Bands on the run: summer's top tours
BOSTON — A new millennium is about to begin. The times are changing.
Recently, the National Spelling Bee was telecast on ESPN2, home of the Extreme Sports.
Hillary Clinton now says she's a Yankee fan.
But in the world of pop music, it seems as if time has stood still: much of the song remains the same, at least during the dog days of summer, when bands hit the road.
While blasts from the past will hold center stage, many teen idols will tour to rock the Generation Xers, and, best of all, at cheaper ticket prices.
This summer is going to be like goulash, with something for everybody. Except for a few bands such as Pink Floyd, who always threaten to tour but rarely honor their word, pretty much every act in the business will join the concert caravan.
Cher's touring. OK?
But what really sets this summer apart from yester seasons is the large number of reunions. The rest seems familiar: rising ticket prices, lots of classic rock acts, Tony Bennett.
Here's a snapshot.
The most-hyped reunion is Bruce Springsteen and his E-Street Band. The all-American rock singer recently began his worldwide tour, reconciling with his former bandmates after a 10-year separation. Springsteen's concerts have pretty much sold out coast-to-coast, and promoters are now adding additional dates.
The J. Geils Band is back together after nearly two decades. Meanwhile, Blondie (after a 16-year separation) and Bad Company are also back on the boards after long stretches of inactivity. And the original Black Sabbath has reunited after 18 years.
A once-successful rock band reuniting has long been a lucrative trend in the concert industry. It's a trend that industry analysts attribute to the economic clout of baby boomers.
In that context, it's not surprising that "Mr. Tambourine" is pairing with "Mrs. Robinson" in the much ballyhooed doubleheader of folk legends Bob Dylan and Paul Simon. It's Simon's first tour since 1992, and their first together.
Meanwhile, the prices of tickets continue to rise. Springsteen is charging a top ticket price of $67.50, Cher $75, Dylan-Simon $115, and Whitney Houston $151, the most expensive of the lot. The concert industry expects gross receipts between Memorial Day and Labor Day to be around $1.3 billion, just about the same as last year.
Promoters also have booked a plethora of teen idols and 90s bands, who generally charge less than the golden oldie groups. Prominent among them are Dave Matthews Band, 'N Sync, Britney Spears, The Cranberries, Big Head Todd and the Monsters, Alanis Morissette, Brandy, Tyrese, Monica, and 98 Degrees.
Meanwhile, festivals, which raked in a big chuck of the box-office receipts a few years ago, seem to be going the way of stadium concerts: scaling back.
The Furthur Festival has pulled to the side of the road for the summer, and so has the H.O.R.D.E. Festival. Lollapalooza, the mother of all touring festivals, will not be seen this year after struggling to find a headliner.
However, Sarah McLachlan's all-female, all-day traveling festival, The Lilith Fair, will be around, but only for one last time. The Fair had two great summers, and fans will surely miss this eclectic cast. The Warped Tour is back, this time with Black Eyed Peas, Cypress Hill, and others.
One of the most hyped fests is the Guinness Fleadh with Elvis Costello, Hootie and the Blowfish, and the legendary Van Morrison.
The popular B.B. King Blues Festival features Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Tower of Power, and others.
The summer of '99 also marks the 30th anniversary of Woodstock, the granddaddy of rock festivals. The celebration, set for July 23-25 in Rome, N.Y., is expected to make the biggest splash of the summer. The lineup includes Aerosmith, Dave Matthews Band, Korn, Limp Bizkit, Metallica, Willie Nelson, and many more.
*An excellent Web site for tour information is www.pollstar.com