Isaac Tigrett’s new House of Blues, at Sunset Boulevard and Olive Road in West Hollywood, is much more than a house. The nightclub/restaurant, which opened Friday with an inspired performance by club investors Aerosmith, is a shrine to Southern culture that celebrates art, music, food and history.
Best of all, it’s a spectacular performance space with excellent sightlines, extraordinary sound and a theater-sized stage. The set-up revels in intimacy-driven design: An open dance floor faces a 5-foot-high stage that runs close to 50 feet long, and a balcony on the second-floor restaurant — where former La Toque chef Ken Frank runs the show — brings listeners opera-box close to the performers.
The main floor runs the width of the stage before tiering up into two lanes. Though it’s only one or two steps up, sightlines are actually better in the back and along the sides than the middle. Though the theater fits about 1,000 people, the back bar would be only about the 25th row of a concert hall.
Most spectacular is the sound. Aerosmith’s music traveled cleanly from the open two-story space into the low-ceiling area, thanks to onstage PA speakers being separated into a low bank (level with the ceiling of the room’s back half) and a high bank directed upstairs.
Outside, the House facade is corrugated metal from a gin mill in Clarksdale, Miss., the town where blues progenitor Robert Johnson allegedly sold his soul to the devil. (So no one else gets the idea, an array of hand-painted “Jesus Saves” signs are planted in the front yard.)
Aerosmith was introduced by another club investor, actor Dan Aykroyd, in Blues Brother garb, naturally. The band’s 80-minute concert followed a strong boogie-blues performance by American recording artists Red Devils.
Aerosmith emphasized obscurities and a handful of hits, such as “Walk This Way” and “Train Kept A-Rollin’.” The stage provided Steven Tyler, in fine voice and looking remarkably healthy, with room for his trademark preening.