Music: Riverbend 'Second Stage' Taking Shape

Raconteurs highlight National City Pavilion's concert schedule

Apr 7, 2008 at 2:06 pm
The Raconteurs play their first area concert June 10 at the new National City Pavilion.

The Raconteurs, featuring Cincinnati musicians Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler along with Jack White of The White Stripes, will play their first area concert June 10 at the new National City Pavilion at Riverbend. Initial confirmed dates are being released today for the 4,100-seat venue next to Riverbend Music Center.

Sheryl Crow and Jason Mraz will open National City Pavilion on May 25, the first of 13 confirmed concerts this summer. Riverbend officials say they hope to see the total number of shows at the new venue top 25 when all dates are finalized.

Here's the lineup so far:

Sheryl Crow with Jason Mraz May 25
The Moody Blues June 6
The Raconteurs with The Black Lips June 10
Stevie Nicks June 26
Aly & AJ June 27
Steely Dan July 13
Weird Al Yankovic July 21
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra plays "The Music of Led Zeppelin" Aug. 1
Peter Frampton Aug. 6
Merle Haggard Aug. 7
Huey Lewis & the News Aug. 11
O.A.R. with Ozomatli Aug. 12
George Thorogood & the Destroyers with Buddy Guy Aug. 20

Tickets for The Raconteurs go on sale Saturday, and tickets for Sheryl Crow and for Peter Frampton go on sale April 14. Ticket sale dates for the other shows haven't been announced yet, and neither have ticket prices.

The Raconteurs recently released their second album, Consolers of the Lonely. Lawrence and Keeler, who play in Cincinnati-based The Greenhornes, moved to Nashville after White's side project with singer/songwriter Brendan Benson took off two years ago.

The band will play two major festivals this spring (Coachella in Indio, Calif., and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival) before kicking off a full tour in late May. National City Pavilion will be the tour's seventh date.

Riverbend officials hosted media tours of the new venue last week, about seven weeks before opening night.

Even though there's a lot of work left to do, the pavilion's size and scope are easy to make out.

Walking into the Riverbend complex through the main admission gate, National City Pavilion appears larger than I'd imagined it would be. Where Riverbend is built down into the ground as it slopes to the Ohio River, National City Pavilion sits above ground level, and so its stage area looms as tall as the adjacent Coney Island rollercoaster.

Entryways into National City Pavilion are right off the current Riverbend asphalt plaza, and concertgoers will use the existing bathrooms and concession stands. Additional services and a merchandise area will be built under the pavilion's upper seating deck.

Inside, all seats are covered and the seating area is divided by only one cross aisle. The lower area contains about 60 percent of the seats and slopes gently up from the stage as at Riverbend. The upper area has a sharper rake, leaving an open space around the back of the pavilion that looks out at the Riverbend lawn and the top of the steel towers over Riverbend's covered pavilion.

The last row in National City Pavilion is equivalent to about two thirds of the way back in Riverbend's pavilion, says Mike Smith, who runs Riverbend Music Center for its owner, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. He uses the word "intimate" to describe the ideal concert experience in the new space.

The stage is the same size as Riverbend's, though not as deep. National City Pavilion uses the familiar exposed steel girder look for the roof structure, and Smith expects excellent sound thanks to special acoustic steel beams used across the ceiling.

The sides of the venue will remain open, as at Riverbend, and video screens will be mounted beside the stage.

Smith says National City Pavilion will come in as budgeted at $6.8 million. It's the first "second stage" being built by any U.S. outdoor concert facility that he's aware of, but once other organizations see the economies of scale here (using existing parking lots, bathrooms, concessions, ticketing system, usher staff, etc.) Smith thinks the Riverbend Music Center "campus" likely will become a trend-setter.