Cross the River for Top Entertainment at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center

Yes, Manhattan has everything you need. But...does it have everything you want? Every so often, it's fun to slip out of town for a few hours and see what waits across the Hudson.
One of the places that should definitely be on your radar is the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, or NJPAC. While that acronym doesn't exactly trip across the tongue, the venue does provide for some of the widest (and most affordable) big-ticket evenings in the area, and you can't scan their calendar of events for more than a few seconds without finding an act you'd like to see.


The space itself is pristine and as cavernous as many you'd find in Manhattan. But what you get here is an intimacy that you'll find hard to duplicate in the concrete canyons of NYC. The auditorium, while enormous, doesn't have a bad seat in the house. And...while we elected to see a Beatles tribute called Rain, this was not a show for timid grandmas and grandpas to tap their toes after a meal of soft foods. No, the house speakers were cranked to make the most of Beatlemania. "Twist and Shout" had kids, teens, parents, and grandparents in a delirium, because this band pulls no punches in trying to recreate the moptops' heyday. By the time they get to the group's psychedelic era, you wonder if the rock palaces of the past could have provided such clear and raucous representations of songs like "Tomorrow Never Knows" and "Got to Get You Into My Life." The show ends with the expected "Hey Jude" and Abbey Road moments, but NJPAC spared no decibels to remind you that this is a rock show. And, having seen my share of Broadway jukebox musicals that are tame, tepid, and lacking in any of the anarchy of rock, this show was indeed a treat.


We began the evening with a trip to NICO, the modern minimalist in-house kitchen and bar that's  staffed by attentive wait-people who keep one eye on ensuring you're happy with your meal and the other on the clock in order to get you to your show on time. We did the burger, which was just fine and cooked perfectly to order, and the pork chop, which was alone worth the train trip. Our accompaniments included buttermilk biscuits (addictive) and the crispy Brussels sprouts from the lounge menu at the recommendation of our waitress. They disappeared instantly. Drinks are standard but stiff, and I'd recommend not reordering after two, because, like the sounds inside the auditorium, they pack a wallop.
The New Jersey Performing Arts Center is located at One Center Street, Newark, New Jersey, 07102. The box office can be reached at 973-297-5828 and the general information line is 888-466-5722.
NICO Kitchen + Bar
Tuesday: 11:30am – 8pm
Wednesday: 11:30am – 8pm
Thursday: 11:30am – 8pm
Friday: 11:30am – 8pm
Saturday: 3pm – 8pm
Sunday & Monday: Closed

*Hours are subject to change based on performances.

About the Author

Kevin Phinney is a journalist/broadcaster who has worked in print and online, in radio and television. He is the author of a book that examines black and white race relations seen through the prism of music, from 1619-present called “Souled American: How Black Music Transformed White Culture,” published by Billboard Books. He is also a former staff member of The Austin American-Statesman and The Hollywood Reporter. His work has appeared around the world in PREMIERE and Metrosource magazines and liner notes for Rhino Records and other labels. He is one of the former hosts of “Kevin & Kevin,” an award-winning morning drive radio program on KGSR-FM in Austin, Texas.

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