Chicago: Auditorium Theatre

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Well, tonight’s intimate and ornate venue is very special indeed.

The Auditorium Theatre, or to give it its proper title, the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, is housed in an immense structure designed by the famous architectural team of Adler and Sullivan, who also designed the Chicago Stock Exchange and the Schiller/Garrick Theater Building (both of which, sadly and maddeningly, have since been demolished) and other early skyscrapers (thankfully these are still standing and rightfully recognised as Historic Landmarks), such as the Wainwright Building in downtown St. Louis, Missouri and the Guaranty Building – now known as the Prudential Building – in Buffalo, New York.

At the time of the theatre’s official opening in December 1889, the Auditorium Building was the tallest, heaviest and costliest building in Chicago and the largest modern edifice in the world. With an impressive seventeen-story tower, it boasted modern technology such as electric lighting and air conditioning (made possible thanks to a daily delivery of 15 tons of ice) and unrivalled acoustics which were the envy of many.

The resident home of the Joffrey Ballet, the landmark theatre celebrated its 125th anniversary season in 2014/15, has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1970, obtained National Historic Landmark status five years later, and can be proud of another first: in 1921, the Chicago Opera Company’s performance of Madam Butterfly was broadcast live from here – Chicago’s first live radio broadcast.

Beyond the simple and bold exterior, the theatre within this Romanesque-style, fortress-like building is lavishly decorated with marble mosaics, murals, plaster casts, stencils, gold leaf, art glass and iron casts.

‘Nature, life and music’ is the unifying theme: the six arched art glass lunettes located above the doors in the main lobby are the allegorical figures of Wisdom, Oratory, Drama, Music, Poetry and Dance; there are portraits of Wagner, Haydn, Shakespeare and Demosthenes.

On the theatre’s awe-inspiring central mural, located above the proscenium arch, it is written:

“The utterance of life is a song, the symphony of nature.”

Two large side murals – the south depicting spring, the north an autumnal scene – continue the theme.

Sadly neglected for many years, bankruptcy and closure followed in 1941. In 1942, the theatre was taken over by the City of Chicago and used during the Second World War to house, feed and entertain more than 2.2 million servicemen, its stage and front rows converted into a bowling alley.

The theatre was saved from demolition by Roosevelt University in 1946, who initially lacked the considerable funds needed to return it to its former glory. It remained unused for two decades. However, restoration work did eventually take place and the theatre reopened, looking marvellous once more, in October 1967.

Just in time, as luck would have it, for the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, The Doors, The Who, The Kinks and all the rest from that incredible era for rock music (just have a look at this video from the theatre’s archives to see who else graced its stage in that exciting first decade since it reopened) to bring the punters streaming in. Of course, both David and Phil Manzanera have performed here already, with Pink Floyd and Roxy Music, in 1971 and 1975 respectively.

Although the theatre’s focus is mainly on ballet and opera now, it even acts as a church on Sundays.

What a spectacular place of great beauty and serenity. If you will be enjoying the Auditorium Theatre’s mosaic marble floors and grand gilded arches tonight, not to mention the music and Marc Brickman’s lighting, how very lucky you are. Have a lovely time and, as ever, we look forward to your reactions.

And if you need a little more history of the Auditorium Building and Theatre, I recommend this documentary.

Author: FEd

Features Editor of David Gilmour’s official blog, The Blog (‘Features’ previously being its rather naff title), affectionately – or lazily – shortened to ‘FEd’.

40 thoughts on “Chicago: Auditorium Theatre”

  1. Not one comment? I suppose the midweek date has made it difficult for hardcore travellers. For me, this show is a return home / visit with my family. So it will be especially enjoyable as I will attend with my sister.

    Also, I was able to resolve my issue with Ticketmaster – having bought a ‘will call’ ticket with my wife’s credit card (she can no longer attend). So I will be 3rd row after all. Can’t wait!

    For those that are able to make it, enjoy! The atmosphere in this classic theater will be incredible.

    1. I’m sure it will be incredible. Have a fantastic time and let us know, won’t you?

  2. I can imagine that there will be a setlist change tonight…

    Wish all a great night with the great David Gilmour.

    1. OK, let’s see what everyone thinks about this.

      Considering the smaller venue, which song might come in and which song might make way for it?

      1. OK I’ll play. How about;

        Wot’s…Uh The Deal or Fearless for Coming Back to Life
        Smile for What Do You Want From Me
        Echoes for High Hopes

        Would Love to see Dogs, So Far Away, or Green Is the Colour but I’m trying to be somewhat realistic.

        We will being see shows #3,4,5 of this tour in NYC and it would be nice to get a little more variety. That said I think the set list is pretty darn good as is and we did get a song swap in Hollywood. So it’s all good!

        Hope everyone enjoys the show in what appears to a wonderful theater.

        1. I think you’ll need to drop more than just ‘High Hopes’ (how could you?) to fit ‘Echoes’ in. 😛

      2. Unrealistic I know, but If I won a contest to be able to make such a request, my choice would be Sonnet 18 as performed in the ‘David Gilmour In Concert’ DVD. Gets me every time.

        Tough to scratch one, but it would likely be ‘The Girl In The Yellow Dress’.

          1. Hi Rudders,

            That really says something, as knowing that you are a guitar player, there’s not even one in sight or sound anywhere near David for this performance.

      3. I really would appreciate to hear On The Turning Away. 🙂

        Because, having read about Mr. Gilmour’s recent interview, it seems unlikely he will attempt Echoes.

        -Tom

  3. I can not speak to the potential set list changes, though I’ve been watching carefully and am excited that the band has already given itself some choices. I hope Sorrow stays in, but I’ll take any additions from Momentary Lapse.

    Today’s is c.r.a.w.l.i.n.g by! Rainy in Chicago. I need that Fat Old Sin to shine asap. Can’t hardly wait….

  4. Just dropped by to apologise to David for a comment about an album of spoilers. I just don’t think he realises how much his guitar playing is loved. Anyway, all the best with the tours, and keep the fingers off the faders. 😛

  5. Hi Fed, after this tour I think you should consider writing a book on all the theatres and venues David has visited. After all your write ups are always interesting and very informative, I would buy it. Plenty of photos you can pinch off Polly.

    Damian

  6. What a fantastic place! I think David loves to play in such intimate venues, so enjoy it you lucky people and tell us…

    I’d play Dominoes tonight by the way.

    Ciao!

  7. How about ” Embryo ” for old times sake? I think Roger may have written it but David owns it with his voice and guitar. It was a song they often played live but it never found its way on a PF album other than some bootleg stuff. They may have very well played that in 1971 at the Aud.

    George

  8. Oh.my.god. Tonight. The Chicago Auditorium Theater. The SOUND. Amazing venue, hugely appreciative audience. We were only 3800 or so and we made as much noise as any arena. And so did Gilmour. What an awesome performance. He SLAYED tonight.

    1. I hope not – Fat Old Sun is essential. In fact I would be very hesitant to change the set-list and would have preferred if OAI stayed put – for me the show as it has been for most of the tour has been spot-on.

  9. Wow! What else can be said?

    The sound was Beautiful, Lighting was incredible! The band was Perfect. Best Venue.

    Haven’t been here (blog) since David was last in Chicago 10 yrs ago. Good to see many of the regulars are still here! LOL.

    Last night’s show was simply incredible. Thank You, David and All.

  10. Hi…I’m the one who’s missing all chatrooms…working time for me today too.

    Much love everyone, hope you had a great time!

    Ciao!

  11. The show last night was amazing. It is really special being able to see a band of this stature perform in such an intimate setting. The sound was perfect and the lighting / lasers played beautifully with the ornate interior of the theater. I also enjoyed the ability to see four shows at one time – viewing the other three through cameras of nearby fans (sarcasm). But I didn’t let that ruin it for me. hahaha.

    The Auditorium Theater did a good job limiting scalpers. The best seats required will-call pickup. Such tickets were not available until after 7 pm – just one hour before the show. Also, the will-call window was inside the building. So you were forced to enter the theater once you received your ticket. Exiting the building with tickets was not allowed.

    All of the shows I have seen have been wonderful – each with mostly pros and few cons. But liking the smaller theaters best, my personal ranking of shows thus far attended are: 1. Orange, France (greatest venue I have ever seen which made up for chaos of trying to enter theater), 2. Chicago Auditorium, 3. LA Forum, 4. Verona, Italy (beautiful venue, but chaotic seating in upper GA), 5. Hollywood Bowl (beautiful venue, fireworks during Run Like Hell were awesome, but too many talkers, partiers, etc.).

    1. The Auditorium Theater did a good job limiting scalpers. The best seats required will-call pickup. Such tickets were not available until after 7 pm – just one hour before the show. Also, the will-call window was inside the building. So you were forced to enter the theater once you received your ticket. Exiting the building with tickets was not allowed.

      Hats off to them. Brains as well as beauty.

      1. Yes, I was one of the folks in line to pick up my seats. This may have cut down on scalping but the line stretched around the block and some waited a long time to get their tickets with only 2 windows open.

        A great venue and performance Wednesday night. Musicians and Mr Screen barely fit on the stage. My favorite venue for the past 35 years it was an honor to see Gilmour perform here!

  12. Saw the show last night at Auditorium theatre. Just blown away at how great it was! Dave is playing like a 30 year old not 70! So great to see him let loose, and that wonderful tone. My god, you are a gift to us all.

  13. Can’t believe I missed the Chat! Stupid work getting in the way! 😉

    So NYC MSG, everyone meeting at the Heartland Brewery or Mustang Sally or something?

  14. I think he has a special thing for Fat Old Sun so I wouldn’t expect so. Apart from that as far as I know none of them is very happy with Atom Heart Mother itself but I like to listen to it very much. Music has this magic to spread influence beyond its creators but for the moment I wish the man just to be there with his guitar and treat us with what he most feels like. That way we would know who is he in 2016.

  15. Hey FEd and fellow bloggers~

    The Auditorium Theatre in Chicago sounds like it was a beautiful place to host such an exquisite event as David.

    All the details to honor nature and the grand design itself sounds beautiful. I am sure that the music that the walls were graced with when David did his magic were the best that the structure and all those able to attend had ever experienced.

    Damian Cunningham is correct in regards to you writing a book about all the venues David has played in. Your write ups are very informative and each place has a lesson in history.

    Take care, Suzy.

  16. I completely missed the chat too!!! Darn it. For the Tuesday 12th show I was going to go to Mustang Harry’s prior to the show. I hope to get there EARLY as well…I will be pacing myself though. 🙂

    Still might go on Sunday night to see if I can get lucky scoring a RCMH ticket…

  17. I was privileged to be at the AUDITORIUM THEATRE in Chicago tonight to witness great music in one of the most beautiful buildings built in 1889! The music was flawless while the band was tight and flowed with purpose. The acoustics were absolutely phenomenal!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    IT BROUGHT ME BACK TO A TIME WHEN MUSIC HAD MEANING AND PURPOSE. GILMOUR STILL PLAYS WITH AN EDGE CONSISTING OF BEAUTY WHILE SHOWING ANGER AND GENTLENESS ALL AT THE SAME TIME. THIS WAS A PART OF HISTORY TONIGHT AND I AM FORTUNATE TO HAVE WITNESSED THIS MOST SPIRITUALLY MOVING PERFORMANCE.

    THANKS FOR STOPPING OFF IN CHI TOWN TO REMIND ME OF THE GOOD OLD DAYS OF PURE ROCK AND ROLL!

    MIKE LANCE

  18. Hi everyone

    Just looking at the photos on FB from the show. Wow! What a beautiful building, so jealous of everyone who was lucky enough to hear such beautiful music in such a fantastic setting. Wish I had the money to do the whole tour but will settle for the RAH in September. 🙂

    If anyone is still looking for tickets for the Teenage Cancer Trust gig I have 2 tickets for sale for the face value of £250 as unfortunately I am no longer able to use them. They are Hospitality tickets which include food and drink and seats in the stalls in block J. If anyone is interested FEd, I would be OK with my email address being passed on. Thanks.

    I totally agree with Damian Cunningham and Suzy Smith. I love reading your writeups about the different venues; all those interesting bits of history – love it.

    FEd, I’m sure you know already, but for everyone else out there: David and Polly are discussing their songwriting partnership at the Hay Book Festival on May 27th. Tickets are only £15 from the website and I think that is a bargain for what should be a fantastic evening. Get them while you can. 🙂

    Take Care.

  19. Can anyone say how long David played for? I’m at the Garden tomorrow and can’t wait!!

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