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Top 10: The architecture of rock concerts (part II)

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In celebration of Glastonbury Festival this weekend, the Architects’ Journal brings you a run-down of the very best in rock concert architecture

5. Kraftwerk, Manchester Velodrome, 2009


We can only speculate over what the stage design of electronic über-band Kraftwerk and American composer Steve Reich will be like when they come together for a landmark show in July. The concert will take place at the Manchester Velodrome, designed by Sander Douma Architects for the 2002 Commonwealth Games, where the German band’s 1983 hit Tour de France will no doubt go down a storm.

4. Jethro Tull, Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Colorado, 1971

You can’t get a more hardcore venue than Denver’s Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Nestled in the outstanding natural forms of the Red Rocks Park, the open-air arena, designed by architect Burnham Hoyt, has hosted musical legends including The Beatles (1964), Grateful Dead (1978-84) and U2 (1983). Jethro Tull’s infamous 1971 concert descended into a violent riot when ticketless fans charged the stage and began hurling rocks at policemen. The feverish anarchy unleashed by the event was such that the Mayor had to impose a five-year ban on rock concerts at the amphitheatre.


3. Pet Shop Boys, World Tour, 2009

Who would have thought Zaha Hadid a fan of the Pet Shop Boys? It’s hard to imagine her dancing along to ‘West End Girls’ or ‘Always on My Mind’ as she churns out deconstructivist masterpieces. Her stage design for the band’s 2009 World Tour, the website enthuses, is ‘a three dimensional luminous landscape of projection and sound (with) detachable mobile elements that act as choreographic tools’.

2. Spinal Tap, Stone Henge set

After a classic cock-up between Ian Faith, manager of fictional band Spinal Tap, and lead guitarist Nigel Tufnel, the band end up with an 18-inch high replica of famous Pagan monolith Stone Henge as the backdrop to their epic song, rather than the substantially more impressive 18 feet. The fiasco was cunningly remedied by hiring midgets to prance around it to disguise its true scale.

1. U2, PopMart Tour, 1997-1998

A ginormous lemon mirrorball, a 30m high parabolic arch in the style of Ero Saarinen (and McDonalds), a giant olive punctured by an orange cocktail stick - PopMart is supersized ‘rockitecture’ at its very best. U2’s stage designer Willie Williams conceived the set as a satirical comment on consumerism and pop culture, playing heavily on the kind of symbolic forms of post-modern architecture investigated in Venturi’s Learning from Las Vegas.

Top 10: The architecture of rock concerts part I

See also Top 10: architecture of computer games

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