by Steven Farro

On May 25 there was a VIP gathering at the new Portland, ME, venue Aura (formerly Asylum). The nine million dollar renovation transformed this space into one of the best live music venues around.  In an era where we see more live music venues closing it’s great to see one open that has everything. A massive stage with state of the art sound and lights, a street level load in area that up to three tour buses can connect to the venues power source and there’s an elevator that goes right to stage level for easy loading and unloading of equipment. The dressing rooms are right off the loading area and offer every amenity you would want for comfort and relaxation. Every level has a bar and at least one restroom (some have two). I mention this because comfort and an enjoyable concert going experience was at the fore front of this renovation. Besides the main concert room there are smaller rooms that can be used for intimate gatherings where an acoustic performance or live radio show can be done. Concert can accommodate 750 all seating, and 1100 for general admission. The balcony seating consists of plush seats and lounge seats with a clear view to the stage from every angle and a 30 foot wide screen TV in back of the stage so the audience can view the performance from anywhere in the main room.

When deciding how the renovations would be done Krista Newman, Laurie Willey and Valerie Levy (Asylum), Alex Gray (Waterfront Concerts), Bob Duteau (Live Nation) wanted to create a venue that would attract headliners coming to New England and provide the patrons with a comfortable but amazing experience. I think they have done that and more. In my opinion there is no better live music venue than Aura for what it offers. Wide stair cases and elevators to take you to each level offers a free flowing open concept that allows for wondering around with the stage always in view. Beauty and class are built into Aura from the pastel lighting that lets you see where you’re going but creates a warm inviting atmosphere. There is a full kitchen so food can be offered and a small room off the main entrance where you can enjoy something to eat before or during the show. As with most of Live Nations shows in their smaller venues they have made an effort to use local New England talent as support for the national headliners and will continue to do so at Aura. There are just some venues where the facility makes the show all that better and Aura is one of those venues. It is worth making the trip to see a show here because they have thought of everything. I could not find one thing to complain about, not one issue, not one suggestion – they covered it all from both a performance and a patron aspect. This is one place where the venue is an experience not just the show.

Aura is located at 121 Center Street, Portland, ME.

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