The Northern Lights Theater at Potawatomi Bingo Casino has gotten a makeover. With veteran L.A. rockers Los Lobos getting ready for a gig in the room, you've got a perfect chance to go experience it for yourself.
Although some of the changes were already in place early in October, it wasn't until Willie Nelson re-inaugurated the venue last week that the completely refurbished Northern Lights Theater made its public debut.
The new space feels more adapted to concerts, with much more seating directly facing the stage.
Down in front the long perpendicular tables have been replaced by a wraparound bar with comfortable swivel chairs. On the next level the bar theme is repeated and there is a long bench, too, with cocktail tables.
The deep booths that offered a better view of other patrons than the stage have been replaced by shallower ones that work much better.
"The theater feels more intimate now," says entertainment manager Bob Rech. "It was intimate to begin with. The entertainment is always more relaxed and you almost get a different show."
Northern Lights, says Rech, was designed to be a dinner theater. But what happened was that concerts and comedy shows proved more popular and that meant that the venue wasn't always perfectly matched to the performers.
Bar glasses would clink and waitresses would carry plates to and from tables during shows. It had the potential to kill the vibe.
"I've been looking to give it more of a club feel," says Rech, pointing to the cocktail tables and the bar-style seating.
While nothing has changed in the sound and lighting systems and the stage is basically unchanged, there is new carpet and wallpaper throughout and the row seating in the balcony has gone from high school auditorium to plush theater thanks to cushioned seats and attached cup holders.
With the stage built into a long, side wall instead of at the far end of the room, sightlines were always good at Northern Lights -- those booths and tables that required you to crane your neck notwithstanding. But now, there's nary a bad seat in the place.
You can see for yourself because you're going to see Los Lobos play songs from its latest disc, "Tin Can Trust," on Friday, Nov. 5 at 9:30 p.m., right?
Some other shows on tap this week in Cream City include:
You can get your Wu-Tang on on Tuesday, Nov. 2 at The Rave when rap superstar Ghostface Killah performs at 8 p.m. An opening act has yet to be announced for the show, which will run you $16.50 or, if you wanna look down from the balcony, $21.50.
Detroit's Electric Six plays tunes from its new disc, "Zodiac," released in late September on Metropolis Records, Thursday Nov. 4 at Turner Hall Ballroom. Also on the bill are The Constellations and Milwaukee's own Mark Mallmann, fresh off his 78-hour-long Marathon 3 song/performance. Admission is $12.
Legendary modern power poppers The Posies come to Milwaukee the following night to kick off the tour for the new "Blood/Candy" CD at Turner. Brendan Benson also performs on the tour, which ends in The Posies' hometown of Seattle.
If you want to get a closer look at The Posies -- whose members Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer also perform with Benson on the tour -- the band does an in-store performance at the Exclusive Company on Farwell and Brady at 6:30 p.m. The Turner Hall show at 8 p.m. Cover is $20.
Eisley, Ives The Band and Christie DuPree play at Turner on Saturday.
Legendary British guitarist Richard Thompson returns to The Pabst for an 8 p.m. performance on Thursday, Nov. 4. He's on the road in support of his latest disc, "Dream Attic." Tickets are $25 and $35.
Indy trash rockers We Are Hex hit Brew City on Friday for a gig at Stonefly. The band promises to "get crazy live" and offers up this evidence.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.