Why does rock concert sound suck?

I have been to two rock concert in the past year : Brit Floyd in Bridgeport CT and Eric Clapton at Madison Square Garden, NYC (last Monday)

For Brit Floyd I was about 40 feet form the stage and treble end was an ear-splitting distorted sound - the soprano solo on Dark Side of the Moon sounded like a chain saw running at 5x speed.

For Eric Clapton I was sitting at floor level about 20 rows behind the mixing desk - i.e., the opposite end from the stage. In this case the high top end was not so distorted, but the voices were still very harsh - seemingly a massive response peak at ~1500hz. Imagine AM radio with the treble turned up 20db.

I knew a lot of the words form the songs ahead of time of course, and just about recognized them, but otherwise the lyrics were unintelligible. The only exceptions were when he sang a quieter song - e.g., “Tears in Heaven” . Clapton moved back from the mic rather than place his mouth right next to it. Then the sound was quite listenable .

Of course managing the acoustics in such a big venue is no doubt a challenge — but does it have to be this bad?


I saw the fantastic Hamilton show at the beautiful Providence Performing Arts Center. Great show , great venue ( completely re-done to bring back its majesty) & I was about 20 rows back in the center of the Orchestra. Sound was fair at best, very hard & edgy  & quite annoying at times. Big speaker arrays, class D amps & plenty of DSP. I’m not at all a fan of this now typical set up & have not experienced it once where it sounded really good. 

I've many times read discussions where audio enthusiasts construct home systems to try and recreate a live performance type sound. I don't know about you, but I'm the complete opposite. I try to create a system and sound that closely replicates (as much as my budget allows) the one the Mixing Engineer heard while mixing an album, or what the Mastering Engineer heard while mastering it. I leave the live performance sound (none of which many in this thread seem to appreciate these days) for the live performance venue(s). 

wolf-garcia, I accept that you know more about this area than I. But when I was playing that’s what I experienced--standing around while the drums and bass were done first, and pushed to a high volume.  I won't say we never had good sound in the end.

I've been to some excellent sounding concerts... and a lot that suck when it comes to sound.

The great sounding ones though teach you how rock should sound ... through your speakers!  

Likewise, a live orchestral performance is the real thing... it amazes me when "audiophiles" are oh so effete that they forget about what music performed live actually sounds like.  

Some of the most boring concerts I've been to were "perfect"... TOO perfect, and thus lacked that edge, that excitement, that daring, that dynamism.  Steve Winwood, Elvis Costello, Journey ("back in the day"), and one "The Wall" show I saw done by Roger Waters; perfect sound, technically slick performance, sounded "just like the album" w no grit and gusto and so, What's the point? 

Saw Eric Church and Dave Matthew 2 nights apart this August outdoors in Lake Tahoe, same venue.

Eric’s sound was excellent

Dave’s was awful other than quieter passages