Sunday, June 5, 2011

U2 at Qwest Field, Seattle, Concert Review

Performer:  U2

Genre: Rock

Date: June 4, 2011

In 6 words or fewer: Stadium acoustics mar great production.

Performance Review:  Bono & The Edge & 493 other tour employees produce a powerful rock extravaganza on the "360 degree" stage plus a  live video on a remarkable, changeable jumbotron hung under the "quadropuss."  That's what their rock revival tent looks like: an octopuss with four legs and a spire.  Under it is their oval stage with rotating bridges to the platform that circles the stage, from which the tour derives its name.  Within the circle is the "red zone," the high-rent area where people stand up-close and personal.

Any stadium show requires video for the distant fans in the stands.  U2 brings everything they need with them in what looked like about 30 trucks.  The jumbotron is amazing.  It is not static; at times, it stretched down to the stage floor.  After 93 shows, everyone knows what they are doing: the videographers, Bono, the video mixers, the lighting crew.  Pros. 

You know the music.  You know the band.  U2 delivered. 

Some of the video was preproduced.  The best introduced "Beautiful Day."  Bono spoke of Gabby Giffords and how she took a bullet for her public service.  The video showed the view of Earth from space. Then came Giffords' husband, Mark Kelly, on video from space, speaking to us and holding up words in zero-gravity.  Among the words was "It's a Beautiful Day." 

Venue Review: Qwest Field was built with acoustics in mind, but not for music.  One purpose for the roofs is to bounce sound down to the NFL football field and give the Seahawks a home field advantage.  Loud fans can cause chaos to opposing teams. Unfortuntaely, the roofs also cause chaos for music.  Initially, our seats were near the ceiling.  Literally, we could not make out the words of Lenny Kravitz, the warm-up act, or Bono.  It was just one loud, bassy, mush.  After a few songs, we gave up.  It was painful to listen, so wen went outside.  

Fortunately, we returned to find other seats that were not under the roof, and the acoustics improved.  However, literally, the band sounded better one block from the stadium after we left for good.  Others agreed: the sound that escaped the stadium was significantly superior to what paying customers heard. 

Officially, Qwest Field did NOT allow camcorders for the concert, but nobody frisked your cargo pants pockets.  These days, iphones can do video, which is what I used for the video linked above.  

Timing:  Ticket time 7:00.  Lenny Kravitz went from 7:30-ish to 8:20.  U2 started at 9:00-ish and rocked about two hours (which meant we had to cancel our 11:00 pm dinner reservations.)


  1. My wife and I were on the North End Zone and it was still too loud. I have tinnitus, and this concert made it worse! After the concert, everything sounded muffled. I don't know why Rock bands have to crank their amplifiers so loud. When you have the decibel level of a 737 it ceases to be music. I couldn't hear the intonations, riffs, melodies,etc. Just one big blare! I've been to a lot of concerts over the years, which has included Rod Stewart, Santana, ZZ Top, Heart, Jeff Beck, Elton John/Billy Joel, just to name a few and this was by far the most painful concert I've ever been too for excessive decibels. At some point the music ceases to be music and just becomes one big megaphone of cacaphonic noise, and I love U2. I'm sorry Bono, not this time!

  2. Actually, the Red Zones with the higher prices were off to the sides of the stage, outside the inner circle.

    That mass of humanity directly around the stage is open to anyone with a general admission ticket, which were sold for about $58.

    Red Zone was not the best seat in the house, but it gave the buyers the luxury of getting relatively close without having to stand in line all day.

  3. I was one of the people in the General Admission area and it was excessively loud but I could hear everything that was said or sung. I thoroughly enjoyed the show and the set itself was worth the price of admission! Here's my review (if you're interested...)