We were discussing last week the lack of outdoor concerts in the Little Rock area, one of the key reasons being that the promoters who deal mostly in this area (this includes Memphis) prefer to put their shows indoors.
Most major shows need a house that holds 15,000 or more. Which makes it nice that our wise city and county heads finally convinced the voting public of the need of a venue like Alltel Arena. It's nice also the arena is managed by a guy (Michael Marion) with top connections in the entertainment industry and the will to attempt to bring the best shows into the area. They don't all come, but at least the effort's made.
While July will be slow all over, August picks up significantly. KISS was announced at the end of last week for a show Aug. 8 at Alltel (Memphis hard-rockers Saliva will open).
In one of those scheduling contrasts that only a manager with a sense of humor can truly appreciate, Alltel will play host Aug. 9 to The Wiggles, the four-man Aussie phenomenon that entertains preschoolers with videos and a couple of Disney Channel shows.
Evanescence returns Aug. 14 to Alltel for the second time since exploding on the national scene with the multimillion-selling CD "Fallen." This time Evanescence will bring along opening acts with significant name and song recognition: Seether, whose lead singer and Evanescence front-woman Amy Lee have been an item since last year; Three Days Grace ("I Hate Everything About You") and Breaking Benjamin, which is looking to break through.
Speaking of breakthroughs, the night before the Evanescence show, the "American Idols Live" tour will visit Alltel Arena. If you follow "American Idol" you'll recognize such names as winner Fantasia Barrino and other idols Amy Adams, Camile Velasco, Diana DeGarmo, George Huff, Jasmine Trias, Jennifer Hudson, John Stevens and Jon Peter Lewis. Plus the lineup also features La Toya London, the one idol all the experts thought should have won but who was voted out early.
Of Riverfest Amphitheatre's two scheduled shows so far, one is a big one with modern-rock hitmakers 3 Doors Down, Nickelback and Puddle of Mudd on the same bill for July 27. Slipknot and Slayer bring their hard metal-rock to the venue Aug. 13, opposite Alltel's "American Idols" show.
The State Fair won't have a concert in Barton Coliseum this fall, Jim Pledger, the general manager at the Arkansas State Fairgrounds, tells us. Attendance at some pretty good acts in the past few years, including Alabama, LeeAnn Womack and Destiny's Child, hasn't been enough to make the shows worthwhile. The good news is that entertainment will be emphasized at the fair's covered outdoor venue near the midway. The State Fair is Oct . 8-17.
Little Rock is not alone in its redevelopment struggles. In Kansas City, they're trying to make a go of a struggling Rivermarket, a multimillion-dollar train station renovation that appears to be a white elephant; and though the nice, spacious arena is not quite 30 years old, city leaders want to build a new arena and arts complex to tie everything together downtown. Oh, and downtown seems to roll up the sidewalks after 9 p.m. anyway.
KC finds itself fighting other destinations for convention traffic that it used to count on, and like most metropolitan areas it deals with urban sprawl and decaying older neighborhoods.
Still, the 'cue is the best around and the steaks are terrific, and KC has some cool neighborhoods besides the renowned Country Club Plaza area that make it enjoyable to spend a few days there.
I wish a Little Rock restaurant or two would take a cue from one local joint we visited. Joe D's, in a neighborhood with a lot of ethnic food offerings and older homes and apartments near the Missouri-Kansas state line, has a Sunday brunch where diners can make their own Bloody Mary's. The waiter brings the glass with the vodka, and the diner takes it to a setup near the bar where any and all ingredients for the "perfect" Bloody Mary are available.
There's probably some archaic Arkansas liquor law that says the tomato juice, celery salt and vodka must be mixed together by a licensed barkeep, but wouldn't it be nice to see some of our eateries step out a little?
By the way, the waiters for Sunday brunch at Joe D's also dress in their pajamas and/or robes, which is probably a step beyond what any Arkansas restaurant would try.