BY MELISSA RUGGIERI/AJC Music Scene
The revitalization of the Buckhead Theatre continues.
Since assuming operations of the 1,400-capacity venue last summer, Live Nation has provided $7 million worth of renovations to the theater — all while keeping it open for shows.
“It was like an acrobatic balancing act between concerts,” said Josh Martin, marketing manager for Live Nation’s Atlanta clubs and theaters.
The modifications — “mostly look and feel stuff,” as Live Nation Atlanta President Peter Conlon termed them — are quickly evident upon walking into the Roswell Road building.
“We’re actually kind of rock ‘n’ roll again,” he said.
No surprise, then, that Billboard magazine named the Buckhead Theatre one of the “20 Freshest (and Refreshed) Venues to Watch in 2018” in a recent issue.
New hardwood floors, dark, heavy curtains, monitors that broadcast whatever live concert is taking place and an expanded bar area (with mirrored Elvises grinning in the background) greet fans on the lower level.
Inside the venue, more glistening hardwood, and an air conditioning system that has improved from torturous to tolerable.
Not much has changed in the balcony, which still houses the original chairs purchased when Conlon and his longtime business partner, the late Alex Cooley, turned the venue into the Coca-Cola Roxy in the ‘90s (that name has been appropriated for the Live Nation-run venue at The Battery Atlanta).
“I think we paid 30 bucks each for them,” Conlon said with a laugh about the maroon, movie theater-like seats.
But the upstairs area leading to the balcony seats has a spiffy new look, starting with a spacious special events space and a glossy bar that houses a mirrored Elton John image similar to his Elvis counterpart downstairs.
Since many fans seek some type of “upgrade” experience, The Lounge — also upstairs — is now available for those looking for a quiet place to chill for an additional fee ($20 at the recent Celebrating David Bowie concert).
Visitors can enter The Lounge from behind a roped-off corner. Outfitted with velvet couches, a private bar and drink coasters made out of vinyl records, the area also presents a private cash bar, a full menu and complimentary appetizers.
Speaking of food, the Buckhead Theatre has also revamped its menu, which is offered in all areas of the theater.
In place of the usual pedestrian venue choices, the theater’s large kitchen will churn out orders for street tacos, peanut butter and jelly waffle sliders, chili con carne nacho fries and a Thai veggie wrap, among other selections.
Of course, parking is always an issue with most Atlanta venues, and the blocks of construction and barricaded roads near the Buckhead Theatre might appear daunting. But the new Hanover Buckhead Village high-rise, directly next to the venue, will allow concert parking in its deck (for $20); as well, several other lots in the vicinity will also flag you in for a fee (and if you get really lucky, a metered spot might be available).
“It’s really no worse than it was 20 years ago,” Conlon said of the parking scenario.
While there is no specific area for ride-sharing services to drop off or pick up, Martin said it hasn’t been an issue with the transactions taking place in front of the venue.
For Conlon, any revamps of the Buckhead Theatre are going to conjure memories of his partnership with Cooley, who died in 2015.
“He would have liked this,” Conlon said. “There were so many things we couldn’t afford to do at the time. This would have been the kind of room he wanted.”
SOME UPCOMING CONCERTS
Dashboard Confessional. With Beach Slang and Kississippi. 6:30 p.m. Friday. $38.60.
Mike and the Mechanics. 8 p.m. Saturday. $38.50.
The Mavericks. 8 p.m. March 30. $40.
Dark Star Orchestra. 8 p.m. April 6-7. $32.50.
Kate Nash. 8 p.m. April 28. $25.50.
An Acoustic Evening with Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness and Friends. 7:30 p.m. May 2. $33.50.
Buckhead Theatre, 3110 Roswell Road NE, Atlanta. livenation.com.