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VOL. 128 | NO. 72 | Friday, April 12, 2013

Garden Party

Tony Bennett kicks off Live at the Garden concert season

By Andy Meek

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Tony Bennett, Robert Plant and Foreigner are among the top-drawing acts performing at Memphis Botanic Garden during the Live at the Garden 2013 concert season, which kicks off June 1.

Concertgoers enjoy a past performance of Live at the Garden, the annual outdoor concert series held at Memphis Botanic Garden. The event features a blend of table and lawn-style seating.  

(Daily News File Photo: Lance Murphey)

Rounding out the list of performers for the annual outdoor music series is R&B funk band Earth, Wind & Fire and the up-and-coming country group The Band Perry.

Before revealing the 2013 lineup Wednesday, April 10, to an early-evening crowd inside a packed Hardin Hall, Memphis Botanic Garden executive director Jim Duncan promised, “This is the best one we’ve ever had.”

The meeting room was almost standing room only as the list of artists was revealed, and attendees clapped and cheered as each name was announced.

The series that begins in June marks the 13th season for the concert series, which is a major event for the botanic garden. The series attracts more than 30,000 attendees each year, and investment firm Duncan-Williams Inc. is not only the title sponsor for 2013, but firm president Duncan Williams said the firm is close to finalizing a deal to extend its support of the series through 2018.

“This is one of the most diverse lineups that we have ever had, which we are very proud of,” said Live at the Garden co-director Sherry Misner. “That has always been the goal for Live. Some years it just works out better than others. Live at the Garden, from the beginning, was created to be an event, not just a concert.

“I hope that this year’s lineup shows that there is truly something for everyone at Live at the Garden.”

The concerts begin with classic crooner Tony Bennett June 1, followed on June 15 by Earth, Wind & Fire and former Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant on July 13. The final two acts, The Band Perry and 1980s rock band Foreigner, will play Aug. 23 and Sept. 20, respectively.

At the same time as officials revealed the new season lineup, they also gave a further peek at plans on the drawing board for a permanent stage that will replace the need for Live at the Garden to essentially create its own physical venue each summer.

The Botanic Garden is in the midst of planning for and building a new venue called The Live Garden. It will include a 14-foot tall “living wall” that doubles as an interactive learning experience. The Live Garden also will include green rooms, meeting spaces and plant-lined walkways, among other features.

Attendees at the concert season premier party were told the new space will help lead to the long-term sustainability of Memphis Botanic Garden. Its creation eventually will allow for the possibility of hosting things like more concerts, high school graduations and other arts performances.

“The concept is to create a large-scale garden room that heightens the overall experience of Live at the Garden for concertgoers through a more organic architecture, while setting the stage for a unique, year-round garden experience of both performance and non-performance based activities,” said archimania principal Barry Yoakum.

Yoakum said there are several people at archimania working on the project. Some of its other amenities include a permanent stage with sound and light designed to accommodate major acts, enhanced video screens and monitors, green rooms, loading dock, backstage facilities and an encore pavilion to enhance the concert night VIP experience.

Botanic Garden officials say they’re looking to break ground on the new area at the end of the summer.

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