Headliner Jimmy Buffett sized up the site last summer
By DAVE HOEKSTRA firstname.lastname@example.org
On June 29, Jimmy Buffett will open the renovated Charter One Pavilion on Northerly Island.
To accommodate 22,000 additional lawn seats, the stage will be rotated from east to southeast.
Coincidentally, one of Buffett’s biggest hits is about changes in latitudes.
Phish will follow Buffett into the larger-capacity venue on July 19-21, according to the Phish website.
Mark Campana, co-president of North American concerts for the promoter Live Nation, said four to eight larger shows would be booked next summer for the site. “Being the first season we want to walk before we run,” he said. “We want to understand the venue.”
Buffett visited the site last summer during a break from his Midwest gigs. He also used to fly out of Meigs Field, which was on Northerly Island until the airfield was closed in 2003.
Buffett appeared once before at Northerly Island. In August 2005, he sat in with rocker Jack Johnson when he was in Chicago as the first major act to play Wrigley Field. “He spends a lot of time on his bike, riding up and down the lakeshore,” Campana said. “We explained to him how this configuration would lend itself to the size of crowds that come out to a Jimmy Buffett show. When he came on the property, the first thing, he said was, ‘I’ve always thought of Chicago as a beach town.’ ”
The pavilion borders the 14th Street Beach. The expansion includes a new two-story grandstand and V.I.P. boxes. A V.I.P. patio will be next to the beach.
“We worked with his production people on staging and his team in terms of all the needs a show the size of Jimmy Buffett’s would require,” Campana said.
Live Nation also consulted on production with Phish. Campana and other Live Nation officials toured venues in Glastonbury, Hyde Park and Leeds, England. “We saw in Europe that the staging had a bit more festive feel to it,” he said. The stage will be colorful and new LED screens will be installed, along with a new sound system.
Soldier Field parking will be used for the expanded venue. “We do 65,000 for a Bears game, or Jay-Z or Bon Jovi,” said Michael Kelly, CEO of the Chicago Park District. “This is not going to be a problem.”
Boutique, 8,600-seat Northerly Island shows include O.A.R. on June 28 and Barenaked Ladies and Ben Folds on July 9. More will be announced Tuesday.
Buffett tickets go on sale April 1. The pavilion will be reserved seating; the lawn will be general admission.