Farewell to the Palace, hello to LCA, in a bustling Detroit music year

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For nearly two years, a time-lapse camera on top of the Town Pump Tavern and the Park Avenue House captured the building of Little Caesars Arena. Kathleen Galligan/Detroit Free Press

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Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band perform at the Palace of Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills, Saturday, September 23, 2017.(Photo: Junfu Han, Detroit Free Press)Buy Photo

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I didn’t expect to get sentimental about a doomed building in the Detroit suburbs.

But when Bob Seger’s show wrapped up late Sept. 23 at the Palace of Auburn Hills, I found it hard to leave my seat in familiar old Section 113, and lingered for a good 20 minutes to soak in the scene one final time.

From the moment the Detroit Pistons had announced their move to Detroit’s Little Caesars Arena, the days were numbered for the Palace, the region’s leading entertainment arena for nearly 30 years. For many devoted concertgoers, it was a home-away-from-home, providing too many special nights to count; for someone who covers the stuff for a living, it also served as a friendly office-away-from-the-office.

Sitting there after the Seger finale, flashing back through the past two decades, I could happily forgive the multitude of beers spilled on shoes and notepads, the periodic parking-lot mishaps, the high frequencies that surely got sheared off my hearing there in Section 113. Nostalgia was the order of the night, with tearful ushers and other familiar faces on hand to drive home the point.

September was also when the Palace gave way to LCA, the sparkling new facility built by the Red Wings and now alone as metro Detroit‘s big-dog arena. A nearly $900 million project teeming with state-of-the-art amenities, LCA promptly asserted itself with a slew of prime-time shows: Paul McCartney, Ed Sheeran, Lady Gaga, Guns N’ Roses, Jay-Z, Janet Jackson.

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And then, of course, there was Kid Rock.

The Michigan star’s six-night opening stand had been announced early in the year with hoopla and excitement. By the time Sept. 12 came along, the mood was far more mixed: Rock’s recent forays into politics — a teased Senate run, his outspoken Trump support, a White House visit — prompted a burst of backlash among Detroit activist groups, some who cited his previous displays of the Confederate flag.

And so Little Caesars Arena got an opening night with an unwanted distraction, drawing crowds of noisy protesters outside as Rock launched a run that ultimately drew about 90,000 fans.

Rock continued to grab headlines, toying with political watchers and media for months as he insisted his U.S. Senate deliberations were no joke — before gleefully confirming, on the eve of his November album release, they’d been precisely that.

The Kid Rock saga was just one flashpoint in an especially eventful and newsy Detroit music year, from the opening of Jack White’s Third Man vinyl plant to the death of Mike Ilitch, the pizza magnate who rejuvenated downtown entertainment.

The rock world awoke May 18 to the shock of Chris Cornell’s death in a Detroit hotel room, where his body was found soon after Soundgarden’s Fox Theatre show. The singer’s death was later ruled suicide by hanging.

Like Kid Rock, Eminem thrust himself into the political fray, albeit from a very different direction: The Detroit rapper burst back onto the scene in October with a scathing rap attack on President Trump, a theme he’d return to on his December release, “Revival.” Em’s ideological pronouncements weren’t enough to spare him from music critics who may have been politically sympathetic — the once-invincible superstar drew the worst reviews of his career.

While the Palace‘s closing marked the end of one era, there were hints of an even more poignant finish line ahead for a couple of significant Michigan music institutions.

Aretha Franklin, who started the year with talk of retirement, was booked for the inaugural Detroit Music Weekend in the city’s theater district. In an emotional Free Press interview ahead of the June event, she granted that it might be her final hometown performance, and as she arrived for the festivities looking elegant but frail and sickly, it was easy to understand her state of mind.

Seger was another iconic artist dropping hints, quietly billing many of his national tour dates as “one last time” at the respective venues. That tour is now on hold anyway: After developing a threatening neck condition, he was rushed to surgery in October and continues to recuperate.

Seger hopes to get back out in the spring to make up his 19 postponed dates. In a 2018 that‘s already got some interesting stuff on tap — a new Jack White album that looks promising, a likely Eminem concert, a potentially major year for young band Greta Van Fleet — here‘s hoping Seger has at least “one last time” in store for his hometown too.

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Sting plays the Palace‘s first concert, Aug. 13, 1988.  PS&EBuy Photo Michael Jackson performs Monday, Oct. 24, 1988, the first of three sold-out shows at the Palace of Auburn Hills.  Steven R Nickerson, Detroit Free PressBuy Photo Beyoncé performs at the Palace of Auburn Hills, Aug. 17, 2007.  Kimberly P. Mitchell, Detroit Free PressBuy Photo Paul McCartney plays the Palace of Auburn Hills on Feb. 2, 1990.  Detroit Free Press Bob Seger holds a rose handed to him from the crowd as he performs with his Silver Bullet Band at the Palace of Auburn Hills, Sunday, March 10, 1996. Seger sold more than 100,000 tickets in less than an hour for his six Palace shows. (AP Photo/Jeff Kowalsky)  JEFF KOWALSKY, Associated Press Eminem hits the stage for his concert at the Palace of Auburn Hills, Sunday, Oct. 29, 2000. Photo by Amy E. Powers/Special to the Free Press.  Amy E. Powers, Special to the Free Presss Eminem at the Palace of Auburn Hills, Oct. 29, 2000. Photo by Amy E. Powers/Special to the Free Press.  Amy E. Powers, Special to the Free Presss Eric Clapton at the Palace of Auburn Hills, Wednesday, June 6, 2001.  Amy E. Powers, Special to the Free PressBuy Photo Backstreet Boys fans at the Palace of Auburn Hills, night one of a three-show stand in November 1999.  William Archie, Detroit Free PressBuy Photo The Backstreet Boys at the Palace, Nov. 6, 1999.  WILLIAM ARCHIE, Detroit Free PressBuy Photo Neil Diamond greets the crowd in February 1992 at the Palace on the first night of his sold-out concert series.  Free Press archivesBuy Photo HBO cameramen prepare for the first of Madonna‘s two sold-out homecoming shows at the Palace of Auburn Hills, Aug. 25, 2001. The second show would be aired live on HBO the next night.  Diane Weiss, Detroit Free Press Jenny Kensler, left, and Lauren Walsh, both of White Lake Township, Mich., prepare to enter the Palace for a Madonna concert on Saturday, Aug. 25, 2001, during a stop on the singer‘s “Drowned World Tour.” (AP Photo/Paul Warner)  PAUL WARNER, APBuy Photo Madonna performs her song “Impressive Instant” at at the Palace of Auburn Hills, Aug. 25, 2001  Mandi Wright, Detroit Free PressBuy Photo The Spice Girls at the Palace on July 26, 1998, for thousands of screaming fans. (From left) Scary Spice, Sporty Spice, Baby Spice and Posh Spice.  Kim Kim Foster, Detroit Free PressBuy Photo Janelle McCallum of Mason, calling herself “Ghetto Spice,” dresses for the Spice Girls concert at the Palace of Auburn Hills, Sunday, July 26, 1998.  Kim Kim Foster, Detroit Free PressBuy Photo The late Wayne Static of Static-X performing at the Family Values Tour at the Palace of Auburn Hills on Sept. 18, 2001.  Jennifer Hack, Detroit Free PressBuy Photo Paul McCartney performs “Hello Goodbye” as his opening song Wednesday night, May 1, 2002 at the Palace of Auburn Hills.  Chip Somodevilla, Detroit Free PressBuy Photo Alicia Keys performs at the Palace of Auburn Hills on Fiday, June 6, 2008. ROMAIN BLANQUART/Detroit Free Press  ROMAIN BLANQUART, Detroit Free Press Bruce Springsteen, Steven Van Zandt and the E Street Band perform before a sellout crowd at the Palace of Auburn Hills on Monday, November 5, 2007. (ROB WIDDIS/Special to the Free Press)  ROB WIDDIS, Special to the Free PressBuy Photo Chris Martin of Coldplay at the Palace Nov. 3, 2008. MADALYN RUGGIERO/Special to the Free Press  MADALYN RUGGIERO, Detroit Free Press Miley Cyrus performs “SMS (Bangerz)” at the Palace of Auburn Hills during her Bangerz Tour in Auburn Hills, Mich. on Saturday, April 12, 2014. Jarrad Henderson/Detroit Free Press  Jarrad Henderson, Jarrad Henderson Janet Jackson performs at the Palace of Auburn Hills on July 31, 2001, during a stop on her All For You Tour. (AP Photo/Paul Warner)  PAUL WARNER, ASSOCIATED PRESSBuy Photo Nine Inch Nails fans at the Palace of Auburn Hills on Saturday Aug. 23, 2008. ROMAIN BLANQUART/Detroit Free Press  ROMAIN BLANQUART, Detroit Free PressBuy Photo Nine Inch Nails‘ Trent Reznor at the Palace of Auburn Hills on Aug. 23, 2008. ROMAIN BLANQUART/Detroit Free Press  ROMAIN BLANQUART, Detroit Free Press Diana Ross performs at the Palace of Auburn Hills on Monday, April 16, 2007. (AP Photo/Gary Malerba)  Gary Malerba, AP Jay Leno performs in “Jay‘s Comedy Stimulus Plan” at the Palace, April 7, 2009. Leno wanted to do some good for an area struggling with a high unemployment rate and imploding auto industry. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)  Carlos Osorio, AP Justin Bieber performs during his Purpose World Tour stop at the Palace of Auburn Hills. Monday, April 25, 2016. Gary Malerba/Special to the Free Press  Gary Malerba/Special to the Free PressBuy Photo Stevie Wonder wows the crowd at his homecoming show during his Songs In The Key of Life Tour stop Nov. 20, 2014 at the Palace of Auburn Hills.  Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free PressBuy Photo Gwen Stefani‘s Sweet Escape Tour with Akon at the Palace in Auburn Hills, Mich., Friday, June 1, 2007. KIMBERLY P. MITCHELL/Detroit Free Press  KIMBERLY P. MITCHELL, Detroit Free PressBuy Photo Elephants from Royal Hanneford Circus enter the Palace of Auburn Hills April 6, 2000.  RICHARD LEE, DETROIT FREE PRESSBuy Photo Oliver‘s pizza concession at the Palace of Auburn Hills, June 26, 1989.  Detroit Free PressBuy Photo Pistons center Bill Laimbeer greets President George Bush at a campaign stop at the Palace.  Richard Lee, Detroit Free PressBuy Photo Hannah Montana fans Ashley Pflaum, 5, of Waterford, poses with her friends, Kamryn Romano, 8, of Sterling Heights, Sydney Pflaum, 6, of Waterford, and Mia Flynn, 7, of Waterford in front of the Miley Party Bus before the concert at the Palace in Auburn Hills, Mich., Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2007. KIMBERLY P. MITCHELL/Detroit Free Press  KIMBERLY P. MITCHELL, Detroit Free PressBuy Photo Miley Cyrus performs in her Hannah Montana Best of Both Worlds Tour at the Palace of Auburn Hills, Dec. 5, 2007.  Kimberly P. Mitchell, Detroit Free Press Kid Rock performs at the first of two shows in March 2001 at the Palace of Auburn Hills.  Joshua Kristal, Special to the Free Press Kiss on Thursday, May 25, 2000, at the Palace of Auburn Hills.  PAUL WARNER, AP Taylor Swift performs the first of a two-night stand at the Palace of Auburn Hills, on Friday, March 26, 2010. (Rob Widdis/Special to the Free Press)  Rob Widdis, Special to the Free PressBuy Photo Michael Jackson performs at the Palace of Auburn Hills on October 24, 1988.   STEVEN R. NICKERSON, Detroit Free PressBuy Photo Wrecking Crew and its driver Jimmy Koehler gets some air while jumping over junkyard cars during a show at the Palace of Auburn Hills on Saturday December 8, 2008. ERIC SEALS/Detroit Free Press  ERIC SEALS, Detroit Free PressBuy Photo Monica Williams of Flint helps prepare the Palace for a quick changeover, from a Phil Collins concert to NCAA regionals competition, March 11, 1997.  GABRIEL B. TAIT, DETROIT FREE PRESSBuy Photo Pastor Joel Osteen of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, speaks to thousands during a Night of Hope with Joel and Victoria at Palace of Auburn Hills, in Auburn Hills, Mich., on Friday, Oct. 24, 2008. KIMBERLY P. MITCHELL/Detroit Free Press   KIMBERLY P. MITCHELL, Detroit Free PressBuy Photo Bob Seger performs onstage with Kid Rock for an encore performance at the Palace in Auburn Hills, Mich., Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2006. KIMBERLY P. MITCHELL/Detroit Free Press   KIMBERLY P. MITCHELL, Detroit Free PressBuy Photo Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band perform at the Palace in Auburn Hills, Mich., Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2006. KIMBERLY P. MITCHELL/Detroit Free Press   KIMBERLY P. MITCHELL, Detroit Free PressBuy Photo Tara Lipinski, the 1997 World Champion, raises her arms with the other skaters at the the Palace on Dec. 8, 1997.  Nico Toutenhoofd, Detroit Free PressBuy Photo Jay Z and Kanye West perform at the Palace of Auburn Hills on Saturday Nov. 26, 2011. ROMAIN BLANQUART/ Detroit Free Press  ROMAIN BLANQUART, Detroit Free Press Vans Warped Tour ‘17 returned to the Palace of Auburn Hills, the one day event on July 21, 2017 featured over 60 bands on seven stages.  Christopher M. Bjornberg, Special to the Free PressBuy Photo Playing to a sold out house at the Palace of Auburn Hills on Oct. 23, 1999, Detroit‘s Kid Rock put on a show to remember for the home town fans of the rock star.  David P. Gilkey, Detroit Free PressBuy Photo Chance the Rapper performs at the Palace at Auburn Hills on Thursday, May 18, 2017 in Auburn Hills.  Elaine Cromie, Detroit Free Press Sting and Peter Gabriel brought their Rock Paper Scissors tour to metro Detroit when the duo performed at the Palace of Auburn Hills on Thursday, June 30, 2016. A 12-piece band backed the two musicians who took turns playing hits from their storied careers.  John Froelich, Special to the Free PressBuy Photo Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band perform at the Palace in Auburn Hills, Mich., Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2006. KIMBERLY P. MITCHELL/Detroit Free Press  KIMBERLY P. MITCHELL, Detroit Free PressBuy Photo Britney Spears sings “Overprotected” at the Palace of Auburn Hills on April 14, 2004. (RASHAUN RUCKER/DETROIT FREE PRESS)  RASHAUN RUCKER, DETROIT FREE PRESS Fans react to Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band as they perform before a sell-out crowd at the Palace of Auburn Hills on Monday, November 5, 2007. (ROB WIDDIS/Special to the Free Press)  ROB WIDDIS, Special to the Free PressBuy Photo Diana Ross takes center stage at the Supremes reunion tour June 19, 2000, at the Palace of Auburn Hills. (Photo by David P. Gilkey/Detroit Free Press)  David P. Gilkey, Detroit Free PressBuy Photo Thom Yorke with Radiohead at the Palace of Auburn Hills, June, 11, 2012. Andre J. Jackson/ Detroit Free Press  Andre J. Jackson, Detroit Free PressBuy Photo Avril Lavigne performs at the Palace of Auburn Hills on Saturday March 22, 2008.  ROMAIN BLANQUART, Detroit Free Press Jay-Z and Mary J Blige perform at the Palace of Auburn Hills on Friday, April 25, 2008.  ROMAIN BLANQUARTBuy Photo Hard-core U2 fans, including Emily King, 27, left, her friend Erin Hoard, 22, both of Kalamazoo, middle, and Jamie Alexander, 21, of Sterling Heights, Mich., all wait in the chilly weather of the parking lot of the Palace of Auburn Hills for members of the band to arrive with hopes they will get a glimpse of them and that maybe they will sign autographs and pose for pictures before entering the arena for their first of two concerts, Monday, Oct. 24, 2005. Some of the fans had slept in their cars since 3:30am this morning with hopes being there to see the band members. REGINA H. BOONE/Detroit Free Press  REGINA H. BOONE, Detroit Free PressBuy Photo U2 performs at the Palace of Auburn Hills Monday, October 24, 2005.  REGINA H. BOONE, Detroit Free PressBuy Photo Christina Aguilera performs her second song at the Palace of Auburn Hills Monday, April 9, 2007.  STEPHEN McGEE, Detroit Free PressBuy Photo Kid Rock performs at the Palace of Auburn Hills Thursday, March 25, 2004 in Auburn Hills, Mich (REGINA H. BOONE/DETROIT FREE PRESS).  REGINA H. BOONE, DETROIT FREE PRESSBuy Photo Crowds gather at the merch booth before Bob Seger‘s concert at the Palace, Dec. 20, 2006. KIMBERLY P. MITCHELL/Detroit Free Press  KIMBERLY P. MITCHELL, Detroit Free PressBuy Photo Jurassic 5 during the Vote for Change election-year show Oct. 3, 2004 at the Palace of Auburn Hills. Vote for Change was a multi-city, multi-artist tour that includes 37 shows in 33 cities in 11 states plus the District of Columbia over the course of 15 days.  WILLIAM ARCHIE, Detroit Free PressBuy Photo Dave Matthews during the Vote for Change show Oct. 3, 2004, at the Palace of Auburn Hills. Vote for Change was a multi-city, multi-artist tour that includes 37 shows in 33 cities in 11 states plus the District of Columbia over the course of 15 days.  WILLIAM ARCHIE, Detroit Free Press AC/DC performs with Axl Rose at the Rock or Bust Tour at the Palace of Auburn Hills on Friday, Sept. 9, 2016, in Auburn Hills. Tim Galloway/Special for the Free Press  Tim GallowayBuy Photo Shania Twain performs at her Rock This Country Tour on Saturday, July 25, 2015, at the Palace of Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills.  Tim Galloway, Detroit Free PressBuy Photo Oprah Winfrey takes the stage at The Palace of Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills on Friday September 12, 2014 during the ‘Oprah‘s The Life You Want Weekend‘ tour.  Ryan Garza / Detroit Free PressBuy Photo Imagine Dragons performs Tuesday, June 23, 2015, at the Palace of Auburn Hills.  Salwan Georges, Detroit Free Press

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