Last fall, Clifton Park’s Upstate Concert Hall announced that it was planning a move to the former Capital Repertory Theatre on North Pearl Street in Albany. Nearly a year later, the venue, newly minted Empire Live, will host its first show, featuring indie rock band the Cold War Kids, on Thursday, August 26.
“Our lease was up in December 2020, and the offer came up to go into this great building that allows us to have two clubs,” says Empire Live owner Ted Etoll of Empire Live and lower-level event space Empire Underground, which will open in several weeks. “So it was a natural fit for us, and in an actual entertainment district.” (The former Upstate Concert Hall was located in a strip mall.)
In addition to the Cold War Kids on Thursday, Empire Live already has dozens of acts booked through April, including Melissa Etheridge on September 2, Chase Rice on October 15, The Indigo Girls on October 18 and Tanya Tucker on November 9. Ticket sales, Etoll said, were “blockbuster out of the gate,” but have slowed down as COVID-19 cases have increased again, due to the spread of the contagious Delta variant. As for COVID protocols at the venue, concert-goers must provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test taken within 48 hours of the event, and wear masks upon entry. “We understand that this may not be a welcoming decision for some,” an August 16 post on Empire Live’s Facebook page reads. “However, we are trying to do the seemingly impossible. That is opening two brand new venues for everyone to see their favorite artists and entertainers, and we are doing this during a global pandemic. Therefore, we need to be cognizant of the current health climate and open our doors in the safest manner possible.”
The grand reopening comes just two days after the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new Capital Repertory Theatre, which moved just up the road to an old Nabisco factory that recently underwent a $14 million renovation. After Tuesday’s ceremony, the theater hosted a performance of Ethel Waters: His Eye Is on the Sparrow, a musical biography of an artist who broke through multiple color barriers to become a Broadway and Hollywood star.