Powerful spotlights illuminated a fresh coat of red paint, stately Roman-style columns and a renewed sense of possibility as concert-goers filed into the grand opening of the newly renovated Forum in Inglewood.
"It's awesome," Leslie Yamamoto, 30, and sister Kristy, 23, said almost in unison. They'd come from Lomita with their parents Wednesday night to see the Eagles open a six-night run. "We used to come here as kids," Leslie said. "A lot of memories are coming back."
Home of the Southland's top concerts and sporting events for more than three decades, the Forum lost its luster, its resident teams and most of its revenue when Staples Center opened downtown in 1999.
But despite Staples' modern accouterments, many fans have knocked it as being too cavernous for live music, and the luxury boxes around the perimeter push people in the cheap seats far away from the action onstage.
Now Madison Square Garden Co. is putting a refurbished Forum back in the Southland concert business, marketing it as a more music-friendly alternative to the multi-purpose Staples.
How would it sound? That was the big question on concert-goers' minds Wednesday night, and their verdicts came in early.
"The sound is perfect — you can hear everything," said Sandy Ochoa, 46, of La Habra Heights.
Indeed, the sound during the three-hour Eagles performance was finely detailed, ideally balanced among the many instruments and singers' voices.
Music wafted through the 17,500-capacity arena with sonic nuances rarely heard in buildings this size — the crisp crunch of percussive shakers, the melodic thump of conga drums, even the sound of guitarists' fingers slipping across the metal strings of their instruments.
The warmth of the Eagles' signature harmonies benefited from a full-bodied sound that captured the clarity of Glenn Frey's tenor and the dusky edginess of Don Henley's raspy Texas drawl.
Still, there were a few opening-night glitches.
Just like in the old days, lines for concessions and women's restrooms were long during intermission, despite the addition of new facilities. And the wait for food and drinks generated some grousing, as did a limited selection of standard-offering beers at most beverage stations.
Patrons had to make their way to the Caesar's Palace concessions stand on the arena level to find a broader range of offerings.
"This is an improvement?" one short-tempered man said as he stood at the back of a line, waiting to place a food order. He counted 10 employees behind the counter, but only one person working the register. "This is supposed to be the fabulous new Forum, isn't it? Can't you get another cashier working?" he asked. A second cashier soon began taking orders.
Visually, the action onstage was relayed on two massive video screens flanking the stage, plus a third screen behind the stage that came into play in the show's second half. The video signal to the third screen, however, was slightly delayed compared with the other two, creating a minor disconnect between the pulse of the live music and the images being projected behind the band.
On the positive side, the Forum's cracked parking lot is now paved smooth and its faded blue color has been covered over with an eye-catching red — a return to the venue's original color.
Beyond bringing another live-music venue into play, MSG has revitalized an iconic Southern California venue that, along with Madison Square Garden Arena, was instrumental in developing the whole genre of what came to be known in the '70s and ever since as "arena rock."