- 425 E. McFetridge Drive
- Chicago, IL 60605
- (312) 235-7000
I’m not a huge football fan. At least not the pro game, so I don’t go to a lot of games. I have been to one game at the “New” Soldier Field and one game at the “Old” Soldier Field. I’ve almost seen more concerts at the venue than I have football. Still, being a Chicago sports fan, I could write a whole blog just on the look of the building. I’m not one of those people that think sports teams need to stay in a building because of it’s “historical” significance (I’m looking at you drunk frat boys on the northside). As a fan, I like to be comfortable if I’m paying top dollar to see a sporting event and most of all, I want to see the show. After having seen games at both the old and new configurations of Soldier Field, I can tell you, the new one blows the old one away. Still, it’s an eyesore in a beautiful Chicago skyline.
Soldier Field is located just off of Lakeshore Drive on the south side of Chicago’s downtown. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley was very vocal about keeping the Bears in Chicago, but there’s was no place to really put a new stadium. The historical society was adamant about not letting Soldier Field being torn down. Since historic preservation laws only prevent the exterior from being destroyed, the designers on the new Soldier Field gutted the place and landed a spaceship on top of the existing stone structure. Technically, the old walls and columns that defined the building are still there, but they are overshadowed by the monstrosity that was set on top of it. From a visual standpoint, it’s the ugliest sports stadium in the country. The historic designation was eventually stripped and Chicago was left with a pimple on the supermodel-like face that is the skyline.
The inside of the stadium is a much different story. I remember the old Soldier Field as being archaic and uncomfortable. If you sat in the end zone, you felt like you were a mile away from the action. It was cold, uninviting, and uncomfortable. While the new stadium look awful, it is a much more enjoyable place to watch a game or see a show.
When the stadium is set up for a concert, the stage is set up in the north end zone and seats are filled in on the playing surface. Why anyone would pay over $125 to sit on the fifty yard line and have to look over everyone in front of them for the entire show is beyond me. We spent $100 per ticket and sat in the club level on about the fifty yard line. We were still pretty far away, but, hell, it was a stadium show. There aren’t that many great seats. We could see the stage and were able to make out who the main performers were. That’s all you can ask for at a show that big.
The Club Level seating where we were is dubbed the United Club (United Airlines). We went up an escalator from the entrance to find our seats. The concourse area in this part of the stadium is not the typical concrete floors and peanut hawking vendors. There are actual bars with tables and chairs. The floor is carpeted and the servers are in shirt and bow tie. If your at a football game where it’s below freezing, you have a great way to get out of the cold, but still be able to enjoy a beer and the game.
The food was pretty incredible. Yes, there were the hot dogs and nachos at concession stands, but there was also a guy hand carving sandwiches. They actually had someone carving brisket and pork shoulder. Sure, these sandwiches were $12, but if I had a little more money, I would have had to try one. It smelled so good.
Since the concert was over seven hours, we had to get drinks a couple times. Pops were four bucks. The first time I went, I got two Coke Zeros. The next time, it was a Sprite and a Diet Coke. The second trip we also got some nachos to tide us over. Nothing special here. We’ve been getting the same nachos at Chicago sporting events for fifteen years. My brother got a hot dog that he paid $8 for. He was unimpressed. You’d think they’d sell “Chicago-Style” dogs at Chicago sporting events, but it’s the same hot dog you can get at any park in the country. My sister-in-law got some chicken fingers and fries which she paid $9 for. A much better deal than what my brother got.
You noticed I said we got pops…not beer. The beer was ridiculous. Not the price. It was $7 which is common. The quantity. Again, I tell you this was a SEVEN HOUR concert. By hour two, everyone in our section was sloppy drunk. No one could make it down the stairs without spilling half their beer. One lady was so drunk during the FIRST ACT (of five that night) that she was throwing up in a nacho tray and eventually had to be escorted out. All night, there were people being taken away on stretchers because they had too much to drink. There were people passed out in the bathrooms. I like to drink. I’m not one of those holier than thou bible thumpers who think alcohol is evil, but the beer was out of control. They were still serving well past the time Kenny Chesney actually took the stage. They should have stopped long before that.
Sorry about the rant. On to the show itself. Kenny Chesney’s Sun City Carnival Tour consists of five acts for the stadium part of the tour. Lady Antebellum opened the show followed by Miranda Lambert, Montgomery Gentry, Sugarland and Kenny Chesney. Before the show, US99 (Chicago’s country station) had a free concert with Luke Bryant in the lawn on the east side of the stadium. We got to see six bands and they were six bands that we actually liked. There was no one that we wouldn’t have paid to see on their own.
Lady Antebellum took the stage at exactly 4:00. They played for a little over a half hour and sounded great. Even in a giant, partially empty football stadium, they sounded terrific. Funny moment at the end. When they were wrapping up their last song, they lost power to the mics and instruments. Mid-sentence, everything went quite. You could see on the video boards they were a little confused. Since their show was over anyway, the three of them came out on to the stage extension and just took a bow.
They striked the set and about fifteen minutes later was Miranda Lambert. J and I went to Windsor to see Miranda Lambert back in February and loved the show. I didn’t think this performance was as good, but it was mostly a technical thing. The bass was so loud it was shaking our seats. Her voice was too loud and it gave me a headache. I still love Miranda, but her sound mixer needed to do a better job. I guess there still could have been a problem left over from the Lady Antebellum problems, but I don’t know.
Another stage strike as Montgomery Gentry got ready. They really kept the show moving during these early acts. There was no more than twenty minutes in between the sets. Montgomery Gentry was awesome. I’ve been wanting to see them for years but every timethey tour close, I have something else going on. They rocked a slightly more filled Soldier Field. My brother was worried he wouldn’t know any songs, but he sang along with almost all of them realizing he knew more than he thought.
As the sun was starting to set, our favorite band, Sugarland took the stage to an almost near capacity stadium. J and I have seen Sugarlandfour times now. We’ve seen them at a State Fair, a mid-size arena, and a Sportsmen club in Peru, IL. Now, we’ve seen them rock an almost sold out football stadium. The show, once again, was awesome, but it seemed short. They have so much good material, it was disappointing to see they only played about 45 minutes to an hour. I know they weren’t the main event, but the crowd was into it and they did this really cool crowd surfing thing at the end. Jennifer and Kristian both got into these giant, inflatable hamster balls and walked out into the crowd. That was a new addition to an already awesome show.
The stage change for Kenny took about 45 minutes which gave the sun a chance to completely set. Not long before Kenny’s set started, I noticed the crew wheel a big, black, case marked TV CAM into the sound board area. It seemed odd to me at the time because I could see both the cameras and they looked fine. They weren’t being broken down or anything. Having seen Kenny in the past, I knew he liked to make a grand entrance and the curtain that now covered the stage was just a decoy to get you looking at that when the music started. Sure enough, just before the show started, I figured it out. There was an opening in the tent covering the sound board that the spotlights and one of the camera were pointing at. I also could see four zip lines going into the tent. Kenny rode a chair suspended high over the crowd to the stage. The big black box didn’t contain a camera. It contained Kenny Chesney.
After getting to stage, the house lights were turned off and the stage lights took over. Soldier Field is an awesome place for an outdoor concert. We couldn’t see it from our seats, but when we saw Bon Jovi at Soldier Field, you can see the Chicago skyline in the background. When it’s lit up at night, it’s like an added set piece. Kenny rocked Chicago for about an hour and a half. His shows are so high energy and even though most of the music sounds the same, you can’t help but sing along….every time I hear that song.
After the show, we followed the drunken mob back to the CTA. My biggest complaint about Soldier Field is the parking. There isn’t much. For football games, if you’re not a season ticket holder, you have to park at Millennium Park and take a shuttle back. For concerts, if you want to park and tailgate, you better be there early. We’ve gotten to the point where we always take public transportation which worked out great this night. It was about a twenty minute walk to the Orange Line stop on Roosevelt then another 15 minutes back to Midway Airport where our car was parked. In less than an hour, we were in bed exhausted from a seven hour country music extravaganza.
Soldier Field is one of my favorite Chicago venues for a concert. Sure, it’s a huge area, but if I’m going to see a concert in one of Chicago’s major sporting arenas, why not an outdoor venue with easy access to public transportation. For June, the weather was absolutely gorgeous. At one point, J had four layers on, but that changed throughout the night. The temperature along the lake never got into the sixties which is perfect. We were worried about it being 90 and miserable.
The Kenny Chesney Sun City Carnival Tour will be in Detroit on August 22 at Ford Field. I know tickets sound expensive, but if you’re a country music fan, this is the ultimate concert event of the summer. I would highly recommend it!