Andrea Bocelli and the Barclays Center

Andrea Bocelli

Andrea Bocelli

After 2 failed attempts, we finally made it to the Barclays Center, the new arena in Brooklyn. Our first outing was to be an exhibition game between the New York Islanders and the New Jersey Devils. That was a victim of the NHL lockout. Then, we had tickets to see the band Journey. That concert was cancelled because of Super Storm Sandy. So-this is a review of both the arena and the concert.

To start with, Andrea Bocelli is an amazingly talented musician. His program included arias from various operas, as well as one Christmas song, and numerous popular tunes. Of course he sang New York New York. It’s not my favorite New York-realted song, and is certainly not the best use of Bocelli’s voice, but it was fun and a real crowd pleaser. Bocelli is accompanied by a large orchestra and an even larger chorus. In addition, he performs a number of his work with one of two very talented sopranos. And he even played the flute for one number. The singing was accompanied as well by video scenes that related to each song, including scenes from  operas.

Before the start of the concert, the audience was treated to a video highlighting the work of the relatively new Andrea Bocelli Foundation. The Foundation is currently supporting a project at MIT that is developing a wearable device that  provides some functions of vision. Very important work-and it makes the steep ticket prices bearable!

The Barclays Center is the new, much-debated arena in Brooklyn that is the centerpiece of Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards mega-project. The arena is large, beautiful, and provides excellent sight and sound for this type of concert. However-it was built in the middle of a thriving Brooklyn neighborhood, and many residents have spent years trying to fight this development. As attractive as the Center is, it does not really fit in with the neighborhood, and I can certainly sympathize with the residents who are against this type of development.

Attending this concert was akin to sailing on a shake-down cruise. The staff has clearly received training in crowd management, but there are definitely some glitches in the system that need to be addressed before the arena is able to provide seamless service to the paying customers. To start with, the arena should make it clear to potential patrons that the seats in the upper level are pitched very steeply. I sat on the aisle, and nearly everyone who passed me by complained about the steep climb. And many wondered how they would climb down.

The concert was scheduled to begin at 8 PM. At 8:10 an announcement was made that the concert would begin in ten minutes. Well-for the next twenty minutes ticket holders were streaming by my aisle seat and talking very loudly. They blocked both my view and my ability to hear the music. For th is type of concert, I think the arena needs to adopt a policy similar to classical music venues and even Broadway shows:only seating late-comers at appropriate points in the program. Although I suspect that many of the patrons did not necessarily arrive late. It was just a difficult process getting to assigned seats. The upper portion of the arena was not well-lit, and finding row and seat numbers was difficult. In addition, the one escalator carrying people upwards was packed, with a line to get on. The elevators were slow and, for the most part, used by people in wheel chairs. The staircases were not usable as they had signs warning patrons that there was no re-entry to the arena from the stairwells.

There is an array of food options at the concessions. All of the brands are Brooklyn based food sources-Nathan’s, Junior’s etc. The prices are typical over-priced arena food, but are a notch above the usual in regard to variety and taste. The staff at the concessions was friendly and helpful. There is a sit-down restaurant that is only available by reservation. This is something I would consider, but nowhere on the website is there any menu for this restaurant or any indication of the price point for the “dining experience”. I rarely go to any restaurant without knowing what to expect, and I’m not ready to that yet.

So-would I go back? Probably, but there is nothing on the arena calendar that interests me right now. And I would probably eat dinner beforehand in a local restaurant rather than eating arena food.

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