The special Tuesday Evening Music Club ‘dress rehearsal’ show in the renovated amphitheater attracted a huge crowd, stellar music and some surprisingly long concession lines. Recap, photos, video.
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When plans were hatched a few years ago to revamp and improve the amphitheater and concessions at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, it’s likely the powers-that-be dreamed of an opening night much like this.
Tuesday’s “dress rehearsal” for amphitheater staff starred not only the soulful and uplifting May Erlewine & The Motivations on stage, but a new, expanded concessions building, refurbished entry plaza and half-price food entrees.
With sun-splashed skies, a slight breeze, temperatures in the 70s, a packed house and a much-beloved all-star band of Michigan musicians on stage for this special edition of the Tuesday Evening Music Club series, the amphitheater reopening certainly boasted a celebratory, family-oriented vibe.
What’s not to like?
Well, OK, the expanded concessions building did boast surprisingly long lines anyway and actually ran out of most sandwich entrees before Erlewine & Co. even took the stage. And parking proved to be a challenge for some folks with 2,000-plus attendees on hand.
But few seemed to mind, with most willing to acknowledge and accept the glitches of an opening-night practice run in what was otherwise a “beautiful” night as Erlewine noted from the stage after being introduced to the crowd by emcee and host Ralston Bowles.
“We’re so honored to be celebrating with you tonight,” Erlewine told the upbeat crowd, as children and couples twirled happily in front of the stage.
Backed by her eight-piece Motivations – featuring a who’s who bunch of Michigan musicians, including Max Lockwood, Mike Lynch, Michael Shimmin and Phil Barry – Erlewine uncorked an appropriately dance-happy set that included covers of songs made popular by The Rolling Stones (“Beast of Burden”), Carole King (“(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”), Jackie Wilson (“(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher”) and Jean Knight (“Mr. Big Stuff”).
VIDEO: Highlights from Tuesday Evening Music Club (6/4/19)
The special June edition of Tuesday Evening Music Club – which showcases local and regional artists on Tuesdays in July and August – drew many regulars.
“We try to come every Tuesday to the Tuesday music club shows and try to catch at least a couple of the actual concert series. These shows are great for the kids,” said Logan Duffey of Grand Rapids, who was impressed by the new food selections but disappointed they ran out of many items.
Other observations from concertgoers on Tuesday:
• Volunteer Chris Birdsong of Grand Rapids: “When Patti Labelle came here last summer, she said that she’d been touring for 50 years, and she looked at the crowd and she looked around at all the flowers, and she said, ‘This is the most beautiful place I’ve ever performed.’ And she was right. The renovations are spectacular, the plaza is beautiful. They put water bottle filling stations in the bathrooms, and they put bathroom outside the concessions for people waiting in line to use. Just in the area of human comfort, those two things are awesome. It’s very well designed.”
• Mary Wismer of Grand Rapids: “The new concessions are very good, much better selection of items especially things like gluten free options, and vegan options. I do wish they had a bigger selection of non-alcoholic drinks.”
• Wismer’s husband, Rob Wismer, called the amphitheater renovations “pretty sweet. This place needed it.”
The amphitheater “officially” opens Thursday night for the first concert of the regular summer series starring Nahko and Medicine for the People, with Jade Jackson also on the bill. Tickets, $40 ($38 for Meijer Gardens members) are still available online here.
Tickets, $57 ($55 Meijer Gardens members), are also available for the second concert on Sunday night, starring Rodrigo Y Gabriela and Justin Townes Earle.
Of course, these shows will feature regular concession prices, with sandwich entrees costing $9-$14, hot dogs at $4.50, beer at $9-$10 and popcorn at $5.
PHOTO GALLERY: Tuesday Evening Music Club at Meijer Gardens
Photos by Anthony Norkus