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Robins looked, sounded great for opening

The Robins Theatre got off to a rousing start last week.

The downtown Warren theater reopened Jan. 9 after being being dormant for more than 40 years. I’ve been writing about the restoration process for two years and have gotten to see its evolution during that time, but even I was taken aback by the beauty of the end result.

Kudos to owner Mark Marvin and his Downtown Development Group as well as the crews who make its return possible.

I went to all three shows last week and had seats in different locations to gauge the the sound and the experience from different vantage points.

Knowing I would be missing part of the show to meet deadline for the opening night coverage, I asked for and had possibly the worst seat in the house — last row in the corner on the floor.

Even there, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and the other acts on the bill sounded very good. The sound was clear enough to differentiate the individual instruments. It was a little more muddy there than it was up in the balcony but significantly better than back-of-the-floor seats normally are.

However, there is one factor conscientious concertgoers should keep in mind at the new venue.

The Robins doesn’t have much of a lobby. On opening night, when the ticket scanners were standing next to the interior doors, the people walking in were only a few feet from the back rows of seats. Sound also travels down from the mezzanine lobby through that opening where the chandelier hangs.

During Big Bad Voodoo Daddy’s set and most of the shows that will play the venue, there’s enough volume coming from the sound system to drown out the chatter. But the crowds from the bar and from the mezzanine lobby competed with Cheryl Warfield’s arias, at least for those sitting in the back. For acoustic or classical performances, attendees will need to be extra considerate.

For Friday’s performance of “Lisa Lampanelli’s Losin’ It,” I had one of the best seats in the house — front row of the balcony. The view was spectacular and so was the leg room. The show itself wasn’t a draw (the Robins was less than half full) or a crowd pleaser (there were several walkouts and one reader sent me an email calling it “the worst thing to happen in a theater since Lincoln was shot”), but those seats would be the perfect perch for any future attraction.

Let’s talk about the leg room. On more than one occasion, my wife has referred to me (affectionately, I think) as a mutant, so I might not be the best person to gauge how adequate or inadequate the leg room is. But it’s definitely tight in some areas and varies radically depending upon where one sits.

On Saturday I sat about 13 rows back on the floor on the far left aisle. With a bit of manspreading and infringing upon my wife’s leg room, I was OK in row M. I don’t know if I could have said that if I was in the middle of the aisle. The guy behind me on the aisle in row N was at least my height, maybe an inch taller — I’m just under 6-foot-4 — and there definitely was more leg room in that row or at least for that seat. The leg room in the back row on the aisle on opening night also seemed more generous.

Concertgoers are going to have to do a little experimenting to figure out where they are most comfortable in the new venue.

The show itself on Saturday was a real crowd pleaser. I grew up near Cincinnati in the ’70s, so I heard a lot of Pure Prairie League growing up and still have my vinyl copy of “Bustin’ Out.”

But by the time Orleans and Firefall were getting significant airplay on top 40 radio, I had moved on to Rush (RIP Neil Peart) and harder rock acts. I spent more time avoiding those acts than listening to them, but I appreciate a well-crafted pop song, and Orleans and Firefall each had several.

Again, it was easy to enjoy the nuances of the performances thanks to the sound system — the steel guitar in Pure Prairie League’s country rock, the flute and saxophone playing of Firefall’s Dave Muse. And the lighting system not only illuminated the bands but also captured the opulence of the theater with that dome ceiling reflecting different colors.

All three acts commented on the beauty of the venue, and the crowd responded enthusiastically to the steady flow of hits that filled the night.

Packard Music Hall had big events on two of those nights as well, so it was nice to see that the market could support both venues.

Andy Gray is the entertainment editor of Ticket. Write to him at agray@ tribtoday.com

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