The Forum tries to bring back the art of listening

01.16.14 4 years ago

John Shearer/Invision/AP

Can an arena live by music alone? That”s what The Forum will try to do here in Los Angeles.

The venue, given a $100 million facelift by new owner Madison Square Garden, re-opened last night with a show by The Eagles, their first of six concerts by the veteran group over the next  10 days. (The Eagles are managed by Irving Azoff who helped spearhead the refurbishment).

Prior to MSG”s 2012 purchase, the one-time home to the Kings and the Lakers was a broken-down edifice, a round concrete slab that was a fun place to see rock and roll, but good sound quality was definitely an afterthought.

Now, the new owners are pledging that the venue will be used for music-oriented performances  (that includes some family shows) and no sporting events.  A venue devoted solely to music is certainly not unique. Clubs and theaters feature only music. It”s not even special to have a large-scale venue dedicated only to music -that”s what outdoor amphitheaters do every year, but only for a four-month season. The question mark is can an arena with 17,500 or so seats do music, and only music, year-round and survive?

If any venue can, it will be The Forum. It can scale down to 8,000, which makes it the perfect place to pick up some of the slack from the closed Universal Amphitheater. But more importantly, if it succeeds, could other cities pick up the gauntlet for large venues that are built to hear music, not to hear a hockey puck reverberate?

As I left the pristine, beautiful venue (the ceiling even lights up like a starry night every now and then), I thought how we concert-goers have to put up with crappy sound at mixed-use facilities if we want to see an arena show because the arena was built with its anchor tenant–usually a sports team– in mind.

While not every large venue can be music only, they can all do what The Forum did last night. The Forum is trying to bring the art of listening back. Before the show, an announcer asked patrons to turn off their cell phones and not to film during the show so as not to disturb those around them. Maybe because the  audience was older, it, by and large, worked. And it was glorious not to have to watch the show through someone”s arms holding up their iPhone or be distracted by people spending the whole evening staring at their phone screen updating on Facebook and Twitter.

The Eagles were the perfect choice for the opening run not only for their Southern California roots -an element played up to great effect last night- but also for their pristine, technical proficiency. With Glenn Frey and Don Henley”s vocals way up in the mix, instead of somewhere in the mud, I could hear every lyric clearly as well as the band’s glorious harmonies. Plus, since they played both acoustic and electric numbers in their 3-hour plus set, it was easy to hear how good it will sound for both singer/songwriters and full-on rock bands.

So here”s to the Forum. I”ll be there again on Monday for Justin Timberlake. Other upcoming shows at The Forum include Sting/Paul Simon, Imagine Dragons and Kings Of Leon.

Getting to actually hear the music clearly at an arena show in a venue built to hear music. What a concept. It”s one I could get used to…

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