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Fitting farewell for old Hollywood Palladium

Morrissey will play 10 shows at the landmark before it closes for upgrades.

September 27, 2007|Natalie Nichols | Special to The Times

Acrooner started it, and a crooner will end it -- at least for now. Sixty-seven years ago, the Hollywood Palladium opened with a concert by Frank Sinatra and the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. And next month the venerable venue will be closed, temporarily, after a 10-concert series by mope-rock master Morrissey.

In April, concert promotion giant Live Nation announced it had signed a 20-year lease agreement to operate the Palladium and would extensively renovate the Streamline Moderne building with the 11,200-square-foot wooden dance floor.

The overhaul is expected to include expanding the stage infrastructure to accommodate larger productions and improving the famously troublesome acoustics, as well as preserving and updating interior and exterior features. Tuesday's performance by the Arctic Monkeys was to be the final show before the closing, expected to last about a year. But the plan changed when the veteran British singer-songwriter approached Live Nation.

"It was unexpected," says Rich Best, Live Nation's senior vice president of booking for Southern California.

Live Nation didn't solicit the shows, he says. As the story goes, Morrissey saw the company's ad for the Arctic Monkeys concert in the LA Weekly. "He was planning on doing a series of area shows, and he said he wanted to do his L.A. dates there," Best says.

As the Manchester, England-born musician could not be reached to tell The Times what the attraction was, we can only note that longtime fans will recall that his band the Smiths made their 1985 L.A. debut with a two-night stand at the Palladium. As a solo artist, he returned there in 1999 during his "Oye Esteban" tour.

The former L.A. resident's local fan base includes an intensely faithful Latino following, which may explain why he seems confident about doing 10 shows in October when he's already performed in Southern California twice this year -- three sold-out nights promoting his 2006 "Ringleader of the Tormentors" album at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in February, and a sold-out Hollywood Bowl show in June, part of his current "Greatest Hits" tour.

Morrissey's Palladium run begins Monday and ends Oct. 13. Individual tickets cost $43.50, and at press time, the Oct. 13 show was sold out.

The Palladium has hosted pop luminaries of many eras and stripes -- Champagne-music king Lawrence Welk, godfather of soul James Brown, as well as Chuck Berry, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, the Ramones, Black Flag, the Pixies, Madonna and many others. The Emmy and Grammy awards have been held there, as have banquets for every U.S. president from Truman to Nixon, according to the preservation group Hollywood Heritage. It has appeared in movies and television, recently playing the exterior of the titular studio in "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip."

But the venue's starry history and nice bones aren't the only attractions for Live Nation, which Best says intends to continue booking music as well as special events. With a capacity of just under 4,000, the Palladium fits neatly between the LN-operated Wiltern (2,300) and its Gibson Amphitheatre (6,185) as a coveted mid-sized venue in the middle of an increasingly popular (and populated) Hollywood. "You just don't find that," Best says.

And you just don't often find Morrissey, or anyone, hunkering down in one place for nearly two weeks. To Best, the series is a proper send-off for a Tinseltown legend. "It's a nice way to say goodbye to the Palladium of old."

--

Morrissey

Where: 6215 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood

When: 7 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Oct. 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 11, 12 and 13

Price: $43.50

Info: www.livenation.com

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