When it comes to summer fun, there’s really nothing better than enjoying a star performer at an outdoor concert on a beautiful holiday weekend.
And if Sunday night was any indication, the new Mystic Lake Casino amphitheater should have a successful inaugural season.
Kicking off the eight-concert outdoor series, Jason Mraz wowed the crowd with his pitch-perfect vocals, immense charm and always entertaining banter. Playing a mix of favorites (“Lucky” to “I’m Yours”) and new renditions of old standbys (like a jazzy, mellow version of “The Remedy”), Mraz entertained the crowd of roughly 6,000 for more than two hours, kicking off a truly seamless first season.
This was not my first Jason Mraz concert, nor will it be my last. The great thing about a performer of this caliber is just that — it can be your first time or your 30th, and you will always walk away entertained. I truly believe that half of the enjoyment comes from his smoother-than-smooth vocals (he even busted out some opera) while the other half is thanks to his beyond engaging personality. Between his hilarious intros (“This is a song”) to his crowd interaction (“That woman just yelled she’s going to follow me home. Security?”) Mraz is a true entertainer.
Perhaps it was the quality of the performer but it seemed like the perfect recipe for the amphitheater’s introduction.
The temporary stadium seats — think blue Metrodome seating but portable — were mostly workable for the amphitheater grounds. At times, the 8,000-plus seating seemed a bit unbalanced — and yes, if your neighbor started swaying to the music, you were forced to, as well — but for an outdoor concert, they sure beat concrete benches or steel bleachers.
Still, I recall these seats being described as “tiered” and while there was a portion of the seating that was more bleacher-style, most of the chairs are parked on the even-leveled grass. And sure, after awhile they can get a bit uncomfortable but who’s really sitting the whole time during a concert?
The concessions area was a plus — plenty of room for guests, no lines and really reasonable prices for beverages and a few snacks. There’s an ATM right on site for those cashless concert goers, though you probably don’t need much. A bottle of soda or a water will cost you just $2 with hot dogs selling for a buck more. There’s definitely room for growth when it comes to the food options at the concessions stand but for now, it gets the job done.
One thing you’ll definitely notice (and perhaps miss) is the lack of alcohol at the venue. Alcoholic beverages of any kind are banned from all Mystic Lake premises, with no exceptions at the new amphitheater. It’ll be interesting to see how the fans of certain bands deal with that but for Mraz, I barely noticed. (However, I did notice, and was thankful for, the lack of obnoxious drunks, especially when a performer like Mraz brings in a crowd from age 3 to age 63.)
The bathrooms, well, port-a-potties, weren’t half bad either — nothing like day three at certain country music festivals. There were plenty available and even staff on hand to make sure they were kept up to par.
Speaking of the staff, the employees on hand for the first concert really helped to make the experience successful — everyone was very welcoming, wished everyone a safe drive home at night and there were more than enough people to help show fans to their seats.
All in all, the new venue can benefit from a few improvements but for its inaugural show, it worked quite well. Mystic Lake officials said after this first season they’ll make a more complete list of what worked and what didn’t then decide on a more permanent setting. Until then, the outdoor atmosphere can’t be beat and thanks to performers like Mr. Mraz, the crowd seemed to love every minute.