Guest review by Jenn Cotto
Last night I had the opportunity to check out the Beach Boys 50th Anniversary tour at the newly-opened Sands Bethlehem Event Center. I’m by no means a big follower of the band, but I enjoy their music and I was interested in finally seeing the SBEC in use.
Entering the venue was at bit unorganized, between the security guards checking IDs, the employees issuing wrist bands allowing of-age patrons access to alcohol, and the people actually taking tickets, it was a bit confusing as to where to go first. It would also be helpful to have employees at each of the three doors instead of yelling at patrons across the vestibule if they walked through the one door that was unmanned.
The layout of the space was a bit confusing, and I actually used the word “clusterfuck” upon first glance. I asked an attendant where the restrooms were and it took her about five minutes to explain to me that I’d actually have to exit the venue to use the facilities, then come back in through the venue entrance on the hotel side. Repeat, there are no restroom facilities within the actual venue. It’s not a chore to find the restroom, just a bit inconvenient. One wonders if this was an oversight or actually planned as such.
The Vision Bar/lounge is spacious, with a bar large enough to accommodate the crowd, plus domestic taps and troughs with extra canned offerings around the room. I must admit when I first heard about the Vision bar concept I’d imagined it to be larger, with more of a night club feel. The space just felt a little odd to me, more like a lobby that just happened to have a bar in it. I did note that there wasn’t much of a selection at the actual bar; domestics and a few premiums on tap and your basic spirits. Prices seem about the same as inside the casino.
Entering the concert space from the lounge there was a large bottleneck of people, mostly due to the merchandise tables right inside the doors and people trying to understand the floor seating set up. It seemed pretty straightforward to me, my ticket said left center, and there are signs above the doors that are clearly marked, “Left”, “Left Center” “Right Center”, and “Right”. There were many attendants available to point patrons in the right direction, and more to help you find your seat when you walked inside.
There are two small concession areas just inside the venue, selling bottled drinks, beer on tap, wine, and cocktails. Prices range from $3 for a bottle of water to $10 for a 24 oz. “bomber” of premium beer. There is no food available anywhere in the venue, which I’m guessing serves to help save cleanup. It wasn’t missed. $7 popcorn can always be had at the movie theater.
The seating area inside the venue is small, with a very intimate feel. I can honestly say there’s not a bad seat in the house, including floor seating. I have tickets for The Last Summer on Earth Tour later this summer and I can tell my vantage point from the right side of the venue will be excellent. Post-show, there were some crowding issues getting back out the door, unfortunately the three side exits are emergency only and were blocked from people leaving.
The show itself was entertaining, 45 songs and a short intermission for a total length of about 2 and a half hours. The band is perhaps not as…energetic as they used to be, which is of course to be expected 50 years after their first album. A band like the Beach Boys was never about acrobatics and wailing guitars, but fun times and, well, “Good Vibrations”.
Singing duties were shared between almost all the main members of the band, of course with lead singer Mike Love taking the reigns on most of the songs. Founding member Brian Wilson, whose slightly disheveled appearance and required assistance to his piano were the only giveaways to his prior health issues, sang very well on “Heroes and Villains” and a wonderful cover of the Mommas and Poppas hit “California Dreamin’”. Wilson was well-received by the crowd and there were many standing ovations for the entire group during the show, and even I couldn’t help but to sway and sing along with some of my favorite tunes.
I’m looking forward to my next experience at the Sands Event Center. I’m hoping they iron out their organizational issues and make the SBEC a must-stop place for more great acts in the future.
Photos by Matt Blum of Lightly Salted Productions