House of Blues Boston, in its new Lansdowne Street location near Fenway Park, is jazzing up the Boston music scene with much more than the blues these days. Check the lineup of upcoming live concerts at House of Blues Boston and you’ll find a soulful mix of foot-stomping, hip-swaying genres, from blues, soul, gospel, jazz and rock to country, rap, jamming and even some lucky Irish. Craving a Fenway frank or sausage and peppers on a wintry Boston night? We enjoyed both from a curbside Fenway vendor on our way back to our car after the recent House of Blues Boston YES concert. Looking for some comedy with your blues? Comedy Central’s House of Comedy Live from the House of Blues debuts at Boston’s House of blues in April.
The Boston area was home to the very first House of Blues. It opened on Thanksgiving Day, 1992 and served its first meal to local shelters that day from a restored house across the Charles River in Harvard Square, Cambridge, with funding from blues brothers Dan Aykroyd and Jim Belushi, Aerosmith, River Phoenix and Harvard University. That historic House of Blues closed in 2003, leaving Boston with no House of Blues for six years.
Lucky for House of Blues fans, music and the blues they keep on changing. Under ownership of Live Nation New England since 2008 (Live Nation bought the House of Blues chain in 2007), House of Blues Boston now serves up soul food and world music at the former site of the Avalon and Axis nightclubs, opposite the Lansdowne Street Fenway Gates.
As a longtime House of Blues fan — I’ve seen Ronnie Earl at Atlanta House of Blues and Robert Palmer at House of Blues Sunset Strip, where I caught the back of Dan Aykroyd’s head in the exiting crowd — I hissed at the news that Live Nation had swallowed yet another alternative music venue into its entertainment fiefdom.
Yet, I have to admit, that it’s hard for this local fan to argue with the expanded House of Blues Boston square footage (more than 10 times its Cambridge size, according to Live Nation), its more central Boston location and the eclectic music lineup Live Nation has made happen. The new House of Blues location, opened in spring 2009, boasts a 2,400 capacity music hall, a restaurant, a members-only VIP lounge, and the required gift shop. The restaurant is decorated with the same funky folk art and southern juke joint blues history we’ve come to recognize as House of Blues style. The restaurant was also packed with a good 45-minute table wait pre-concert on the night we visited.
There’s a full bar in the restaurant and in the music hall, which boasts ample standing room as well as wrap around balconies. My guy, Bob, was over-the-top happy to be standing center stage and just a few arm’s lengths away from YES bass player Chris Squire on a general admission concert ticket. We weren’t the oldest in the crowd, and we surely weren’t the youngest. My college freshman son texted me that several of his friends were there rocking with the old guys of YES, too. The concert was sold out but we still had room to dance in place (just be on the lookout for spilled drinks).
See if you’ll find something to dance about in this upcoming House of Blues Boston sampling. We’ve already bought our tickets for Legends of Rock and Blues featuring Jim Belushi, Joey Kramer & Brad Whitford (members of Aerosmith), Barry Goodreau (former member of the group Boston), Johnny A and the Uptown Horns, James Montgomery and more. Or consider Five for Fighting with Matt Wertz, appearing in Boston as part of a 27-city tour that will surely include the hit song ‘Chances’, from the movie Blind Side. For St. Patrick’s Day, try your luck any night of a full week of the Dropkick Murphys. Also on the lineup are Pat Green with Wade Bowen and Jordan Tarrant for a little Texas country. Or Corinne Bailey Rae and Disco Biscuit jamming.
Many of the House of Blues Boston traditions live on. As the web site reminds, House of Blues Boston’s Gospel Brunch ‘serves up souls every first and third Sunday.’ The local and regional gospel acts change but buffet brunch favorites always include a tasting of corn muffins with maple butter, cinnamon twists, pumpkin spiced bread, peel and eat shrimp with cocktail sauce, biscuits and gravy, southern fried chicken, homemade waffles, cheddar cheese grits, creole chicken and shrimp jambalaya and more. So, come hungry and soulful.
If you do make a visit, take some time to browse the art before or after your music or soul food. House of Blues boasts the largest collection of Outsider folk art, or as they call it, Visual Blues. You can read more about the International House of Blues Foundation and its community art efforts at houseofblues.com.
House of Blues Boston
15 Lansdowne Street
Boston, MA 02215
(888) 693-2583 (BLUE)