With 50,000-plus concert tickets to sell amid widespread complaints about acoustics, U.S. Bank Stadium representatives huddled with country superstar Kenny Chesney's technicians on Monday to try to improve the sound at the $1 billion facility.
Members of Chesney's crew spent the day walking around Minneapolis' new NFL stadium doing audio tests from the lower bowl to the uppermost seats. They hope to tailor Chesney's audio system "with laser-beam focus" to the various levels and corners of the stadium in time for the singer's May 5 concert.
Their takeaway, in a nutshell: No problem.
"It's very easy and achievable to make the experience much better," said David Haskell, president of Morris Experience/Morris Lighting & Sound, which has worked with Chesney for 21 years on more than 150 stadium concerts.
Chesney's cronies also believe they can leave behind suggested tweaks and sonic blueprints that will benefit future concerts there. They stopped short of suggesting any permanent alterations to the in-house speaker system or additional acoustic treatments at the giant new venue, though, which has already hosted five concerts in two years.
Of those shows, U2's and Luke Bryan's performances earned widespread complaints from fans about acoustics, Guns N' Roses generated just a little less noise, and the Coldplay and Metallica concerts were generally considered better, if far from perfect.
"The successes have been the [bands] who came in and worked closely with the venue, and the ones who didn't have success didn't closely collaborate with them," said John Mills, audio designer for the crew, who declined to name names.
Mills used the laser-beam analogy to describe how the speakers in Chesney's audio system — from the same maker as Coldplay's — can be adjusted section by section and even row by row to prevent echo and improve audio clarity. He and Haskell wandered all over the stadium's seats Monday morning listening to music at the preset audio levels that Coldplay used in its concert.
"I already got all my steps in by 9 o'clock," Mills quipped, looking at his Fitbit watch. "The key is how you adjust the system to the environment.”
Minneapolis is not alone
Chesney's team never made an advance trip like this to Target Field, where their boss has played four times. Mills acknowledged that outdoor stadiums like the Twins' ballpark "are less problematic" than indoor venues.
Still, it's not unusual for Chesney's crew to visit a venue months before a show. They just took a planning trip to the Atlanta Falcons' new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. There was a chorus of complaints over bad acoustics two weeks ago after Garth Brooks headlined the first concert in the $1.6 billion facility.
It was unusual, though, for U.S. Bank Stadium representatives to invite journalists to meet with a tour's sound technicians to discuss sonic issues, an indicator that fans' complaints about acoustics at the stadium are being heard.
"In our opinion, this is probably the best crew in the business, so we're excited to have them give us their knowledge," said Jerry Goldman, assistant general manager at USBS and a concert industry veteran.
Chesney's crew arrived the day after Justin Timberlake was announced as the headliner for the Super Bowl LII halftime show on Feb. 4 at the new Vikings stadium.
Tickets to Chesney's concert go on sale Friday morning, with pre-sale offers already in play.