Steel Stacks, The Temps and the Tops

By: Jane

Jun 24 2011

Category: music


Focal Length:3.85mm
Shutter:1/0 sec
Camera:iPhone 4

Last night my family collectively participated in Steve’s Father’s Day gift by attending the Temptations/Four Tops concert at Steel Stacks in Bethlehem PA. My rating: Tops – 3 stars out of 5. Temps – 4 stars out of 5. Steel Stacks – 1 star out of 5.

The Four Tops did a fine job with the music that they performed, but forgot their demographic. Most of the audience was 50 to 60 years old, and came to hear specific music: the songs they remember from 40 years ago. As a musician, I know they get tired of performing the same music time after time. As an employee, I know what my job is and how it needs to be done. If the job is to deliver the music that the ticket was bought for, that’s the job they need to do. The Tops saved most of their memorable hits for a medley at the end of their set. The audience was tolerant of the other songs, but made it clear when they were listening to the songs they came to hear. I really enjoyed their tribute to the original members of the group. Even though I couldn’t understand a word they were saying, (I’ll get to that in a minute,) the pictures made their meaning clear, and it was a great idea.

The Temptations still put on a great show. The moves are there, they performed virtually every song that anyone could have wanted to hear, and still managed to get in a couple of their newer songs. I really wished that they had done the same thing as the Tops, with some kind of retrospective on the original group. Otis Williams looks great. Hard to believe he’s (by my estimation), in his 70’s. The only reason I give them 4 stars instead of 5 is that there will never be another Eddie Kendrick, and I missed him.

The big downer is the Steel Stacks venue. It’s one thing to go to a Musikfest performance, knowing that all of the venues are temporary. ArtsQuest has now decided to make Steel Stacks their permanent home, however, and it still feels and sounds like a temporary venue, or side entertainment for the casino. The stage is under a tent set on asphalt. There are no secondary speakers to carry the sound clearly to the back of the room, so the sound just rolls and echoes around, making the defining harmonic sounds of the two performing groups nearly indistinguishable. Nothing they said could be understood. The crowning moment was when the air conditioner engaged. The hum was almost as loud as the music. I could see hair blowing all over the place in front of me, and many people, including us, moved to the back to get out of the wind. I know they can do better. I’ve heard James Taylor play on a racetrack with sound so impeccable you could hear every note by every musician, whether sung or played. McCartney’s sound is also near perfect, although for the price of his tickets, it had better be.

Tops? I’ve heard ’em.
Temps? I’d go again, if they were playing in a theater or other venue where attention was paid to the purpose of the venue.
Steel Stacks? Don’t bother.


5 comments on “Steel Stacks, The Temps and the Tops”

  1. It just occurred to me that the reason I’ve heard better sound is because JT and McCartney probably carry their own sound equipment and people with them. I don’t know that this is the case at Steel Stacks. The equipment and sound people may come with the venue.

  2. I hear what you are saying Jane..I think the Steel Stacks is still evolving as a cultural center…I went today to check out the Alehouse and Cinema (of course) and I liked the atmosphere, the respect for film and the mature crowd I got to watch the French film Incendies with. I love that they don’t allow people to buy tickets after the film begins and it’s definitely a superior experience to seeing anything at the Rave or Regal where films are simply a commodity, a product to be sold and marketed to the public.

    They want to get more vendors and expand things..they will be hosting some of the MusicFest concerts and I’m excited to have this venue only about 10 minutes from home. I’m going to support them as I can…and I believe future events will get better…and I’m kind of excited because they do Tuesday night films with discussion afterward…it’s a film buff’s dream…..:)

    • We were there today too, Chris! I thought, there just HAS to be more to it than a tent with a bad sound system, so we went over to look. We went into the ArtsQuest building…looked very nice, and I did notice the cinema. I’ll watch for your review of the film!

  3. I just read this . I am a sound eng. Its hard to do sound in a tent. I can understand why it sounded bad. The best way to do sound in a tent is to flood it with sound . Then people complain about being to loud, we can’t win. Outside venue and a tent venue you can’t compare them. Outside will sound much much better.

    • Thanks Bob! I guess maybe the solution for a place like the Sands is to build an actual venue, or an outdoor amphitheater. I recently heard Manhattan Transfer outdoors, and just as you say, the sound was great. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment!

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