U2 and six-gig summer on wish list for Sunderland’s Stadium of Light

Gary Hutchinson at the Stadium of Light
Gary Hutchinson at the Stadium of Light
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U2 is top of a wish list to play at the Stadium of Light.

Gary Hutchinson, who has spearheaded the drive to bring concerts to the venue, says he’d love to see the Irish rockers wow Wearside.

After five years of big names such as Oasis, Take That, Rihanna, Bruce Springsteen and Coldplay playing at the home of the Black Cats, it’s become a well-
respected venue on the touring circuit.

But though Mr Hutchinson may have his wish list, who will take to the stage in the future is dependent on a number of factors, such as who is touring that year and who can play in the six-week window the club has between the end of one football season and relaying the pitch for the next.

Mr Hutchinson said: “I’ve always said I’d love to see Muse here but they decided not to. I’d really like U2 in the future. Or a dance act like Swedish House Mafia or Avicii.

“We also keep a close eye on up-and-coming acts to see who has the potential to sell out a stadium.”

Talks are ongoing with promoters now as to who will play in 2015, though the club won’t confirm any names until later in the year.

This week’s One Direction concert was the first time organisers tried a new entry system, which split the stadium into four coloured zones, a model which other clubs are looking to adopt.

Mr Hutchinson, SAFC commercial director, said: “One Direction was 14 months of planning – because of the audience demographic, there was more time spent on areas of protocol than any other concert here.

“The promoter was really pleased with how it went. They’ve said we have set the bar high for the rest of the tour in the UK.

“We’ve become known as a launch venue for tours, which is fantastic publicity for the city. Other clubs are looking at how we do things because we have a fantastic venue and staff in our arsenal.”

The Stadium of Light is now gearing up to stage North East Live, a festival of pop music headlined by Jessie J, on June 22.

It will be the second and final concert this summer, but Gary says the venue would like to return to its usual roster of three gigs a year for 2015.

“I’d like to do five or six gigs a summer. We always like to get more than two. Three is ideal, but you can only get what’s out there,” he explained.

Some Wearsiders have complained about the pop-heavy line-up for this year’s gigs.

Gary said: “One Direction are not necessarily my type of music, but they are the biggest boy band in the world and they opened in Sunderland, which is 
fantastic for the city. We go with what’s on the market, whether that be rock, heavy metal, electronic dance, pop or indie.

“We can’t just do Oasis and Kings of Leon every year, though that’s a particularly popular genre in this region. You’ve got to have versatility.

“You also have to look at who can sell a 40,000-50,000 capacity venue. We can’t risk booking an act that will only sell 20,000 tickets as you’d lose money.”