Now Reading
Most Extravagant and Elaborate Concert Stages in Music History

Most Extravagant and Elaborate Concert Stages in Music History

Warning: Undefined property: stdClass::$error in /home/u135931481/domains/ on line 71

Warning: Undefined property: stdClass::$error in /home/u135931481/domains/ on line 71

There’s no greater joy than watching your favourite artist perform live amid fan chants and crowds swaying to the music. Concerts leave an indelible memory and are among the greatest lived experiences one can witness. Fans are ready to pay an arm and a leg to watch their beloved musicians perform, and these artists return the favour by putting on lavish shows equipped with elaborate scenography and immersive lighting. Case in point: Pop phenomenon Taylor Swift, whose record-breaking Eras tour is known for its extravagant set designs and sophisticated special effects. As we await the resumption of her tour on May 9 in Paris, we look at the most expensive concert stages and set designs of all time.

Recent times have seen artists like Taylor Swift and Beyoncé step up as game changers in designing concert tours on massive scales. The towering success of the Eras and Renaissance tours are great examples of how concert sets and stages can be brilliantly crafted. Apart from the musicians themselves, much of the credit for these large-scale events also goes to the production designers who help create iconic stage moments via props and set designs.

Before diving into the most lavish concert stages and sets of all time, let’s first take a closer look at the spectacular scenography of Swift’s Eras Tour.

All about Taylor Swift’s Eras tour set design

Taylor Swift Eras tour set design
Taylor Swift’s Eras tour concert stage celebrates her musical journey through the years. (Image: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images)

It’s no easy feat to capture in one evening, the amazing musical journey of Taylor Swift. While the singer takes on the challenge with a 44-song setlist, her production team supports her in elevating it. The result is a magical experience as Swifties celebrate each era and also notice the subtle easter eggs she drops as tiny nods to her previous albums and music videos on stage. The creative genius behind this is Swift’s creative director and production designer Ethan Tobman. Given his past work with her on the music videos of Cardigan, Anti-Hero and The Man, it’s no surprise that Tobman was chosen for the big job.

From the pink hues of the Lover era to the moss-laden piano in the magical otherworld of Folklore, the Eras tour stage design goes through drastic changes within the span of three hours. One can even compare it to a live movie set of sorts. In some portions, graphics work their magic while others have physical set pieces that transport fans to Swift’s world. Reportedly, a team of an estimated 90 trucks arrives at each venue to construct the elaborate stage elements. The timeline for the pre-building of these sets is roughly two to three weeks.

Eras tour concert stage elements

The most challenging aspects include the wooden cabin that is created during Swift’s performance of the Folklore section. During her performance of Tolerate It, there’s also a dinner table setup which requires every element to be just right for the singer to perform. Then there are the performances of Look What You Made Me Do where her backup dancers perform in doll boxes dressed in outfits inspired by her past looks, and the corporate office setup as she sings The Man where the stage design elements are the highlight.

Taylor Swift eras tour stage
Taylor Swift’s Eras tour concert stage was designed by Ethan Tobman. (Taylor Hill/Getty Images)

The concept of stage-diving also gets an all-new meaning in the Eras tour as Swift plunges into a trapdoor and appears to swim through the stage in a magical moment.

While the cost of the stage design is unknown, it has been estimated to be over USD 100 million. In an interview with the New York Post, Billboard’s Senior Director of Live Music and Touring Dave Brooks claimed it’s going to be one of the most expensive tours ever. Swift recently completed its Asian leg and will now head to Europe. It is set to wrap up in Canada in December 2024. After the tour’s final wrap, there may be more clarity on the exact budget of the concert stage setup and if predictions seem right, it may take the top spot. In the meantime, here’s a look at other musicians and bands with the most expensive concert stages ever.

A look at the most expensive concert stages ever

U2’s 360° Tour – The story behind the iconic stage design of  ‘The Claw’

Most expensive concert stages U2
U2 created history with their innovative concert stage for the 360° Tour. (Image: U2fanmm/X)

One of the most popular concert tours in music history was undertaken by the Irish rock band U2 comprising 110 shows across various stadiums from 2009 through 2011. The tour commenced in 2009 in Barcelona, Spain, and concluded on 30 July 2011 in Moncton, New Brunswick. During this worldwide tour, the band performed twice in Europe and North America, while also making stops in South America, Africa, and Australia. One of the major highlights of this tour was its astonishing stage design. The rock group surprised everyone with their unique setup as they played on a circular stage while the audience surrounded them on all sides, and of course named their tour 360°.

The stage configuration included a large four-legged structure popularly known as “The Claw.” Each leg consisted of an in-built sound system and a cylindrical video screen at the top, designed with a truly unique vision. The steel structure was built at an unbelievable height of 164 feet (50 metres) and reportedly weighed 200 tonnes. Given its heavy structure, it required 120 trucks to transport the three sets that were constructed to support the tour. This unique design was the brainchild of British architect Mark Fisher in collaboration with creative director Willie Williams who worked with the band on every tour. Several fans who attended the tour have this iconic stage etched in their memories.

The astonishing cost of assembling this stage for every tour was estimated to be between USD 23 and USD 31 million. Without a supportive crew, this feat would have been unachievable and nearly 300 workers helped prep the stage. The unforgettable fan experience that U2 provided at this stage was the result of a massive budget of a whopping USD 750,000 a day. The amount of resources spent on stage design did not go to waste given that it was successfully repurposed years after the tour ended. Currently, the famed structure has been installed as a permanent art installation at Utah’s Living Planet Aquarium.

Beyoncé’s Renaissance tour set with futuristic elements

Most expensive concert stages Beyonce
Beyonce’s futuristic vibe for the Renaissance tour stage was an eyecatcher. (Image: Beyonce/Instagram)

Beyoncé’s Renaissance world tour left a lasting impression on fans and it was not only the singer’s genius performances but also the impressive production of the show. Es Delvin, the creative mind behind the stage design for the singer’s tour revealed in an Instagram post that the incredible tour set was a result of an extensive two-year worth of planning to turn Beyoncé’s music into art. From sketches to live-sized elements, the translation of Delvin’s ideas into stage design was a daunting task.

The crew that helped script the perfect narrative for the Renaissance tour included Ed Burke and Andrew Makadsi from Beyoncé’s Parkwood team. They curated the mesmerising perforated LED sculpture that turned into a kinetic painting made of light. Tobias Rylander’s expertise in lighting was also a crucial element for the show. Among the stage design’s key structures was the stadium-size green screen, with a circular stage portal at the center.

The concert stage included eye-catching props such as the disco-ball-sparkly horse, on which Queen Bey sat atop and lifted off from the main stage while performing the Summer Renaissance ballad. And the large chrome tank vehicle which appeared when she performed her remix of Megan Thee Stallion’s Savage. The futuristic and intergalactic props combined with LED displays and metallic hues transformed the stage with otherworldly vibes and it required a big budget. In fact, just the giant robotic arms that appear on stage during the intro of Cozy reportedly cost USD 100,000 each.

An estimated 89 trucks and 18 crew buses were required to set up for Beyoncé’s Renaissance Tour at the Bank of America Stadium and the designing took up to five days. While the specifics of the budget are unknown, Forbes claimed that it was the singer’s biggest-budget touring set. A Reddit thread also claimed that the production value of the tour could be pegged at USD 150 million.

The staggering cost of Madonna’s Sticky and Sweet Tour concert stage

Madonna most expensive concert stages
Madonna’s Sticky and Sweet tour was a massive success and was among the highest-grossing record for a female solo artist. (Image: Stefan M. Prager/Getty Images)

When the Queen of Pop went on tour between 2008 and 2009, Madonna made sure to give her fans a performance that was full of glamour and one that truly lived up to her image. The Sticky and Sweet tour was one of her most successful tours during which she performed 85 shows. It also became one of her highest-grossing tours raking in USD 408.6 million. Described as a “dancetastic journey”, the concert saw Madonna bring her musical A-game. To deliver a spectacle for her fans, she appeared on stage on an M-shaped throne for her performance of Candy Shop. 

Apart from multiple outfit changes that reflected the pop diva’s signature style, the tour’s stage setup also captured her spirit for theatrics and glitzy elements. The dazzling stage was designed to leave the fans awestruck and featured two massive structures with her initial ‘M.’ They were embroidered with Swarovski crystals and cost a whopping USD 2 million each. Another visual highlight of the concert was also the two cylindrical stealth screens that descended from the ceiling for the performances of Beat Goes On and Devil Wouldn’t Recognize You. To add more drama, one of her stage entries also involved her appearing in a Rolls Royce.

With all its props and the glamorous set design changes, the production value of each show was reportedly USD 2 million. Considering all the logistics, the tour was estimated to be USD 261 million as per The Richest.

Lady Gaga’s shape-shifting stage for Joanne world tour

Lady Gaga Joanne tour
Lady Gaga’s Joanne tour concert stage was among her most creative and expensive ones. (Image: Joanne World Tour/Instagram)

While Lady Gaga performed 98 shows for her Born This Way Ball tour in 2013 which reportedly cost USD 1 million per set up, it was her Joanne world tour in 2017 that elevated her concert stage antics to the next level. The concert became the fifth highest-grossing tour by a female solo artist and saw Gaga wow her fans with an eclectic stage design. With the help of her creative director LeRoy Bennett and production manager Robert “Hydro” Mullin, the singer performed on a unique shape-shifting stage during the tour.

The main stage of the tour featured three automated lifts for scenic props and five wave lifts for performers with the backdrop of LED video panels. Creating a spellbinding atmosphere, three inflatable lighting pods with video projection displays hung nearly 60 feet above the audience. Apart from Gaga’s glamorous outfits, the tour also saw her perform with a custom-built, heart-shaped piano which shot beams of vibrant colours from its 44 lasers as she played each note. The innovative creative vision of the stage added allure to Gaga’s stunning vocals and campy outfits.

The Joanne world tour set has been named by fans as one of the most complex sets of Lady Gaga’s concerts and while the expense of it is unknown, reports suggest that it crossed over a million per set-up and is a worthy addition to the list of most expensive concert stages ever.

Roger Waters’ The Wall tour

There are many reasons why this 2010 tour was a remarkable one and one of them is because it marked the first time the Pink Floyd album – The Wall was performed in its entirety by the band or any of its former members since 1990. It was singer-songwriter Roger Waters who undertook this worldwide tour from 2010 to 2013. The iconic concert managed to become the highest-grossing tour for a solo musician in 2013, beating Madonna who previously held the record. Celebrating the music of Pink Floyd and also the values that they stood for, the tour featured several props and theatrical elements that raised its production costs to staggering values.

Featuring a giant video screen that served as a medium for storytelling all through the performances, The Wall live tour was deemed by several fans as a visually enticing theatrical performance. Sending out an anti-war message through props and special effects, the political commentary of the show was its main highlight.

The elaborate stage elements used by Waters included an inflatable pig costing USD 16 million that was released into the audience while In the Flesh played. Under the creative vision of Mark Fisher, the tour’s other props including a pink doll cost up to USD 2 million. As per reports, prep for the set-up of the concert stage for each location cost approximately USD 10 million, making it one of the most expensive set designs for a concert. In 2014, the musician also released a concert film capturing the whole experience.

The Rolling Stones’ Steel Wheels and Urban Jungle tour

Most expensive concert stages
The Rolling Stones performed on a jaw-droppingly creative stage in their 1990 tour. (Image: Experience Rolling Stones)

Pushing the boundaries of stage designing, The Rolling Stones were among the first bands to experiment with set designs and were unafraid to go big and bold with props. For their Steel Wheels tour in 1989 that kicked off in the US, the band expanded their scale and creativity in every way. Mark Fisher was appointed as the set designer to create an apocalyptic world with urban decay and a fluorescent jungle as the theme. At the time, it was the largest touring stage ever built and required a crew of over 200 people to assemble the stage as well as 150 workers to prep the extra elements.

See Also

Speaking about the jaw-dropping nature of the set design, Mick Jagger had said, “I would hate to come out with something that’s not startling.”

For the European leg of the tour though, the band had to make newer adjustments to their set designs due to smaller European stadiums and while doing so, they also took up a new name, calling it the Urban Jungle tour. In 1990, the Urban Jungle set cost an astonishing USD 40 million. Not only that, the concerts also had an added expense of USD 40,000 worth of fireworks for each finale night. The concert stage took nearly four days to build and at all points during the tour, one was under construction and the other in use.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

– What is the most expensive concert stage?

Irish rock band U2’s concert stage for their 360 our has been known to be the most expensive concert stage ever which required USD 23-31 million per set up.

– What is the most expensive concert ticket ever sold?

The ticket for the Led Zeppelin – Ahmet Ertegun tribute concert was priced at a whopping USD 84, 000 per person.

– How much does Taylor Swift make per concert?

According to Forbes, with each stop on the Eras Tour, Taylor Swift is personally earning between USD 10 million and USD 13 million.

– What is the largest concert in history?

Rod Stewart’s New Year’s Eve performance at Copacabana Beach in 1994 holds the world record for the largest concert ever with reportedly more than  4.2 million in attendance.

Source: Prestige Online

View Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Copyright © MetaMedia™ Capital Inc, All right reserved

Scroll To Top