Pop stars take to the road

Summer circuit heats up as top performers head out on tour

Like baseball, live music is a summer sport. And both run concurrently. So, if the Chicago Cubs and Fatboy Slim are both competing for your precious dollars, make sure you sit down with two things.

A newspaper, to pick from a deluge of choices.

And plastic, to pay for your picks.

Indeed, this summer's concerts are as prolific as Barry Bonds home runs.

"The industry is pushing so many acts that it is overcrowded; there are more [bands] touring than the public can reasonably support," says Gary Bongiovanni, editor in chief of Pollstar, the leading concert-industry magazine.

From now until Labor Day, it's going to be bumper-to-bumper: Madonna, 'N Sync, Sade, Jimmy Buffett, Ozzfest, The Dave Matthews Band, Eric Clapton, Destiny's Child, Paul Simon, Janet Jackson, and Brooks & Dunn. U2 is winding up its North American tour today, but they plan to return in the fall.

From country music to action-packed day-long festivals to aging rockers and youthful performers with pretty faces, a variety of bands will hit the road.

But will it be a box-office bonanza? Over the past few years, the concert industry has seen good times. Last year's take was $1.7 billion - nearly 15 percent higher than 1999's record-breaking $1.5 billion.

The pop concert industry has long had a reputation of being recession-proof. "There's a good deal of truth to it," says Mr. Bongiovanni. But he warns that ticket prices have gone up so substantially that the downbeat mood of the economy could affect the bottom line. Tickets range from $20 to Madonna's top ticket price of $250.

No one act or theme dominates this summer. No Pink Floyd. No Woodstock or Lilith Fair. Yet the season does offer one of the most diverse lineups in recent memory. Many veteran acts will be on the road, including Janet Jackson, Aerosmith, Depeche Mode, Tom Petty, and Madonna, who's returning for her first full tour since 1992.

The Dave Matthews Band is an outing hailed by many as a summer tradition, and one that commands enough loyal fans to fill stadiums.

Hot teen acts like 'N Sync, The Backstreet Boys, and the R&B group Destiny's Child will serve the ever-expanding 'tween and teen markets.

The 2001 Vans Warped Tour offers the best bang for the buck: A full day of music for a measly $27.50. And the lineup is mind-boggling: more than 20 bands including Rancid, the Vandals, Pennywise, Rollins Band, and rapper Kool Keith.

Then there are the staples of the summer: The Allman Brothers, Jimmy Buffet, and Rod Stewart have built a base of fiercely loyal fans.

"There really isn't anything that's surprising this year," Bongiovanni says. With too many bands on the road, "some will be overwhelmed by the traffic" and will lose out financially.

Coming to a stage near you

When it comes to popular music shows this summer, every night will be Saturday night. At Pollstar.com, a website that tracks the concert industry, the numbers say it all: "Now showing: 51,882 events, 6,742 artists." Here's a tiny sample:

Madonna's The Drowned World Tour The Material Girl is rocking Berlin this week. Her US leg begins July 7 in Portland, Ore., and ends Oct. 13 in Denver.

www.madonnamusic.com

The Dave Matthews Band 2001 Tour

The No. 1 act last year ($68 million); the 2001 tour ends Aug. 28 in Salt Lake City. www.dmband.com

James Taylor's Pull Over Tour

Still a troubadour, next weekend he has Boston on his mind. Last show Aug. 4 in Chicago.

www.jamestaylor.com

Janet Jackson All For You Tour 2001

Begins 56-city trek July 5 in Vancouver, Canada; ends Oct. 13 in Denver.

www.janet-jackson.com

Aerosmith's Just Push Play

Two shows next week in Mansfield, Mass; ends Sept. 23 in West Palm Beach, Fla.

www.aerosmith.com

'N Sync's Popodyssey Stadium Tour

Performs tonight in Cleveland. Wraps up in Madison Square Garden in New York Sept. 7.

www.nsync.com

Rod Stewart's Human Tour

Forty-two city tour ends Sept. 15 in Columbus, Ohio.

www.rodstewartlive.com

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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