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Concert Reviews:
Fillmore Detroit Has "Fergalicious" Opening

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Thursday, June 14, 2007

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DETROIT -- When he opened his original Fillmore facilities in the '60s in San Francisco and New York, the late Bill Graham prided himself on presenting a variety of stimuli to create more than a show but an event.

The State Theatre had a flavor of that on Wednesday night (June 13th) when it was formally rechristened the Fillmore Detroit.

There was indeed a sense of heritage that hearkened back to Graham's creation. A basket of free apples sat in the lobby and a hodgepodge of Detroit concert posters and photos dotted the walls. A shrine to Graham, which included his 1965 application for a dance hall permit in San Francisco, welcomed patrons to the mezzanine level -- where VIPs, including Detroit poster artists Mark Arminski, Gary Grimshaw and Carl Lundgren, celebrated the venue's new name.

But it wasn't just a night for the old -- not with a bill that included the Black Eyed Peas' Fergie and modern rockers Rooney, an interactive "Dance With Fergie" booth in the grand lobby and signs of decidedly non-counter culture corporate sponsorship plastered on the walls. The collisions of sensibilities, in a slightly twisted way, honored Graham's vision more than the new name on the marquee.

But the fact of the matter is the State by any other name is still...well, the State. That's just as well, since it's one of the metro area's best concert halls and a theater with its own rich heritage that gives its original name more brand equity than that of a 40-plus year-old legend that most of the Fergie fans had never heard of -- although they were happy to receive a free (if ugly) poster at the end of the night in another nod to Fillmore tradition.

The Verizon-sponsored concert, with its dance booth and Candie's fashion show (Fergie's an endorser), also limited the opening night impact, which again may have been just as well since all the cosmetic improvements (including the installation of some the ballyhooed new chandeliers) had not been completed. Unless you hobnobbing in the VIP section, it was mostly just another night at the State, which in and of itself is perfectly alright.

Rooney's spirited and tuneful 40-minute set showcased songs from the Los Angeles group's forthcoming album, "Calling the World," which comes out July 17, and, of course, featured the hit "I'm Shakin' " from its 2003 major label debut.

Fergie, meanwhile, had plenty of hits to bring to the party and did just that -- although her 65-minute set had the slightly padded feel not uncommon for an artist with just one solo album (the double-platinum "The Duchess") and who doesn't want to on her group's laurels. So there was an extended "battle" section between her four dancers and a couple of showcase segments for the members of Fergie's four-piece band, the same players who also tour with the Peas. But within all that was an energetic performance by the singer (real name Stacy Ann Ferguson), who presented her as a fairly down-to-Earth diva with a seasoned and confident command of the stage.

Entering the stage wearing a tiara and royal cape and brandishing a scepter, Fergie not surprisingly focused on "The Duchess," mixing the hits ("London Bridge," "Big Girls Don't Cry" and "Fergalicious") with singles waiting in the wings, including "Glamorous" and "Losing My Ground." She lightly sampled the Peas' repertoire, with a quick medley that included "Where is the Love" and a full rendition of "My Humps," and she redeemed an overwrought rendition of Heart's "Barracuda" from the "Shrek the Third" soundtrack with some genuinely impressive one-armed cartwheels.

Most of the crowd likely left talking more about Fergie than the Fillmore, but that's perhaps as it should be. The mark of a good venue, after all, is WHAT happened rather than where it happened.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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