Aug. 14--Target Field has been open for four years, but the outdoor baseball stadium got its first real stress test as a concert venue when it hosted three live performances in eight days. Paul McCartney kicked things off Aug. 2, with Target Field's own Skyline Music Festival following with two nights last weekend.
The downtown Minneapolis stadium passed the test, with one major "needs improvement." Many of the 39,000 or so folks who showed up for McCartney's concert arrived to lengthy security lines and an atmosphere somewhere between confusion and chaos. Some took to social media to complain about waiting half an hour or more to get inside the venue, while others used Twitter to alert fans to gates with shorter lines.
The crush to get inside led McCartney to delay his start time to 8:45 p.m. It also opened the evening on a sour note for fans, many of whom dropped hundreds on tickets.
But once the music started, McCartney proved again why he's one of the most famous and successful entertainers alive with a nostalgic, professional set that spanned 39 songs across nearly three hours.
Also, once inside Target Field, fans were greeted by friendly, helpful staff reminiscent of those who make attending events at St. Paul'sXcel Energy Center such a pleasure. One might say the venue was even a bit overstaffed, particularly on the first night of the Skyline Music Festival where, for the first hour or so, it felt like there were more employees in the venue than paying customers.
Target Field created the Skyline festival last summer, with a bill heavy on '90s nostalgia acts (Matthew Sweet, Big Head Todd and the Monsters). It drew a capacity crowd of about 6,700 for the scaled-back show that saw the stage situated in foul territory near third base. Buoyed by that success, this summer officials added a second, "indie night" sponsored by 89.3 The Current.
Around 2,500 people eventually showed up and experienced a fantastic sonic experience, with the sound coming from the stage so pure and clean it was almost hard to believe. Headliner Andrew Bird found it so intoxicating, he ended up asking for permission to extend his set past 11 p.m., much to the delight of the audience.
Melissa Etheridge and O.A.R. drew 5,500 to Target Field for the second night, which boasted much more of a party vibe. Barring a few brief, isolated showers, all three gigs benefited from gorgeous summertime weather and a Saturday-night moon that had Etheridge marveling from the stage. The only real hitch I experienced during the two smaller shows was some confusion among Target Field staffers about accessing the skyway that connects it to the nearby parking ramp. It was open, or wasn't open, or maybe was open after all, depending on who you asked. Turns out it wasn't open, or at least they wouldn't let me use it if it was.
So what's next for Target Field? There's always Kenny Chesney, who has sold out the joint twice. Jason Aldean and Chesney's 2013 opening act the Zac Brown Band also have branched out into headlining stadiums on their own. And Garth Brooks could always surprise us, although he's likely to do multiple nights at a local arena before graduating to a larger venue.
In the rock world, U2 is a possible candidate, as they're expected to release their 13th studio album later this year, with a tour to follow in 2015. There's also always the possibility that the handful of acts that often skip the Twin Cities to play outdoor amphitheater shows might be wooed to Target Field, including Radiohead, the Dave Matthews Band and Phish.
With any luck, Target Field's staff will have ironed out the security gate kinks by the time we find out who is next up at home plate.
Pop music critic Ross Raihala can be reached at 651-228-5553. Follow him at Twitter.com/RossRaihala.
(c)2014 the Pioneer Press (St. Paul, Minn.)
Visit the Pioneer Press (St. Paul, Minn.) at www.twincities.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services