Diana Ross, Eminem and Jack White perform for thousands as former Detroit eyesore returns to life

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Fantasia performs during "Live From Detroit: The Concert at Michigan Central" on Thursday, June 6, 2024, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

DETROIT – A myriad of Detroit’s greatest musical exports, including Diana Ross, Eminem and Jack White, took to the stage in a pulsating sonic spectacle held on the eve of the historic reopening of an 18-story structure that had long symbolized their hometown’s decline.

The 90-plus-minute “Live From Detroit: The Concert at Michigan Central” on Thursday night celebrated the city’s refurbished train station, which reopens to the public on Friday, six years after Ford Motor Co. took control of the building and more than three decades since the last train pulled out.

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The vacant Michigan Central Station fell into disrepair and became an emblem of the Motor City’s decay. That is until 2018, when Ford announced it was buying the building and adjacent structures as part of the carmaker’s plans for a campus focusing on autonomous vehicles.

“Six years ago, we gathered here, and we dreamt of what was possible. We dared to dream that this station, which had become a symbol of a broken city, could once again shine as the symbol of the Motor City,” Bill Ford, his namesake company's executive chairman, told the crowd before Ross, the Motown superstar, opened the festivities with “I'm Coming Out.”

The sold-out, ticketed, outdoor event that streamed live on Peacock also featured performances by Big Sean, the Clark Sisters, Common, Fantasia, Melissa Etheridge and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Presenters included Detroit Lions legend Barry Sanders, current Lions stars Jared Goff and Amon-Ra St. Brown and actors Taylor Lautner and Sophia Bush. Organizers said 20,000 people attended the event. And more than 60,000 are planning to tour the train station over the next 10 days.

“For most of my life, it was just a big eyesore,” Big Sean said of the train station. “It's an oasis in the middle of the city. It's a metaphor for us all: It's our time right now.”

The concert was executive-produced by Eminem and his longtime manager, Paul Rosenberg. Eminem was not scheduled to perform, but surprised those in attendance by closing the show with a rousing set that included his new single, “Houdini,” as well as “Not Afraid” and the most appropriate “Welcome 2 Detroit.”

Eminem's appearance may have been a highlight, but White's performance wasn't far behind.

Announcing he and his band were "going to play a couple songs tonight that were written a few blocks away from right here,” White was met with a thunderous response when he strummed the opening chords of the anthemic, “Seven Nation Army,” which he recorded while a member of The White Stripes. White, who grew up not far from MCS, held his guitar high above his head with one hand as pyrotechnics lit up the station behind him.

The hulking structure, rising high above Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood, was ravaged for years by scavengers and urban explorers. The station will now serve as an anchor for a sprawling 30-acre (12-hectare) mobility innovation district and a resurgent Corktown. The project is expected to bring thousands of tech-related jobs. Restaurants, new hotels and other service-industry businesses already are moving into and near Corktown.

The reopening of the train station also comes as Detroit enjoys something of a renaissance.

A decade since exiting its painful bankruptcy, the city has stabilized its finances, staunched population losses and made inroads in cleaning up blight across its 139 square miles (360 square kilometers). In April, Detroit set an attendance record for the NFL draft when more than 775,000 fans poured into downtown over three days.

“I just love seeing everybody in our city happy,” Ford said.

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