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Denson helps Royale club shine

Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe performed at last night’s grand opening of the Royale nightclub. About 500 attended at the former site of the Roxy. Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe performed at last night’s grand opening of the Royale nightclub. About 500 attended at the former site of the Roxy. (Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff)
By Sarah Rodman
Globe Staff / April 23, 2010

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An old player in the Boston music scene showed off a fresh new look last night as the Royale nightclub opened up in the space formerly known as the Roxy.

Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe christened the club with its vibrant hybrid of jazz, funk, and rhythm and blues grooves.

About 500 folks came to check out Denson and the new space, with many giving it the thumbs up.

The old-school ballroom received more than just a new coat of paint, although the garish purple and silver color scheme was wisely replaced with a rich red and black combination with gold detailing on the elaborate wall and ceiling filigrees. The well-trod carpet has been jettisoned on the first floor and will be replaced in the balcony soon, and a series of banquettes line the walls.

Chief among the upgrades in terms of sightlines was the raising of the stage by a foot, meaning that shorter people in the back got a good view of Denson and company over the packed dance floor.

Although the sound mixing desk remains behind that dance floor, Josh Bhatti of Bowery Presents Boston, the promoters who will book the club, said the new sunken pit above the bar for the sound engineers should also afford better views.

“I couldn’t believe it was the same place,’’ said Bronwyn Kane of Lynn. She and friend Michelle Desaulniers of Newburyport remember coming to dance nights and shows in the mid-’90s and were excited to hear that Bowery Presents plans to bring more concerts to the venue.

Bhatti said they would eventually try for 100 shows a year, with an emphasis on indie rock, and will bring in well-known DJs for club nights, which will be overseen by Royale consultant Dave Ralph, a DJ and former music director at Avalon.

John Fugate of Gloucester had only been to the Roxy a few times but was impressed by the crisp mix of guitars, keyboards, and horns. “It’s very balanced, not too punchy.’’

Capacity remains at 775, but Bhatti was hopeful that the city would raise it back to 1,305 in the near future. (It was lowered in 2007 after several incidents at the club.)

Upcoming bookings include Public Image Ltd. on May 4 and 5 and Broken Bells on June 4.