Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Blue Rodeo in Banff, and a Review of the New Shaw Amphitheater

After planting trees, we zipped into Banff to catch the Blue Rodeo outdoor concert at the brand new Shaw Amphitheater at the Banff Centre. It was an excellent concert that went on just short of 2 hours plus had an opening act. We were up close and had pretty good sightlines.
Jim Cuddy 
Greg Keillor
The last few times I've seen Blue Rodeo, the same thing happens: Greg plays with the band less and less. He probably was only on stage for 40 min of the 2 hrs, missing playing on some stalwart Rodeo tunes like Till I Am Myself Again. Don't know why he does this.

This was the "big event" that launched the brand new Shaw Amphitheater. It's not worth reviewing the concert, but it is worth reviewing the venue just in case you ever come here for a concert.

They have a "no lawn chair" policy. This had better morph to a "festival chairs only" policy PDQ. There is nowhere you can comfortably sit without one at the venue. Still, despit the no chairs policy, they were letting people in with all kinds of chairs.

Right in front of the stage and set down about 5' from the stage is a big semicircular paved area. If you want to see a concert -- any concert -- from this space, plan on standing. Folks did put down blankets but that didn't last long. It is impossible to get comfortable, so within minutes, they stand. Some people put up full size chairs down here. They just got in the way of the people standing.

Behind this concrete mosh pit is a set of about 10 concrete steps 18" or so high in the next arc of the semicircle. Sit on the 2nd tier or higher and you can see clearly over the tops of the folks standing in the mosh pit. But you front row folks will be standing. These concrete steps are very hard and very cold and without the right thing to sit on (a blanket ain't it) are really uncomfortable. But a legless festival chair, or one of those "folded in half thermarest" chairs allows for a backrest and the steps are perfect for your legs. Plus, there's ample space between you and the row in front.

Behind the concrete steps is a 2 m wide flat walkway they keep clear. Then comes the grass. The fact that it had been recently sodded was abundantly clear. Sit within 10' of the walkway, and the endless traffic on the walkway is in your way the whole concert. The slope of the grass isn't really conducive to chairs of any kind without leaning back a lot. The grass is damp and will make any fabric you sit on (like, say, your pants) wet. I'm not sure I would want to watch a concert from the grass.

The amphitheater is angled such that the setting sun crosses behind and to the right of the stage. So if you sit on the right hand side, the sun is in your eyes coming in from about 45° to your right. Really annoying.

Sit on the left and you start in the shade of the stage, which I was jealous of at the start. But pretty soon you're looking almost straight into the sun.

So the only advice I can offer is to bring a peaked cap. My Tilley hat was excellent in blocking the sun coming in from the side and not obstructing my view of the stage. Folks on the left side couldn't look at the band for about 20 minutes. Jim Cuddy's shadow was 10 rows high.

The concert ended just before 8 PM and the sun was annoying everyone from about 6 PM onward, and was especially bad between 7:15 and 7:30 as it was getting ready to set. And when the sun set, the temperature dropped from 24° to 16° in 9 minutes.

They were selling beer, wine and food, but they won't let you into the seating area with it. Some people snuck stuff down but security kicked them out. They seem to be less prohibitive of food than of alcohol.

So I don't know who designed this venue, but it's not that concert-goer friendly. Bring a festival chair. Sit on the concrete steps at or above the 3rd row. Sit on the right side. Bring a hat.

And enjoy the show.


Edwin said...


Nice blogpost on the development of the amphitheatre...

Anonymous said...

Greg is having issues with his ears and is unable to play during full-band songs.