Conventional wisdom is that metro-east residents go to St. Louis for culture, not the other way around.
But several metro-east venues play host to nationally known performers and speakers who persuade fans to cross the river. Interest varies from show to show, and sometimes it’s unexpected.
“We had an Italian singer named Zucchero who fills up arenas over in Europe, and we got a huge turnout from the Italian-American community in St. Louis,” said Grant Andree, director of the Arts & Issues series at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
Andree expects “Five Days in November: A Multimedia Presentation with Clint Hill” to draw people to SIUE from throughout the region on Nov. 7. Hill is a former Secret Service agent for five U.S. presidents.
“He was an eyewitness to history,” Andree said. “He was the Secret Service agent who jumped on the limousine that Kennedy was in (when he was assassinated) and tried to save him and Mrs. Kennedy.”
The Philharmonic Society of Belleville has high hopes for its new recital series, “Great Pianists of the World.” The first of four pianists is “Russian superstar” Alex Slobodyanik on Sept. 23 at St. Paul United Church of Christ in Belleville.
There is no equivalent cultural series in St. Louis, said Robert Hart Baker, the philharmonic’s artistic director.
“In the days of community concerts, the thrill of hearing a mesmerizing virtuoso solo pianist such as Horowitz or Rubinstein was once a staple at venues such as Peabody Opera House, Powell Hall and The Sheldon,” he said.
“Sadly, this hasn’t been available in our metropolitan area for some time. After two years of discussions with area concertgoers and teachers, we are going to fill that niche and meet the cultural demand.”
This week, he got a sudden flurry of calls from St. Louisans about “TAO: Drum Heart,” a performance by a company of Japanese martial-arts drummers on March 28, 2018.
“Unfortunately, we had to tell them that it’s already sold out,” he said.
Palermo plans to boost St. Louis marketing for “Tango Buenos Aires: The Spirit of Argentina” on Oct. 7, guessing there are some tango lovers in the city. The challenging part is figuring out how to reach them.
“I think he’s going to get a younger, more activist crowd,” Palermo said. “So the people who are doing peaceful protests on a Saturday afternoon in St. Louis might want to come and hear what he has to say. Emphasis on peaceful. We don’t want any vandals.”
Al Canal, general manager of the Wildey Theatre in Edwardsville, estimates that 10 to 25 percent of its concertgoers drive from St. Louis, depending on the act.
Some are fans of classic-rock bands, ranging from Wishbone Ash to Pure Prairie League, Head East to Little River Band. Others just like the idea of an intimate venue with only 326 seats, good acoustics, free parking and friendly service.
“They come for the experience,” Canal said. “I’ve been told that many times. It’s a great place to see a show.”
This season, he expects a big St. Louis turnout for Gypsy, the “original jam band,” which will play its last three concerts Nov. 3-4 at the Wildey after 47 years on the road.
Another St. Louis draw will be Pavlov’s Dog on Nov. 24-25. The progressive rock band was formed in the city 40 years ago.
“There are a lot of fans who grew up on Pavlov’s Dog, who listened to them on KSHE and got to see them locally and know their songs,” Canal said. “They’re a very well-known band. They go to Europe almost every year to do much bigger shows.”