When Bruce Springsteen played the halftime show at the 2009 Super Bowl, he had an audience of more than 75,000 in the stands and 100-million or so watching on TV. A few weeks later, The Boss played a gig at Convention Hall in Asbury Park, New Jersey for a mere 3,600.
The Beatles started out in the Cavern Club, located in a former air raid shelter in Liverpool, with a seating capacity of a few dozen. When they played New York’s Shea Stadium in 1965, the audience topped 55,000.
Which was the best concert experience?
Lost in the Crowd or in Your Face?
The largest venue on the 2011 reunion tour of The Cars, the Hollywood Palladium seats 4,000 – many more than the Cavern Club, miniscule compared to Shea Stadium. For The Cars’ guitarist, Elliot Easton, however, size doesn’t matter all that much. “They both have their advantages,” says Easton. “It’s fun to play in an intimate setting and see all the faces, and playing large places is fun and exciting. We can’t take our whole stage set to the smaller venues, but the immediacy and up-close contact make up for that.”
For some artists, a small venue is sort of like a working vacation. “I’ve always considered myself to be an unplugged guy surrounded by a bunch of noisy guys in a rock band,” says Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson. “Sometimes, stepping out of the world of rock music and doing acoustic performances is like a form of recreation and retreat.”
The Best of Both Worlds
In 2010, Carole King and James Taylor managed to recreate the intimacy of the first venue where they performed together – the Troubadour Club in Los Angeles – in large arena venues by performing “in the round” on a revolving stage surrounded by audience members seated at small tables.
You’ll find Blue Öyster Cult at venues both large (like Sweden Rock Festival in 2008) and small (like an Indiana auditorium on the day this is being written.) In the smaller settings, says BÖC vocalist Eric Bloom, “there are no flames or laser beams, but people often tell us after the show that it was just as good or better” than an arena or big outdoor festival show.
Each venue has its pros and cons. The bigger the venue, the higher the ticket price. On the other hand, smaller venues can’t handle elaborate stage productions like Pink Floyd’s The Wall or The Rolling Stones.
So, which is better, arena rock or club rock? The correct answer is, of course, “yes!”
Ian Anderson interview
Eric Bloom interview
Elliot Easton interview