Arena rock (sometimes stadium rock, anthem rock, or corporate rock) is rock music that uses large arena venues, particularly sports venues, for concerts or series of concerts linked in tours. Historically, arena rock bands have often come from the hard rock, heavy metal and progressive rock genres, using a more commercially oriented and radio-friendly sound, with highly-produced music that includes both hard rock numbers and power ballads, both often employing anthemic choruses.
The origins of arena rock were in the 1960s, sometimes dated to when The Beatles played Shea Stadium in New York in 1965. Also important was the success of the large pop and rock festivals like Monterey (1967) and Woodstock (1969) and the use of large stadiums for American tours by bands including The Rolling Stones, Grand Funk Railroad and Led Zeppelin. The tendency developed in the mid-1970s as the increased power of amplification and sound systems allowed the use of larger and larger venues. Smoke, fireworks and sophisticated lighting shows became staples of arena rock performances. It has been argued that the rise of arena rock marked the end of the idealism of the 1960s, particularly in the disillusionment that followed the Altamont Free Concert of 1969, for a more commercial form of rock. Key acts included Journey, REO Speedwagon, Foreigner, Styx, Kiss, Peter Frampton, Boston and Queen.
The use of commercial sponsorship for the large-scale tours and concerts of this era began to lead to the music being branded, usually pejoratively, as corporate rock. The commercialism, and "overblown" spectacle of stadium rock has been seen as promoting a number of reactions, including the pub rock and punk rock movements in the 1970s. In the 1980s, arena rock became dominated by glam metal bands, following the lead of Aerosmith and including Mötley Crüe, Quiet Riot, W.A.S.P. and Ratt. Their popularity was challenged by the alternative rock bands who began to breakthrough to the mainstream, particularly after the success of Nirvana, from the early 1990s.
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