I’d barely settled into my comfy seat in Uptown’s McGlohon Theater Monday night before the evening’s headliner, jazz, blues and pop star Norah Jones took the stage and began an uninterrupted 100-minute set.
No warm-up band, no jostling for seats in a cavernous arena, no sound check – just me and 600 other lucky patrons enjoying a very intimate, exclusive performance at what is arguably the finest acoustic venue in the city. A lavish cocktail party with champagne, beer, wine and luxe hors d’oeuvres preceded the concert. An after-party at Sea Level NC allowed the evening’s festive vibe to continue into the night.
Welcome to Music with Friends – the exclusive private concert experience featuring A-list musical performers in small intimate gatherings at prime acoustic venues.
MWF is the realized dream of longtime Charlotte music impresario Larry Farber.
“In 2006, I had an epiphany about forming a private music club,” said Farber. “This evolved into Music with Friends, which launched in April of 2007 with Michael McDonald as our first concert headliner. That year we also had Gladys Knight and Tony Bennett.
“Music with Friends is all about seeing and hearing music in a different way than we’ve done all our lives. When you experience these artists in an incredible venue with only 600 people, it’s like being in your own living room. The before and after parties provide a complete experience and an incredible memory-making evening.”
Farber, a 1969 Meyers Park High School graduate,, has been in the music business since age 12, when his piano lessons led to a gig with a band. His avocation-turned-vocation followed him through college at UNC Chapel Hill. After college he returned to Charlotte and spent 40 years in the “business.” Farber is a managing partner with East Coast Entertainment, a full-service entertainment agency representing more than 200 artists.
After 11 years, Music with Friends’ list of featured artists read like a who’s who of contemporary music royalty: Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross, Darius Rucker, Bonnie Raitt, Al Jarreau & George Benson, Aretha Franklin, Jackson Browne, Steely Dan, Hall & Oates, Glenn Frey, Loggins & Messina, The Doobie Brothers, Earth Wind & Fire, Chicago, The Temptations, Joe Walsh, Crosby, Stills and Nash, and many other greats.
The concept has been so successful it has spawned clubs in Charleston and Houston.
MWF pricing is unquestionably extravagant, which isn’t surprising given these once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
Like a Private Seat License with the Panthers, members pay a one-time joining fee of $550 per person that provides lifetime rights to a specific seat (as long as you stay in the club). Annual dues are $1,650 per person, which includes three shows, pre- and post-cocktail parties, and parking.
Members are polled annually as to artists they’d like to see, input Farber takes seriously. He emphasized the club appeals most to those with broad and eclectic musical tastes who are open to a variety of musical genres and performers.
Farber said MWF gives back to the community through in-kind donations of 10-20 seats to member-designated charities used for fundraising support.
And the Norah Jones concert?
The evening was special, and it was obvious Jones reveled in the setting. Jones, on a nationwide tour, was here in between scheduled shows in Atlanta and Raleigh at much larger venues. Her soulful, bluesy style was warm, familiar and crowd pleasing.
“This is such a beautiful theater,” she told the crowd. “Just beautiful.”
Photos: Courtesy of Donna Bise