The city of St. Paul, First Avenue, and Jam Productions took the century old Palace Theatre in downtown St. Paul, that had been sitting unused for over 30 years, and are transforming it into a state of the art concert venue with historic appeal. Today the public got a chance at a sneak preview.
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman unlocked the doors at 1130 and a crowd of several hundred curious music and architecture fans got their first look. The palace is certainly a highlight of the mayor’s “Year of Music” that he declared for St. Paul. The main floor (with a capacity of about 2000) is mostly standing room with several levels to allow for a good view of the stage. The balcony will seat about 800 in theatre style seats. This gives the Palace combination that is unique for twin cities music venues. The capacity will also attract bands that sometimes bypass Minnesota as First Avenue is too small for them (about 1600 capacity).
Talking to Joe Spencer, the mayor’s Director of Arts & Culture and one of the key drivers of the renovation, he mentioned that special attention had been paid to sight lines and that certainly was noticeable to me. Even at the far end of the bar I was still able to see the stage. Colored accent lights are in liberal use through the Palace and the stage lights look fantastic. The stage itself looks to have plenty of space for musicians and props (enough room for Amon Amarth’s Viking ship?). The sound was good – of course it will take a few shows to really judge.
Jeremy Messersmith was the “secret” artist performing and he delivered with his usual charm. Overall I think the combination of modern layout and preservation of classic features is a winner. I loved the broken ceiling in the lobby area. I for one can’t wait for the first show in March.