Sunday, April 24, 2011
By Ray Shasho
After moving to Bradenton in August 2003, I was somewhat disappointed over the lack of local concert venues. Then in November of that year it was reported that Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, Inc. (SMR) and DVA Sports LLC (DVA) had announced plans to construct a 7,400-seat multipurpose entertainment facility. It would be the home for an ECHL minor league hockey franchise, but more importantly the facility would bring concerts to the Bradenton/Sarasota area.
The news got even better; the facility would be built in Lakewood Ranch within walking distance from my residence.
But the project ended in disaster. The arena sat partially built for years because the owner ran into financial trouble. Then in October of 2009 it was finally demolished.
The only real concert venue in the Bradenton/Sarasota area was the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, locals still refer to it as “The Purple Cow.” Since opening its doors in January of 1970, the Hall has booked high profiled performers like Ray Charles, Liberace, Ella Fitzgerald, Lucille Ball, and even Cary Grant. And this reporter has witnessed excellent shows at the Van Wezel like Ann Margaret, Engelbert Humperdink, and Paul Anca. By the way, Paul Anca’s drummer that night was Graham Lear. (Santana and Woodstock fame)
After witnessing a packed house rocking to a rare Doobie Brothers performance in 2005, there was a definite yearning for classic rock shows at Sarasota’s purple people eater. Over the years, the Van Wezel has catered to an older population. But now, classic rockers fit the mold of shows that should be performing live there.
Those overpriced rock stars of yesteryear are now affordable and willing to play the smaller venues. And a sold out classic rock show at the Van Wezel should generate decent revenues.
For the first time, Crosby, Stills & Nash played the Hall in September of 2010. The Van Wezel is nowhere close to showcasing classic rock artists like Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, but they are making an effort.
Kenny Loggins, REO Speedwagon, Three Dog Night, and Dennis Lambert with Mickey Thomas of the Starship will all be playing at the Van Wezel this season. http://www.vanwezel.org/boxOffice/eventCalendar.cfm
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