U2’s tour de force leads concert industry rebound

Irish rockers U2 and their multimedia “Zoo TV” tour led a concert industry that rebounded in 1992 after hitting bottom the previous year, an industry newsletter reported yesterday.

U2’s 73-show tour of the United States grossed $ 67 million, making it by far the top concert moneymaker of 1992 and the third most successful tour on record, the newsletter Pollstar reported.

The Grateful Dead was second with $ 31.2 million. Guns N’ Roses and Metallica in a joint tour, Neil Diamond and Bruce Springsteen were the other biggest concert draws in 1992.

“It was a rebound–not necessarily a strong rebound–but a rebound that was very tricky,” said Ben Liss, executive director of the North American Concert Promoters Assn.

Ticket sales were up 21% over 1991, to about $ 1 billion, Pollstar said. But that was still below the 1990 level of $ 1.1 billion, said newsletter editor Gary Bongiovanni.

More popular acts on the road, ticket discounts and fans more comfortable at spending moneyaccounted for the improvement, the experts said.

Smarting from the recession in 1991, concert promoters angered several artists by releasing a list of the acts that cost them the most money. There’s no such loser list this year, at least in part because business is better, Liss said.

U2, touring in support of their successful “Achtung Baby” album, used a high-tech stage set that incorporated satellite television transmissions and multiple video screens for a spoof on the media’s impact on society.

“The presentation did not overwhelm the music but enhanced the music,” Liss said. “People responded very well to that.”

Only the Rolling Stones’ tour in 1989 and the New Kids on The Block tour of 1990 grossed more money than U2, Pollstar said.

The Grateful Dead would have taken in much more money if Jerry Garcia’s illness hadn’t forced the cancellation of a series of shows, Bongiovanni said.

Garth Brooks finished only 14th on Pollstar’s list with $ 18.5 million in ticket sales, but he played a lot of smaller cities and had fans camped out for tickets, Bongiovanni said.

“Brooks kept tickets priced at $ 18 and probably built up more goodwill among fans than a humble boy from Oklahoma will ever need,” he said.

Some of the biggest tours provided evidence that the concert industry hasn’t fully recovered from hard times. Genesis had a lot of open seats at several stadium shows and a promoter in Phoenix even offered two-for-one ticket promotions to get rid of Springsteen tickets, Bongiovanni said.

In pockets of the country, particularly Southern California after the Los Angeles riots, promoters had a tough time selling tickets, he said.

Promoters are optimistic for 1993, when tours are planned for Paul McCartney, Aerosmith, Sting, Bobby Brown, Bon Jovi, Van Halen, Robert Plant, Springsteen and Diamond.

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