A PARTY of 55,000 people will tonight pack into the Stadium of Light as Kings of Leon get ready to rock Sunderland.
The gig is the culmination of months of hard work for bosses at SAFC, who have already helped Take That launch their new tour.
Tonight’s performance will bring to a close the mammoth task of turning the Black Cats’ home into a world-class music venue.
At the helm is a dedicated safety team making sure the events go without a hitch.
Since the stadium began hosting music events three years ago, the team has been responsible for the smooth running of gigs from some of the world’s biggest artists, including Take That, Oasis and Pink.
The production crew has been at the stadium since Monday, transforming it for the Kings of Leon’s set, which is more pared down compared to Take That’s 60ft robot and centre stage features.
Steve Walton, chief executive of Safc, said: “There are a lot more fans on the pitch this time. One of the features of Take That was that fans queued up to get a place on the pitch. The most important thing for them was being in touching distance of the band. The crowd dynamics this time, however, are very different.”
Tonight’s gig will see more men to women, about 60/40, whereas Take That’s gigs last month had an audience of 90 per cent women.
The age range is also a lot younger for Kings of Leon.
Mr Walton added: “We are learning every time we host a concert, not just as a club, but as a city, about its transport links. We have a debrief after every concert and at each one we get better at it.
“Three years ago, the North East was considered to be a desert for big gigs. It was thought that there wasn’t the audience here, but we’ve proved them wrong. Ninety per cent of the people coming to the Kings of Leon gig are from the North East.”
Gary Hutchinson, head of venue and events at SAFC, said: “It’s great to have a big American rock band after Take That, which are very much a pop act.
“We have been trying to get Kings of Leon to come here for a number of years. In terms of rock acts, you don’t get much bigger than them.”
During the concerts, Gary helps to man the control room alongside head of safety and security Paul Weir, other stadium staff and representatives from Northumbria Police who monitor the crowd.
He said: “The control hub is like Spaghetti Junction. It’s very exciting on the day of the concert, with lots of surprises, but we have had excellent feedback from the promoters.”