- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 28, 2009

NASHVILLE, Tenn.

If you missed some of your favorite ‘80s and ‘90s bands the first time around, there’s a good chance you can catch them on the reunion trail this summer. Reunions, packaging and pricing are key this year as artists and promoters try to fill seats in a soft economy.

No Doubt and Phish may be the most anticipated, but Blink-182, Creed, Jane’s Addiction and Fleetwood Mac also are back after breakups or long spells away.

Blink-182 singer Tom DeLonge says the California punk band is wiser than when it last toured in 2005.

“In the past, we seemed to get bigger every time out, and we didn’t care. We’d cancel shows or show up without rehearsing,” Mr. DeLonge said recently. “Now everyone is taking it very seriously.”

There’s no dearth of blockbuster choices this summer. Coldplay, Green Day, Dave Matthews, Keith Urban, the Jonas Brothers, Taylor Swift, Kid Rock, Rascal Flatts and AC/DC will be out. What may be the year’s biggest tour, of U2, cranks up in September.

The summer festivals also are hot tickets. Bruce Springsteen and Phish head Tennessee’s Bonnaroo in June. Bob Dylan, the Dead and Willie Nelson play Michigan’s Rothbury in July. Kings of Leon, Beastie Boys and Tool will be at Chicago’s Lollapalooza in August. Black Eyed Peas, Pearl Jam and Mr. Matthews top Outside Lands in San Francisco the same month.

A number of double and triple bills are making the rounds: Nine Inch Nails with Jane’s Addiction; Aerosmith with ZZ Top; Eric Clapton with Steve Winwood; Elton John with Billy Joel; Def Leppard with Poison and Cheap Trick; and Mr. Dylan with Mr. Nelson and John Mellencamp.

“I think the packaging is an outgrowth of the recession,” said Gary Bongiovanni, editor-in-chief of the concert-industry publication Pollstar. “You can lower the ticket prices some, but another way is stronger support acts or co-bills. You may have already seen Eric Clapton, but if he’s with Steve Winwood, it may be a reason to go see him again.”

Artists and promoters are extra sensitive about prices this year. Miss Swift, Mr. Urban, Blink-182, Nine Inch Nails and Crosby, Stills and Nash are all offering at least some tickets for about $20. Several others are starting prices at about $30.

Tickets for the Vans Warped Tour with Bad Religion and NOFX begin at $23, while the basement price for the Mayhem Festival with Marilyn Manson and Slayer is just $12.

Summer is the most important season for the concert industry. Even with the recession, 2009 is shaping up to be a good year.

“Normally, promoters are quick to cry when things are not going well, and we’re not hearing that,” Mr. Bongiovanni said.

Jason Garner, chief executive officer for global music for Live Nation, the world’s largest promoter, explains the industry’s resiliency by using a hypothetical Nickelback fan in Omaha.

That fan might put off an expensive vacation to Hawaii, Mr. Garner said, but he won’t miss that one-time show in Omaha.

“That Nickelback show … is the Kodak moment of that fan’s life,” he said.

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