After 3 decades of darkness, Michigan Central Station reopens with epic celebration (2024)

Icons Diana Ross and Eminem bookended what will be remembered as a legendary Detroit concert Thursday night against the backdrop of Michigan Central Station, highlighting a night of phenomenal music that ranged from Motown to rap to gospel to techno to rap.

Energy oozed through the crowd of all ages.

Eminem was not listed as a performer in advance, though he was an executive producer for the show, which was enough to draw out fans hoping he would take the stage. The crowd erupted when Bill Ford, Ford Motor Co. executive chair and the driving force behind the depot's restoration, introduced the famed rapper, who was initially backed by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

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After Eminem performed his new song "Houdini," Jelly Roll joined him on the stage. Then legendary Detroit rapper Trick Trick joined Eminem for "Welcome 2 Detroit." The show concluded with "Not Afraid." At the end, Eminem shouted, "Detroit, we love you."

REVIEW:Michigan Central concert among most memorable evenings of homegrown music in years

Ross, who spent her teen years in the Brewster-Douglass public housing community in Detroit and went on to become a global superstar, took the stage at Michigan Central Station on Thursday night to open a much-anticipated historic celebration watched from around the world.

Large screens at the stage and in the crowd displayed a countdown: 5-4-3-2-1, the crowd yelled.

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Ross wore a spectacular orange gown, with fans erupting with applause and dancing to the legend singing her classic, “I’m Coming Out.” She shared with the audience, many appearing to be in awe of her, "I'm so grateful for all the blessings in my life."

The concert, produced by Eminem and televised on Peaco*ck with an NBC special ahead, included a long list of talent, including Illa J, Fantasia, Sky Jetta, Theo Parrish and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

Stories of Detroit through the depot and musicians

The event celebrated the reopening of Michigan Central, a 1913 Beaux Arts-style building that closed in 1988 and rapidly became a symbol of Detroit's demise and hopelessness. Ford Motor Co. bought the property in 2018 and brought in craftspeople from around the world to restore the building to its glory.

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Highlights included The Clark Sisters praising Jesus as thousands of arms waved rhythmically. Common and Slum Village honored the memory of revered record producer J Dilla, who died at age 32 of a blood disorder and lupus. His mother thanked the crowd for their love and kindness. People in the crowd made peace signs with their hands as she spoke. Big Sean spoke of overcoming bankruptcy and hopelessness to reach the other side. He talked to Detroiters about going through what they're going through, "making the best with what you've got."

In a tribute to Bob Seger, Melissa Etheridge played a mean guitar while singing "Mainstreet." Jelly Roll inspired the crowd to join in singing "Turn the Page" as Etheridge accompanied the new Grammy winner on guitar. By 9:45 p.m., southwest Detroit native Jack White took the stage to launch a high-energy series of songs including "Seven Nation Army" as fans jumped up and down and sang back at him.

White ended his set with an impressive display of pyrotechnics — the stage had the appearance of being truly on fire — to the delight of the crowd.

With Michigan Central in the backdrop, it seemed almost a not so subtle nod to the city’s history and motto in a city of rebirth, reborn from flames.

'It's beautiful to be a Detroiter'

Lifelong Detroiters Darlene Calloway, 67, and her daughter Algeria Calloway, 40, came to Michigan Central Station’s grand opening to witness the legacy of Detroit.

"I am just glad to be a part of this, to see our city come back to its wholeness," said Darlene Calloway, 67, of Detroit, who attended the event with her daughter. "It means so much to our children. We’re talking about leaving a legacy for them — not of a downtrodden city."

Algeria Calloway, 40, of Detroit, said, "It's beautiful to be a Detroiter."

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said Detroiters who live in the city and even those who live in other parts of the state and the country feel something that's hard to put into words as they witness the resurrection of the once-abandoned 18-story building in Corktown that was once covered in graffiti and crumbling.

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"You have to be a longtime Detroiter to understand this, the pain of what was taken away from us — the auto plants moving out, the movie theaters moving out, the restaurants moving out, our neighbors moving out. … All of that is turning around. To see this come back, for a lot of people, it’s a night of deep pride," Duggan said.

He credited Bill Ford, 67,executive chairof Ford Motor Co., and the great-grandson of founder Henry Ford as thevisionary behind the resurrectionof the train station at 2001 15th St. in Corktown that carried soldiers off to war and brought the lucky ones home again.

His mother, Martha Firestone Ford, who turns 99 in September, wanted to attend and Bill Ford made sure she did.

When you open an email to discover concert tickets

Ellen Deleston, of Detroit, works for Ford in manufacturing engineering. On Wednesday, she logged onto her work computer tofind an email that told she won the ticket raffle to attend the concert.

"I’m glad I didn’t pass over that email," she said.

Deleston, eager to see Diana Ross and Big Sean, pushed her husband, Devery, in a wheelchair from Mexican Village restaurant to the western entrance of the concert on Michigan Avenue at Vernor Highway.

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“It looks closer than it is,” said Deleston, whose husband has a prosthetic leg and has never visited the train station.

“I can’t believe they could make that old building shine again,” Devery Deleston said. “I can’t even believe that it was structurally sound. They had topump out a million gallons of water.”

A $950 million investment in the future

Ford spent $950 million to develop the 30-acre campus, transforming and redeveloping multiple properties in Corktown, according to company spokesman Dan Barbossa.

The automaker declined to reveal the cost of restoring Michigan Central Station alone, instead bundling costs that include the Albert Kahn-designed Book Depository next door at 2050 15th St. That three-story, 270,000-square-foot building first opened in 1936 as a U.S. Post Office and later was a warehouse for Detroit Public Schools. After sitting unused for about three decades, it opened last year withworkspaces and studiosfor mobility-focused companies and technologies.

Performers announced with surprises

Rumors swirled before the event about which artists might perform that weren't listed. Still, the names that were released sent concert fans into overdrive.

OnceTanner Langdon, 16, of Madison Heights, heard the music lineup for Michigan Central’s grand opening, there was no way he was missing out on the action."I had to go."

On the day of the concert, Langdon heard that extra tickets were set to drop at 10 a.m., the same time as his 10th-grade honors history exam at Lamphere High School. Thankfully, his teacher held off for 10 minutes.

"He was totally down for it," Langdon said. "I got 'em."

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White was the big draw, Langdon said. But if Stevie Wonder showed up, “I might actually pass out."

Prior to the concert, Jack White and Patti Smith and Slum Village were honored by Duggan and Ford.

The night belonged to Detroit, a gift for those who refused to give up.

Caitlin Hurley, 36, of Detroit, got emotional among the sea of people waiting to enter the grounds of Michigan Central Station.

“Where we’ve come from, where we’re going. Just being a part of it all,” she said.

Around her neck, a necklace with a speckled granite stone — a stone from the old bathroom countertops of Michigan Central Station.

Hurley, a jeweler at Elaine B Jewelry in Ferndale, crafted the necklace herself. It’s among the shop’s line of three different pieces using stones from the train station’s past. “I’m shaking right now."

Memories remain vivid

Security personnel in royal blue golf shirts and event staffers wearing black Carhartt T-shirts milled about Michigan Avenue. Mercury Burgers and Bar at Michigan Avenue and 14th Street was full. So was the bench outside. The bar even set up an outdoor serving station. Beer and wine was $5 apiece. Watermelon vodka was going for $12.

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They also sold hot dogs, lemonade and Faygo pop.

On a bench outside, Tracey Wyatt, 58, of Detroit, sat with her 85-year-old mother, Shirley Wyatt. Their family moved here from Nashville after her father took a job working for Chrysler. He arrived first and they came later.

“I was brought here on a train by my parents in 1966,” Tracey Wyatt said. She was not quite 2 then, and she doesn’t remember the train ride, but her mother does.

Shirley Wyatt said, "I haven’t been here since then. To see it reopen is historic.”

ContactPhoebe Wall Follow her on X, formerly known as Twitter@phoebesaid. Read more onFordand sign up for ourautos newsletter.

After 3 decades of darkness, Michigan Central Station reopens with epic celebration (2024)
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