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Farewell to the Palace: 20 great music moments remembered

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

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On Aug. 13, 1988, Sting asked the crowd in front of him, “How do you like this Palace?”

The answer was affirmative, of course — and has remained that way for the past 29 years.

The Palace of Auburn Hills will be closing its doors after one more show, by Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band, on Sept. 23. It brings to an end an era that saw the arena, built to house the Detroit Pistons, became the country’s state-of-the-art venue, a model for other buildings that followed, and quickly took over the metro area entertainment scene.

And even though it’s the oldest arena in the NBA, The Palace is still eminently viable thanks to millions of dollars of improvements in recent years.

Whatever fate awaits it — most scenarios include sale of the land, with the building being demolished — The Palace’s legacy is forged in a wealth of non-sports events, from circuses to ice shows and, of course, hundreds of concerts. Among the last are the biggest names in music and the most legendary tours. It’s hard to remember them all, of course, but here are 20 of the most memorable during the Palace’s musical run before its famous final scene.

• The Palace’s first Surprise Moment came on Aug. 29, 1988, when Aretha Franklin joined George Michael during the encore of the first of his two shows to re-create their hit 1987 duet “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me).”

• Michael Jackson’s only Detroit appearances as a solo artist took place Oct. 24-26, 1988, preceded by a visit to the Motown Museum to donate money and memorabilia.

• Paul McCartney kicked off the second North American leg of his return to the road, with a pair of Palace shows on Feb. 1-2, 1990.

• Bob Seger, in the midst of a hiatus from touring, joined Billy Joel on stage in 1990 for “Old Time Rock and Roll.” He played the same song with Don Henley on April 16 that year, and made his Palace debut as a headliner with his Silver Bullet Band on March 10, 1995, going on to set a record for the most sellouts (six) at The Palace during the same tour. Seger also shares the record for the most career sellouts at The Palace (16).

• Metallica’s Wherever They May Roam Tour stops on Nov. 2-3, 1991, during the ascent of its then-new “Metallica” (aka “The Black Album”) with staging that included a special Snake Pit for fans enclosed within the group’s stage.

• The Cure’s pair of shows July 18-19, 1992, were filmed for the live album and home video “Show,” which came out the following year.

• Portions of Kiss’ “Kiss Alive III” album were recorded at the group’s Nov. 27, 1992, Palace concert.

• Peter Gabriel’s Secret World Tour, widely acknowledged as one of the most inventive stage productions of all time, visited on July 2, 1993.

• Steely Dan played its first concert in 19 years on Aug. 13, 1993, at The Palace — oddly debuting a wealth of unreleased material from Walter Brecker’s solo album “11 Tracks Of Whack,” which came out the following year.

• Barbra Streisand has never been a road dog, and thanks to a relationship with the late Palace builder Robert Sosnick she made the arena just one of six stops on a limited tour — though the venue had to carpet the entire main floor for her shows on May 15, 17 and 19, 1994.

• A reunited Grand Funk Railroad played a benefit concert for the people of war-torn Bosnia and Herzegovina on April 20, 1997, with Peter Frampton and the Silver Bullet Band’s Alto Reed as special guest and an orchestra conducted by Paul Shaffer. A “Bosnia” live album was released six months later, albeit without the band members’ knowledge or approval.

• Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young launched CSNY2K, their first tour in 26 years, on Jan. 24, 2000, here with an epic 31-song performance laden with classics as well as nine songs from the 1999 reunion album “Looking Forward.”

Though he liked to check out Pistons games, Eminem was never a Palace headliner. But he still had his moments at the venue — as part of Dr. Dre’s 2001 Tour in 2000 and on two Anger Management Tour packages, one later that year and another in 2002.

• Madonna’s second of two Palace shows on her Drowned World Tour on Aug. 26, 2001, was broadcast live on HBO and released subsequently on home video.

• Trans-Siberian Orchestra played its first Palace show on Dec. 20, 2003, starting a 14-year annual tradition.

• Kid Rock and his Twisted Brown Trucker band played their first big arena headlining show, appropriately, on Detroit-area terra firma at The Palace on March 16, 2002. Rock played several more shows at the arena before turning the DTE Energy Music Theatre (aka Pine Bob) into his regular domain.

• Though there were varying rumors about how well they got along, Elton John and Billy Joel’s Face To Face tours were nothing less than crowd-pleasing sensations. The Palace hosted the dueling piano men twice, May 2-3, 2003, and May 21, 2009.

• Tim McGraw and Faith Hill’s first Soul2Soul II Tour stop July 11, 2007, featured an up-and-comer named Taylor Swift — at the time riding high with a hit called “Tim McGraw.” Swift subsequently opened for Keith Urban during 2008 (when a noticeable chunk of the audience left after her set) and then, of course, went on to megastardom, headlining The Palace on June 6, 2009, before making Ford Field her Detroit her home.

• Neil Diamond’s July 31, 2008, concert celebrating the Palace’s 20th anniversary was made into a TV special for WDIV-Channel 4 in Detroit. Diamond is The Palace’s all-time top draw with 19 shows at the arena since February of 1989.

• The Palace hosted its share of major and even legendary rap shows, but none was more electrifying than the teaming of Jay-Z and Kanye West on Nov. 26, 2011, during their Watch The Throne Tour, a mano y mano rhymefest with the two emcees going at each other on stages positioned on either side of the arena floor.

• Detroit rapper Big Sean’s first big arena headlining date came on Dec. 1, 2012, with a star-studded lineup of guests that included Kanye West, Common, Mike Posner, Pusha T, J. Cole and more — and tears during his performance of “Memories.”

Tell Us Yours

Have a Palace musical memory you don’t see on this list? Share it with us at facebook.com/opentertainment.

• Famous Final Scene: Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band and Nancy Wilson of Heart’s Roadcase Royale perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23, at The Palace of Auburn Hills, Lapeer Road at I-75. Some tickets are still available. Call 248-377-0100 or visit palacenet.com for both shows.

Web Site: www.palacenet.com

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