- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Laugh if you must. It has been decades now since arena rock dinosaurs such as Journey, Styx and REO Speedwagon were cool.

On second thought, they weren’t cool then either.

But with the money they were making, you think they cared? Correction: The money they are making.

Journey, Styx and REO Speedwagon — three relics from rock’s mid-‘70s Dark Ages — are risen from their cut-out bins and on the road together as “Classic Rock’s Main Event Tour.”

And guess what? They have the 12th ranked concert tour in the country — ahead of critical darlings Coldplay, MTV princess Avril Lavigne and country superstar Alan Jackson.

The tour, which stops in at the MCI Center tonight, began in May and was supposed to wrap this month, but strong business prompted its extension into August.

The triple-header concert is grossing an average of $394,742.82 per city, according to the Associated Press. Those figures put it far ahead of the much-hyped Lollapalooza tour, which returned this summer after a five-year hiatus with festival creator Perry Farrell and his Jane’s Addiction in tow.

Lollapalooza stops at the Nissan Pavilion at Stone Ridge in Bristow, Va., on Aug. 1. That tour seems to offer plenty of bang for the proverbial buck, featuring Jane’s Addiction, Audioslave, Incubus, Jurassic 5, Queens of the Stone Age and the Donnas. Lollapalooza, however, is discovering on its 30-city tour that pent-up demand can be overrated.

Lollapalooza’s backers canceled Saturday’s concert in upstate New York, citing rising production costs. That likely means they weren’t selling enough tickets. The New York concert’s venue sold only about 4,000 tickets, according to E! Online. The same venue hosted 20,000 when the Dead played there last month.

Lollapalooza’s first planned show in Ionia, Mich., was canceled due to poor ticket sales and staging issues. The subsequent first tour stop at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Noblesville, Ind., only filled half the available seats, according to E! Online. Other venues have reported healthier attendance figures.

Clear Channel, the promoter for Nissan Pavilion, does not reveal ticket sales figures.

Meanwhile, “Classic Rock’s Main Event” has added dates, despite changes in band personnel that may surprise some of their mullet-headed faithful.

Journey features a new lead singer, Steve Augeri, who both looks and sounds eerily like original front man Steve Perry. Styx is touring without Dennis DeYoung, co-lead vocalist and keyboardist. Lawrence Gowan is filling in for him. Also missing are brothers Chuck and John Panozzo, the latter having passed away in 1996.

REO Speedwagon rolls on without guitarist and co-songwriter Gary Richrath.

No matter. The tour is packing them in.

These throwbacks may not have had an original musical idea since shag-carpeted vans cruised the highways, but they give the audience exactly what it wants.

They play all their hits, no questions asked.

Some alternative acts cannot be bothered to do that, because they have outgrown the old crowd-pleasers, they have evolved. They’re artists, see, and they don’t need to look outside themselves for creative guidance.

The dinosaurs, however, cannot afford to alienate their audience, because they cannot rely on a friendly rock press to keep them in the public eye.

Whether it’s “Come Sail Away,” “Keep on Loving You” or “Any Way You Want It,” currently on the “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle” soundtrack, the classic rock staples to be heard tonight might be kitsch to some, but to fans, they are the soundtracks to their youth. And for $65 a ticket in a soft economy, those fans expect more than a body-piercing booth and a mosh pit. They expect to revisit their youth.

Maybe there’s a lesson here for alternative rockers, something such as: Don’t believe your press, and don’t forget the fans. It’s not about you; it’s about them.


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