It’s a debate that has raged on since the beginning of time (well, maybe just the past 60 years)–big arena/theater shows or smaller club shows? Both have their undeniable merits, but only one can come out on top. I set out to take a look at the many pros and a cons of both of these settings to determine which option is the undisputed champion of the concert experience.
Arena Concerts vs. Club Concerts
Let’s run through the categories:
It’s no secret that arena shows can be a little pricey. Not to mention, most of these bigger venues tend to go through ticket primary market companies that somehow turn a $35 ticket into a $50 affair, what with their service charge shenanigans and whatnot. Granted, in most cases, you’re paying to see some of the biggest bands in the world and their insane production values so, in the end, it’s probably worth spending top dollar. Regardless, I’d rather be told upfront that I’m about to spend top dollar to see Miley twerk for an hour and a half than be played like a fiddle and led to believe I only have to dish out $35 to see that legendary tongue wag.
On the other hand, club shows are going to be considerably cheaper than arena and theater shows. This is largely due to the fact that most club shows feature artists that aren’t as well known and the production values are far less intricate. That isn’t to say the quality of the shows will be worse; it just means less lights, pyrotechnics, and whatever this guy below was…
Edge: Club Shows
Of the many larger shows I’ve been to, I really can’t say that I’ve been a part of a lame crowd. I’m sure it happens, but in my experience, I have never witnessed a dull arena crowd. I’d assume this is true for two reasons: you paid an arm and a leg for floor tickets to see Radiohead so you’re going to force yourself to have fun, plus it’s pretty freakin’ exciting knowing you have 10,000+ of your closest friends singing and dancing along with you. Also, the bigger bands that tend to play these shows attract the “diehards” who can turn any show into a blast.
The crowd at a club show can be a toss-up. They have the power to suck all the fun and energy right out of the room, or use a club’s infectious energy to turn an ordinary performance into one of the best live shows you’ll ever witness. But again, these crowds are dependent on if people show up and then, of the people that do show, whether or not they match or even exceed the energy given off by the performers.
Edge: Arena shows
As stated earlier, big shows mean big money, and big money means these bands can afford to pull out all the stops to make their performances visually stimulating, and overall, incredibly entertaining. Sometimes, however, the sheer magnitude of these shows takes away a lot of the intimacy that can be achieved in a smaller venue. For some bands, the performances can be robbed of the emotion that worked to captivate fans in the first place and, despite the entertainment factor, larger arena shows can leave an audience somewhat detached. However, if a band manages to instill both entertainment and emotion in a grand-scale live performance, the results can be nothing short of mind-blowing.
What’s great (and also a hindrance) about smaller club shows is that the band is in complete control over their performance. For the most part, they can’t hide behind fancy light shows and explosions; it’s a true reflection of how well they can translate their material in way that can captivate an audience. The sign of a great band is the ability to make a 300-person crowd feel like they’re witnessing an epic performance at say, Wembley Stadium. There’s nothing more magical than seeing a band command a smaller performance; no cell phones are out documenting, people aren’t carrying on in conversation, and everybody seems to be in truly experiencing the show.
It looks like I have a tie on my hands, so I guess it’s up to you to try both formats and see which one you prefer. Personally, I prefer both. Sometimes I’d rather go see a Muse show and experience a complete sensory overload blasted at me with thousands of other fans. Other times, it’s nice to go to the smaller local venue and be captivated by a no-nonsense band like Savages. With that said, go out there and try ‘em all and be sure to let us know which type of show you prefer.
Article by Trevor Ziegler