Every athlete who suits up for the Red Sox knows the value of playing at Fenway Park. The intimacy of the stadium creates an energy not often matched at other ballparks.
With their latest addition to the 110-year-old stadium, the team behind Fenway Sports Group — led by John Henry, who also owns the Globe — are hoping to re-create a similar vibe for live music at the MGM Music Hall. Beginning with a benefit show headlined by Godsmack on Aug. 27, followed by two nights apiece for James Taylor (Aug. 29-30) and Chris Stapleton (Aug 31-Sept. 1), the venue is set to open its doors at the foot of Lansdowne Street.
Just as the Red Sox feed off the energy of the crowd, “our hope is that the performers will feel the same,” said FSG real estate managing director Jonathan Gilula during a sneak peek at the new venue on Thursday, ahead of Monday’s ribbon-cutting.
Located behind the right-field bleachers, the 5,000-seat auditorium occupies the former “Triangle Lot,” which for years was fenced off for mobile-production trucks.
The odd shape of the lot inspired some creative thinking. As it happens, the resulting project could turn out to be a groundbreaker in terms of concert venue design.
“Everybody loves the shape of Fenway, which came from the surrounding streets,” said Chuck Izzo of Somerville’s DAIQ Architects, who has done design work for several other ballparks, including Dodger Stadium and Pittsburgh’s PNC Park. In the same way, he said, the MGM Music Hall is “a snug fit. We used every space we possibly could.”
The angled seating created a geometric space that should enhance acoustics. No seat is farther than 110 feet from the center of the stage. John Ahrens, a senior vice president of design and construction for Live Nation, said he intends to duplicate the design at venues in other cities wherever possible.
Developing the site was a tall task, said Don Law, the Live Nation New England chairman and a longtime concert promoter whose imprint has shaped Boston’s live music landscape for decades. Excitement is high among touring performers, he said.
“When they see it, they love it. The most powerful word in our business comes from the performers themselves and their staff.”
The MGM Music Hall represents the latest wave in the concert business — an appetite for indoor stages for audiences larger than most theaters can accommodate, but more intimate than arenas. Law called the absence of 5,000-seat venues “a hole in most major cities.”
The trend is to go bigger than nightclubs. In Boston, Big Night Live opened on Causeway Street with a capacity of 2,000 in 2019, and Roadrunner, capacity 3,500, debuted in Allston earlier this year. Law, whose company oversees the House of Blues, the longtime fixture across Lansdowne Street, believes there’s room in town for all of them.
In the 1980s, he presided over the opening of Great Woods (now the Xfinity Center) in Mansfield. More recently, he developed the Harbor Lights Pavilion, now the Seaport District’s Leader Bank Pavilion.
“In each case, the market expanded,” he said.
The new venue is four levels tall, with an outdoor roof deck offering a skyline view. Premium ticket holders will have access to exclusive lounge areas and mezzanine box seating.
Live Nation has entered a long-term lease on the MGM Music Hall with the Fenway Sports Group. The venue will be booked by the Fenway Music Company, a new joint venture between the two entities.
Law expects to present 150 shows annually at the MGM Music Hall. There are more than 60 nights of live music set for the remainder of 2022, including Rosalia, Lil Nas X, the B-52s, Roxy Music’s 50th anniversary tour, and three nights with Bruno Mars, all in September.
In addition to what it describes as industry-leading sound and lighting, the management team noted the venue’s spacious green room and a suite of individual dressing rooms. An aptly themed display will encourage visiting artists to sign baseballs, and Law said that the green room will also feature a vintage Led Zeppelin pinball machine — a band he first booked way back at the Boston Tea Party in the late 1960s.
James Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @sullivanjames.