Entertainment » Jim Harris

Memphis squabble could help here


Memphis music fans weren’t happy to learn that their only chance to see the Scott Weiland-fronted Velvet Revolver would be at North Little Rock’s Alltel Arena on Oct. 31. Their biggest unhappiness was learning that they have two fairly nice concert venues that are going unused thanks to the Memphis Grizzlies. Memphis’ NBA team worked out a deal with city officials for a noncompete agreement — giving the franchise first right of refusal on all concert events in the city. Unlike the arrangement with Nashville and the National Hockey League’s Predators and their Nashville Arena, Memphis city officials didn’t want to pick up the deficit on the FedEx Forum, the Grizzlies’ palatial new home by Beale Street, while the Grizzlies didn’t want to lose revenue if the city’s other venues had concerts. So, the deal allows the Grizzlies to decide what concerts play in Memphis and where. Velvet Revolver was already coming to Central Arkansas; Memphis-area fans finally were satisfied when the promoter, Beaver Productions, put a show in Southhaven, Miss., Nov. 3, at the DeSoto Convention Center. It’s a smaller venue, which suits Velvet Revolver tours, but if the Eagles come back around again, or the Rolling Stones, or Paul McCartney, Memphis may be out if the Grizzlies and the FedEx Forum have a conflict. "At the end of the day, if the FedEx Forum is going to block shows from coming to Memphis, it’s going to benefit two markets: Nashville and Little Rock," Alltel Arena general manager Michael Marion said. While the deal between the Grizzlies and the city makes business sense to those two parties, it makes no sense from this view two hours away that Memphis would have a building barely 12 years old — the Pyramid — sitting idly while Shelby County still owes $33 million on it. Even the University of Memphis moved its basketball games to the FedEx. Additionally, plenty of cities would gladly love to have a Mid-South Coliseum, where we saw the Police and the Eagles in their prime. Memphis was once a big-time indoor and outdoor concert destination, but promoters are now scratching their heads after a few big shows — most notably a Fleetwood Mac reunion date that was eventually canceled — tanked at the box office. Without having to do a whole lot, Little Rock and Nashville now look even better to concert promoters, who don’t want the hassle of being told where they can book their show in Memphis. So far, no show has been forced to Alltel Arena, but Central Arkansas already seems to be the beneficiary of promoters looking beyond the Bluff City. "If you look at the FedEx Forum schedule, I think we have a better concert schedule than they do," Marion said. "The have a Norah Jones date, but they don’t have Chicago and Earth, Wind and Fire. They didn’t have a Velvet Revolver date. And Memphis didn’t get an Eric Clapton date." I can’t recall ever before seeing a love story featuring only one actor, but that’s what veteran comedian-actor Jamie Farr was able to convey — a true love story between George Burns and Gracie Allen, even if we only heard Gracie’s "voice" — in "Say Goodnight, Gracie," which played four shows here Monday through Wednesday at Robinson Center Music Hall. Afterward, Farr indicated he was wowed by Robinson. "That’s quite a hall you’ve got there, the acoustics and everything," he said. "It’s quite something to be standing there on stage, alone, and you look out and see everyone looking back. Wow." The show, brought here by Celebrity Attractions, mostly attracted a middle-aged to senior crowd — the younger audience missed a chance to learn about one of the great comedy teams of all time. What’s going to be the younger generation’s memory of great comedy pairings 50 years from now? Roseanne Barr and Tom Arnold? "Will and Grace"? Matt LeBlanc and Lisa Kudrow? Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie? It was heartfelt and heart-warming, sentimental without being sappy. Rupert Holmes, who got a 2003 Tony nomination and won the 2004 National Broadway Theatre Award for his writing, carved out a story that was as much about George Burns as his wife, Gracie Allen, and told a lot. Who knew that such a small corner in bustling New York City turned out such stars as Eddie Kantor and Jimmy Durante as well as Burns? Who knew that Burns owed a lot of his good fortune to Jack Benny’s benevolence, such as his very-late-in-his-career comeback with "The Sunshine Boys"? (Benny, dying, suggested to the movie producers that they hire Burns, who earned an Oscar for best supporting actor at age 80, and then starred in a slew of other movies.) Well, somebody knew, and fortunately now we know about not only a great comedy team, but about as perfect a pairing in love and life as you’re going to get.

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