Country-Rocker Jason Aldean Puts Ballparks on His Tour Itinerary
Nearly a half century after the Beatles’ first concert at New York City’s Shea Stadium, baseball stadiums have become the ultimate shed show for music artists who can sell 50,000 or more tickets in a single night, as Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z did last July when they took their Legends of Summer tour to the new Yankee Stadium.
This year, country artist Jason Aldean is routing the spring and summer legs of his concert tour specifically to include baseball parks. The Burn It Down Tour will kick off May 1 in Roanoke, VA, and continue to roughly 50 cities through the end of the year, with stops at Nationals Park in Washington, DC; the Philadelphia Phillies’ Citizens Bank Park; the Pittsburgh Pirates’ PNC Park; and the Cincinnati Reds’ Great American Ball Park.
“It’s no secret that I grew up dreaming of playing baseball stadiums,” Aldean announced on Good Morning America recently. “I thought it would be as a first baseman, but playing them as a musician is just as sweet.”
Aldean is no stranger to diamond dens: his previous tour, which sold 1.5 million tickets, stopped at such baseball venues as the University of Georgia’s Sanford Stadium, Chicago’s Wrigley Field, and Boston’s Fenway Park, as well as the Knicks’ and Rangers’ Madison Square Garden.
A Tough House
Baseball parks tend be among the most challenging venues for high-decibel audio, in part because, unlike football stadiums and basketball arenas, their dimensions can vary substantially from venue to venue.
“The physical attributes of a ballpark could possibly be the largest contributor to success or failure at achieving the desired goals” for concert sound, says Mike Maloney, an audio sales rep at AV-systems manufacturer Daktronics. “Stadiums are all hard surfaces composed largely of glass, concrete, and steel. These surfaces reflect sound waves back at the same angle of incidence as their arrival at the surface, so you end up with reflections of different intensity and length all over a stadium.”
Aldean’s tour carries a d&b audiotechnik PA system, provided by Nashville-based Spectrum Sound, with J8 and J12 cabinets for the front and side mains, and flown subwoofers.
Spectrum Sound owner Ken Porter says touring systems need additional pieces to accommodate baseball parks’ architecture. “The usual problem with baseball stadiums is getting the sound under the overhangs at the top using extra fill speakers,” he explains. “And every stadium is a different proposition.”
Not Easy Being Green
Chris Stephens, who has mixed Aldean’s live sound for five years, finds mixing in ballparks particularly challenging. “There are vastly different shapes, dimensions, and distances that you have to deal with from one park to the next,” he says. “Football stadiums tend to be symmetrical, so the reflections throughout the venue are also symmetrical and predictable. Baseball stadiums are almost all asymmetrical. They’re built around a club’s strategy.”
He found Wrigley Field the closest to a symmetrical baseball venue. Fenway, however, was as erratic as the Red Sox themselves can be, requiring very specific system configurations. “And you have limited space in which to put in delay towers on the infield during the season,” he points out.
On the other hand, whereas Fenway’s notorious Green Monster left-field wall frustrates power hitters, it served as an excellent backstop for the band during its show there. “I’d rather have that wall behind me than in front of me,” Stephens says.
Most Yankees would probably agree.