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Are Hyde Park’s days as a concert venue over?

Daniel Gumble
Are Hyde Park’s days as a concert venue over?

With Blur’s recent - and most probably final - performance at London’s Hyde Park blighted by the ever persistent sound issues that have plagued so many artists at the venue over recent years, maybe the time has finally come to call time on this increasingly troublesome location as a concert venue.

On a night that offered Londoners a free gig featuring the likes of Blur, New Order and The Specials to coincide with the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics, those in attendance were unduly presented with a series of performances suffering from sound levels that were both unbalanced and, in some instances, simply too quiet. Throughout the evening, some sections of the crowd could clearly be heard chanting “louder” and “turn it up”, while others simply gave up and headed for home. Surely this can’t be right for a concert of such magnitude?

Signs for the future aren’t great either, with the introduction of new live event restrictions ready to take effect next year set to reduce the number of gigs permitted to take place at Hyde Park from 13 to nine, with no more than four allowed capacity crowds of 65,000, while the remaining five are to be kept under 50,000, two of which will include BBC Proms events. Westminster council has also ordered further noise level monitoring in side streets, as well as controls over “low frequency” noise and repetitive beats; something that doesn’t bode well in light of the reports of inadequate volume levels.

This latest raft of complaints about poor audio is far from a new concern for the venue. Back in 2011, Arcade Fire’s biggest UK show to date suffered hugely from insufficient volume, while last months Hard Rock Calling resulted in outrage following the catastrophic decision to pull the power on a duet from Bruce Springsteen and Sir Paul McCartney; the inaudible sound throughout the set now just a footnote in this case. Unsurprisingly, both artists, not to mention the 76,000 fans in attendance, were furious at the decision to switch off the power with the pair ready to perform Beatles classics ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ and ‘Twist and Shout’. Promoters of the concert, Live Nation, said on its website: "It was unfortunate that the three hour-plus performance by Bruce Springsteen was stopped right at the very end but the curfew is laid down by the authorities in the interest of the public's health and safety."

So, what exactly is the appeal in booking gigs for Hyde Park? With next year’s additional restrictions unlikely to improve the live event experience for many gig goers, will we see a drop in ticket sales for its shows? Or will performers avoid the venue entirely?

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On this evidence, it appears unlikely that Macca or The Boss will be heading back any time soon, so is it time for organisers of gigs of this scale to rethink their strategy when it comes to staging events of such stature? Either way, 2013 is sure to be a pivotal year for Hyde Park’s status as a prime location for outdoor music events.

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Tags: Live Sound, london, olympics, arcade fire, blur, bruce springsteen, paul mccartney, new order, hard rock calling, Hyde Park, Festivals, London 2012 Olympics, the specials, blur hyde park

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