Last week, indie rock band The National (founded in Ohio and later transplanted to Brooklyn) played their biggest venue yet: Radio City Music Hall. I’d never been to the famous Rockefeller Center theater, and I have to admit I mostly associate it with its Christmas Spectacular, starring the famously high-kicking women’s dance group the Rockettes. That particular show has been running for almost 80 years—since just after Radio City opened, and apparently those ladies do five shows a day, seven days a week during the Christmas season…very impressive.
At the time Radio City—known as the “Showplace of the Nation”—opened in 1932, it was the largest movie theater in the world, with a marquee stretching the length of a city block and nearly 6,000 seats. It was known for hosting grand film premieres, including the opening of such classics as Breakfast at Tiffany’s and To Kill a Mockingbird. (The latter film boasts a special connection to the venue, as Gregory Peck was a former usher at Radio City.) Since the 1970s, the theater stopped showing films for the most part, but it’s remained a top venue for concerts, live stage shows and other events. Radio City is currently leased to and managed by Madison Square Garden, Inc.
It’s a great venue for a concert, with relatively comfortable seats—though we stood along with the rest of the audience for most of the show, enjoying our $10 cocktails (complete with souvenir plastic tumblers and glowing blue swizzle sticks). The band was in fine form (to learn more, check out the Times review of the show and the band’s website), and singer Matt Berninger even made several trips into the audience, at one point walking all the way up the catwalk that skirts the hall and across the front row of the balcony, then back down the side of the hall to the stage.
Upcoming summer shows at Radio City include Squeeze and Cheap Trick (July 13), Willie Nelson and Family (July 30), Spanish crooner Alejandro Sanz (August 5), Barenaked Ladies (August 13) and MGMT (August 17-18). Come fall, families will surely pack the venue for Yo Gabba Gabba! Live (October 2-3). To view the full calendar, and/or buy tickets for shows at Radio City or Madison Square Garden, visit RadioCity.com.
(Images courtesy of Missy Berkowitz)