Toward the end of his set Friday night at U.S. Bank Stadium, country music hunk Luke Bryan let out a yahoo-flavored comment that echoed through the new venue in more ways than one.
“It’s nice to know what a billion dollars will get you!” he cheerfully yelled to the crowd.
Seated in Sec. 230 midway between the stadium floor and the nosebleed seats, Stillwater couple Lacey and Jim Moses also had a money-related reaction during the kickoff concert at the new Minneapolis stadium. The Stillwater couple had trouble even understanding Bryan and the other performers when they talked.
“It seems like the acoustics are really bad for the price,” Lacey Moses said, referring to the $250 the couple paid for their two tickets and the $11.50 beer in her hand, not the $1 billion construction costs. “It was maybe worth it to be here for the first show, but I don’t know if I’d ever come back for this kind of money.”
Almost 100,000 music fans cashed in and spouted off on U.S. Bank Stadium over the weekend, counting the 50,000 who also showed up Saturday night for the bigger and louder of the two kickoff concerts with heavy-metal kingpins Metallica. To say the second night went better than the first would be as much of an understatement as saying the giant new facility was built primarily for football.
From the half-glass ceiling that makes sound engineers shudder to the male-friendlier restroom accommodations — which left women at Bryan’s concert sometimes waiting a half-hour in line — stadium officials’ promises to host several concerts every year felt more like threats at times.
Here’s an overview of the reception for USBS’s first two concerts.
Metallica co-founder Lars Ulrich was confident going into Saturday’s concert that the sound would be decent, saying acoustics often are up to the performers’ own crews. He proved to be right.
“Obviously, these types of giant places come with challenges, but we always come prepared,” the drummer said backstage, referring to his band’s chief sound man “Big” Mick Hughes. “He’s been with us since 1984 — every time we’ve played the Twin Cities — and he always delivers.”
Despite the poorer acoustics on Friday, the opening-night singers only gushed over the venue on stage. “Good Lord, this place is huge!” said Karen Fairchild of Bryan’s opening act Little Big Town, who also called USBS “awfully pretty.” Bryan must’ve bragged a dozen times about being the first concert headliner there, and went so far as to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” mid-show “just to be the first one to do it.” (He wasn’t.)
More fan reaction
After she waited 20 minutes in line for the restroom and a half-hour for a cocktail on Friday, Di Verhaagen of Vadnais Heights predictably wasn’t too smitten with the USBS concert.
“When you pay $200 for a ticket, you should have an awesome experience, not all this,” she said, while her husband, Ron Verhaagen, only complained of the sound: “There’s a lot of echo.”
Long lines aside, Cindi Foster, from Andover, was otherwise impressed Friday: “You have to expect a few problems with a stadium this big, but overall I think it’s a really fun place for a concert.”
Jim Dodson, who came from Henderson, Colo., to catch Saturday’s opening band Volbeat, initially complained from his lower-bowl seat, “It’s a little too echoey.” But after Metallica took over, he changed his tune: “The sound is beautiful. It’s louder, but it’s clearer.”
Sitting in section 331 for Metallica, Blaine resident Neil Bourdot, who installs audio and video systems in bars and homes, said the sound was “awful.” “The space is so large, there’s so much reverberation,” he said. “With all this glass, this is an echo chamber. Football games here, yes, but I wouldn’t spend $150 for a rock concert here.”
Having been to shows at each of the Twin Cities’ sports venues, I wouldn’t rank USBS at the very bottom for concerts — not if you count the Metrodome before they tore it down, and Target Center before they gave it a $1 million acoustics upgrade in 2009. But circa 2016, it’s the worst.
Granted, the roof did save fans from rain both nights. I’d take a chance of snow at either Target Field or TCF Bank Stadium, though, over the obvious sonic challenges at the glass-ceilinged, angular USBS. I walked all around the new stadium Friday to sample the acoustics, and everywhere except the floor area suffered tinny sound and inescapable sonic bounce. Saturday was better, but there’s not a lot of subtlety in Metallica’s music anyway. Volume is volume.
Just walking around there can be difficult. Hallways sometimes abruptly stop at VIP areas, and certain sections can only be accessed from certain entry points. The stadium maps should come with a decoder guide.
On Saturday, it took me 25 minutes to find a booth on the main concourse level where all general-admission ticket holders had to go to pick up a wristband to enter the stadium floor. The booth was nowhere near the access points for the floor. It was hard to ask staffers for guidance, too, because: a) the booming noise level in the concourse makes conversations hard even when bands aren’t playing, and b) most of the staff didn’t know enough to answer questions.
Like the football players it was primarily built for, though, perhaps we can’t expect too much of the stadium in its rookie year. It’s a new place — and an enormous place with big ambitions — so there will be a learning curve for everyone involved at U.S. Bank Stadium. That’s what a billion dollars gets you.
Staff writer Jon Bream contributed to this report.