Long Live the Stadium Concert

Flying pigs. Rowdy crowds. Heavy metal mayhem. Why rock's biggest shows are the best.

May 15, 1988. I was 14. My first stadium concert. My sister Regina snagged 12th-row tickets for Pink Floyd at the Vet, and she took her jerky little brother (that’s me). There were lasers, quadrophonic surround sound and a flying pig. It was a furiously loud battering of the senses, and it was wonderful.

Since then, my hearing still miraculously intact, I’ve seen only a handful of stadium shows. Mostly because there just aren’t as many these days. I don’t know if it’s that newer bands just don’t have the cojones to hold down a stadium show or that some music-business suit decided stadium concerts don’t see enough profit. But every summer, I get nostalgic.

There was the Rolling Stones show where a guy threw his beer at me because I “bumped into” his hot girlfriend (he was ejected, the lady stayed, and I can’t tell you the end of the story), and another Stones show where the bass was so loud from where I sat in row eight that it triggered a massive toothache and I had to leave. And then there was the glorious noisemaker that was Metallica/Guns N’ Roses. My mom scored us the governor’s (Florio) suite at Giants Stadium. The crowd was so unruly that they stopped selling alcohol, so my sister’s boyfriend started selling cans of Bud from our fully stocked fridge for $5. He was no Einstein, but you could always count on him for a good hustle.

I’ve been to many more arena shows than stadium ones, but I have to tell you that the memories of the stadium ones far exceed those of the ones at the Spectrum or Wells Fargo Center—and no, there’s no correlation to the amount of drugs consumed. A stadium show takes on a life of its own. You’re exposed to the elements with thousands of rabid fans in a giant smoldering pot where anything can happen, where fights will break out, where inflatable pigs, beach balls, bras and beers will soar through the air. It’s rock-and-roll, baby.

And so while I’ll skip it when the Boss plays two nights at Citizens Bank Park later this summer (google “I Hate Bruce Springsteen” to understand why), and I also won’t make it to Kenny Chesney at the Linc (do I really need to explain?), you had better believe I’ll be at CBP on July 14th, when Roger Waters tears down The Wall. That will be me, front and center, probably getting clocked on the head by some falling styrofoam brick or tussling with a jealous boyfriend—and loving every minute of it.

This article originally ran in the June 2012 issue of Philadelphia magazine