Sunday, April 18, 2010

Live! At the Arlington Theater!

Traffic in Los Angeles is a funny thing. When planning an evening out, one always thinks one will somehow magically be handed a reprieve. An 8 o'clock show all the way up in Santa Barbara on a Tuesday night? Sure, why not? That'll take, what, maybe 45 minutes?

Then reality sets in, usually accompanied by whining. Why did we ever leave the house? We've seen Elvis Costello lots of times. Why did we find it necessary to pay to torture ourselves like this? Should we just turn around? Let's just keep going, maybe it will be worth it. It had better be worth it!

Amazingly, last Tuesday at the Arlington Theater, it the trip really was worth it. After sitting in the car for more than two hours we finally arrived with minutes to spare. We flew past the beautifully tiled stand-alone ticket booth and made it into our seats just as the lights went down. But even harried and cross after battling traffic, I couldn't help but be awed by this amazing theater.

Mr. Costello also failed to disappoint. He played solo the entire show, relying just on his voice (sometimes without amplification) and a variety of stringed instruments. The song choices ran the gamut, from some of the first he ever recorded to shiny new creations. He seemed to be enjoying himself too, and made frequent reference to the theater surrounding us.

Indeed, it's difficult to ignore. Built in 1931 on the site of the old Arlington Hotel (destroyed in an earthquake in 1925), the Arlington Theater was built to impress. It's sort of an atmospheric fantasy Mission Revival style, and quite unlike any other example I've seen. Intricate tile work covers every surface, random mermaids infest the scroll-work outside, and the theater itself is fashioned to evoke a village plaza at night complete with stars and a moon set into the ceiling overhead.

All of this splendor was originally created as part of the grand Fox West Coast Theater circuit. The main floor and balconies hold 2,000 people. Even the foyer is heavily painted and lit by specially designed lamps, earning the Arlington the distinction of starting life not as a mere movie theater but as a film palace. Today it is also the premier preforming arts venue in Santa Barbara, having been restored and refurbished in the mid-70's.

Bottom line? The show was great, the theater was fabulous, but the next time I drive to Santa Barbara on a Tuesday I'm taking the day off work and leaving Los Angeles around lunch time.


  1. Gorgeous! I guess they could book tap dancing fleas, and the show would be worth it in that venue.

  2. Great theater! I'd love to see Elvis Costello as well so I'm jealous both of that and the cool venue!

  3. Very true, blueditty!

    Keith, we've seen him in some pretty obnoxious places. This was much better... Plus, short tiny me could actually see from the second row of the balcony. Win!

    1. How are the views from the balcony--other than not having someone blocking your view ;) ?
      I have 2nd row balcony seats for Wilco, and might be able to "upgrade" to 26th row, and am just wondering if it's worth it to switch? Can you still see the artists well from the balcony? Thanks for the info!

    2. I really was surprised by how well I could see... Of course, I haven't ever had floor seats at this venue, but I loved the balcony and wouldn't hesitate to sit there again for preference. Have fun!

  4. 以簡單的行為愉悅他人的心靈,勝過千人低頭禱告。........................................

  5. We love theatres in our family, 4 actors, what a gorgeous example & Elvis Costello as well amazing, definitely best to make a day of it.

  6. Whoa, that is stunningly beautiful. I love the care, craft and art that used to go into theatres.

    Awesome post.

  7. Hey, that's the guy who sings for my dog! Gorgeous theatre, yes.

  8. That theatre is beautiful! I haven't seen any here in Arizona, but, now I am curious =)


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