I’m headlining the Congress Theater in Chicago this Thursday night, so I thought I would share the most interesting story I have about performing at a large venue. My great friend, the legendary Al Canal, had called me up a couple years back and asked if I had a night open. I told him I did and Al said someone had gotten a hold of him to find a couple of standups to open for The Dan Band in St. Louis. The Dan Band are best known from their scenes in Old School and the Hangover. Sounded good, so I put it on my calendar.
Now the show was being held at the Family Arena. I have done shows for up to 3000 people, but I had never performed at an arena. I get there and walk in to see that this is a pretty large venue. (According to it’s website it seats up to 11,500.) I was a fan of the stuff I had seen the Dan Band do, but I was having a hard time imagining they could draw many people in the Midwest. I knew they were very popular on the West Coast, but it seemed like the booking agent was being a little optimistic.
Well, talking to some of the behind scenes crew, I discovered that they were blocking off most of the auditorium by setting up the stage to face one end. This was a good idea, as there were around 600 people there. (From what I was told at least half the tickets were giveaways.) My friend Rob Durham was the MC/opening act and he did a great job. I got up on-stage and despite the funky set-up, my portion of the show went great. It was one of those bizarre experiences that you don’t forget. Even though they set-up the show the best they could, it was really strange playing a show in a near empty arena. It makes me appreciate how difficult it must be for the few comics who have toured arena’s like Steve Martin, Dice Clay, Larry the Cable Guy, and Dane Cook to convey their material. I would never go see a show that was at an arena, as to me it’s on too large of a scale to demonstrate what makes live standup so magical. A theater is great though. For example—The Congress Theater in Chicago this Thursday night at 8pm!!!
I later found out that one of the reasons the Family Arena decided to bring the Dan Band in was there price was very reasonable. I had heard from a couple people who had seen them in LA how great they were live, so I was looking forward to their show. What I quickly discovered was the reason their price was so reasonable was the version St. Louis was getting that night was Dan and his 2 back-up singers/dancers. No band. These 3 sang and danced to a music track. Not the same. Now I will tell you that the Dan Band guys seemed like great dudes off-stage, so I don’t want to completely throw them under the bus, but their performance without the band in a huge Arena seemed really Kara0ke-ish. Weird night.
Just another story from my live entertainment diary.