NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The show sold out in less than 30 minutes and for 90 minutes Sunday night on stage in Norfolk, Morgan Wallen showed everybody why.
With the help of some pyrotechnics, the 29-year-old country music megastar literally exploded onto stage for his main set shortly after 9:30 p.m. to a roaring crowd of 12,000-plus.
It was Wallen’s first time performing in the Mermaid City. He headlined the closing night of the city’s first Patriotic Festival, in a first of its kind venue.
While many reveled about its uniqueness, many left hoping for some changes next year.
The Patriotic Festival signed a five-year contract to hold its festival in downtown Norfolk. The festival made the high-profile move to downtown Norfolk following 18 years at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront.
Three blocks of Waterside drive were closed to create the venue, which included three tiers of seating: VIP Pit, VIP Seating and General Admission.
Sunday afternoon found the promoters, Whisper Concerts, making changes after attendees complained about audio issues during the Kane Brown concert Saturday night. Several people who sat in VIP seating reached out to 10 On Your Side. They said they could only hear echoes from the main speakers at the stage.
“The Patriotic Festival has enhanced the sound quality throughout the concert zone by adding an additional delay stack (a PA system for events in very long spaces) in the VIP Chair section,” Ma’rie Hodges, a spokesperson for the festival, said in a statement. “This will provide a superior listening experience for patrons in all sections throughout the entire concert zone including VIP PIT, VIP Chair and General Admission. Patriotic Festival is looking forward to a stellar performance from Morgan Wallen tonight!”
On all accounts, the solution worked.
“I can’t believe they got Morgan Wallen and this is Waterside Drive,” said Tim Spang, 22, of Chesapeake.
However complaints of viewing weren’t so easily addressed.
Those who purchased general admission tickets had very little chance of seeing a clear path to the stage. Waterside Drive has a median that includes several trees, traffic lights, and for the concert, several delay stacks.
“I couldn’t see anything,” one woman told 10 On Your Side. “Thank goodness for the video board.”
Andy Stephenson, a Patriotic Festival board member said they will be having a post mortem to see what can be done better.
“If you guys have suggestions or ideas, please reach out to us at PatrioticFestival.com and we would love to get together and see what we can do to make improvements,” Stephenson said.
Visit Norfolk expected at least a $3 million direct impact from the festival. On Sunday, many business owners already had high praise for the festival.
Bruce Thompson, CEO of Gold Key | PHR, which owns the “The Main” hotel, said Saturday night his hotel was sold out and all restaurants performed well.
“City was busy! So fun!” Thompson said. “Virginia Beach royally screwed up.”
Vice Mayor Martin Thomas said he was impressed by the Patriotic Festival’s organization. He also commented that everyone he spoke with was very impressed by the police presence.
As on early Sunday morning, WAVY-TV wasn’t made aware of any major incidents.