underutilized in hip-hop) and DJ AM, making his first public appearance since surviving that plane crash. (Previews of the show claimed Jay-Z would be bringing a 12-piece band, and some reviews reported that number, but  hey, these eyes don’t lie.)

Meanwhile, the sound was actually halfway decent — a shock for any Angeleno whose seen, but not really heard, hundreds of shows at the Palladium over the years. The ceiling above the stage has been raised to allow, among other things, giant multi-directional drop-down speakers, and the walls have been coated with acoustically absorbent material, so from now on, we’ll be able to make out every F-bomb every punk-rocker drops in the place.

addCredit(“Frank Micelotta/Getty Images”)

Preservationists are generally pleased with the gutting and

reconstruction of the historic building, which kept the exact same

footprint, while somehow finding room to add a few more bathrooms. The

main change is a new vertical neon marquee that’s much more in keeping

with the joint’s ’40s origins than the plastic deal that was familiar

to Sunset Blvd. travelers for the last four decades or so.

Another more

spiritual, less cosmetic change: In its slamdancing ’90s heyday, the

Palladium used to have the most notoriously rude bouncers in all of

America — bruisers who would confiscate pens, lipstick, and other deadly

weapons upon the initial pre-entry patdown. Last night, everybody got

frisked on the way in, but writing utensils and cosmetics weren’t

tossed in the trash. What’s more, the folks doing the pat-downs were

dressed in tuxes and tails (even the female friskers). The employee

dress code may not be quite that formal by the time the Palladium gets

around to upcoming shows by the likes of Flogging Molly, Mudvayne, and

Rise Against, but as a means of counteracting the bad taste left in

anyone’s mouth by the old Palladium, it was a nice touch.

Preservationists are generally pleased with the gutting andreconstruction of the historic building, which kept the exact samefootprint, while somehow finding room to add a few more bathrooms. Themain change is a new vertical neon marquee that’s much more in keepingwith the joint’s ’40s origins than the plastic deal that was familiarto Sunset Blvd. travelers for the last four decades or so.

Another morespiritual, less cosmetic change: In its slamdancing ’90s heyday, thePalladium used to have the most notoriously rude bouncers in all ofAmerica — bruisers who would confiscate pens, lipstick, and other deadlyweapons upon the initial pre-entry patdown. Last night, everybody gotfrisked on the way in, but writing utensils and cosmetics weren’ttossed in the trash. What’s more, the folks doing the pat-downs weredressed in tuxes and tails (even the female friskers). The employeedress code may not be quite that formal by the time the Palladium getsaround to upcoming shows by the likes of Flogging Molly, Mudvayne, andRise Against, but as a means of counteracting the bad taste left inanyone’s mouth by the old Palladium, it was a nice touch.

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