Four European championship matches would be held in the newly revamped Puskás Arena next year, but the government commissioner in charge of major Budapest investment projects said that the stadium is more than a sports complex: it will host cultural events, conferences, and concerts as well. But what does it mean for the Hungarian concert scene? Is it possible that after years, Hungary may once again accommodate superconcerts like the Népstadion, which hosted superstars from Queen to Guns N’ Roses in their heyday, and Metallica, during its 60 years of operation.
The new Puskás Arena, designed by architect György Skardelli, has been built to incorporate certain elements of the former Népstadion (People’s Stadium), and has a capacity of 67,000 people for sports events, but concerts can be enjoyed by as many as 78,000 people. With this capacity, Budapest may be once again one of the tour stops for superconcerts.
Since the old stadium was demolished in 2016, the Papp László Arena, the largest indoor sports hall in Budapest and Hungary welcomed the biggest concerts, but its capacity is only 12,500 people, so it has been a struggle to bring superstars to Budapest.
photo: Tibor Illyés/MTI
According to public television M1, with Puskás Arena completed, when real world stars, singers, and bands are looking for a Central European venue, there will be an arena in Budapest that can host these mega-concerts. From now on, they do not have to stop in one of the neighbouring countries.
This year, among many others, Phil Collins, Bon Jovi, Pink, Metallica, and Rammstein performed at the Ernst Happel Stadium in Vienna. Phil Collins, Bon Jovi, Pink (last year, the Rolling Stones and Beyonce as well) were in Warsaw. Metallica and Ed Sheeran even visited Bucharest this year. The latter also reached Sziget as well, and the crowd was so massive at the smaller venue that he would have filled the Arena easily. However, the Puskás Arena has only been completed a week ago.
There are bands who do not perform in smaller venues, for example U2 held talks with Pécs in 2009 of a concert, but they only perform in stadiums that can host at least 100,000 people. But, for example, Rammstein also prefers to give stadium concerts, so it might be possible that they will perform in Hungary now that the Puskás Arena is completed.
It is also possible, that with the Puskás Arena in sight, state gambling company Szerencsejáték Zrt. will hold its annual free concerts there. This year, Bryan Adams performed at their birthday concert, while last year Sting and Shaggy entertained the huge crowd at Heroes’ Square.
However, there are only a few superstars who attract that many people, and for a Hungarian band or singer to fill the Puskás Arena, we would need a superconcert like the Illés-Metró-Omega one held in the Népstadion.
It should also be noted that the Arena has no roof, so it can only accommodate outdoor concerts, which also shorten the season for superconcerts – while they also have to fit the schedule of the tours of the bands. It would make it easier if the stadium’s roof could be retracted like the Romanian or Polish ones, but it cannot.
However, the Hungarian Tourism Agency’s deputy CEO also introduced a new aspect. According to László Könnyid, the stadium is also an attractive venue for religion tourism.Next year, the opening Mass of the Eucharistic World Congress 2020 will be held there.
Back in the times of the Népstadion, it provided a perfect space for superconcerts and helped Hungarians see the greatest musicians of the era. Louis Armstrong was the first American jazz superstar to visit Hungary in 1965 and 93,000 people attended the concert.
One of the super concerts of the ’80s was Queen’s 1986 concert in Budapest. The 70,000 tickets for the concert were sold out in two days. There are some contradictions in the number of the audience, as 70,000 spectators are mentioned in some places, 76,000 in other places and 80,000 in others. Freddie Mercury, Queen’s singer, even sang a Hungarian folk song to fans in Budapest.
In 1988, a Human Rights concert was held here: Peter Gabriel was accompanied by Springsteen’s E-Street Band, then Sting stepped on stage, and the highlight of the evening was Bruce Springsteen’s performance. There were many fans from the surrounding countries as well, as Budapest was the only stop of the tour beyond the Iron Curtain.
In 1991,AC/DC, Metallica, Mötley Crue, and Queensryche performed a joint concert here. But a year later, Guns N’ Roses also visited the country and they did not miss singing a Hungarian folk song either. Axl Rose and his band and AC/DC are expected to do another run of touring in Europe next year or in 2021, and the new Puskás Arena can be appealing for them.
In the late ’90s, Michael Jackson also appeared on the stage at the Népstadion, and in the 2000s, Robbie Williams, Depeche Mode, Metallica, and the Rolling Stones also performed here. The last monumental production of recent years was Roger Waters’ The Wall.
With Puskás Arena’s recent completion, the capital city once again has a venue, which can accommodate more than 75,000 people for concerts, and with this, a new era of stadium- and superconcerts may start in the country.