Those '70s shows

Friday, May 30, 2003

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Norah Jones won eight Grammies and sold six million copies of her debut album, "Come Away With Me." But don't expect to see her performing live at the nation's biggest concert venues.

That honor is reserved for a slew of 1970s acts like Fleetwood Mac and The Eagles. While new artists like Jones, 24, dominate the airwaves and sell millions of albums, the old folks are cleaning up at the box office.

Last summer, five of the top 10 grossing tours were artists that came of age in the '70s, including Billy Joel and Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, Aerosmith, Neil Diamond and The Eagles. Three others were acts that debuted in the '60s: Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, and Cher. Creed and The Dave Matthews Band rounded out the top 10.

"Not everyone likes hip-hop, just like not everyone likes heavy metal or whatever else," said Rick Nielsen, the ballcap-wearing lead guitarist for Cheap Trick, whose 30th anniversary is next year. "Why do you still listen to Beatles stuff? It's just good stuff. Jimi Hendrix sells more records now than when he was alive."

Peter Frampton, whose 1976 concert album "Frampton Comes Alive" has sold more than 16 million copies, said fans of '70s rock still want to see their heroes live.

"There's more of us at this age group," he said. "We are the baby boomers, and our audience has followed us all the way through. It's also because there was a lot of good music in the '70s. Those bands were good then, and they're still good now."

Jones' manager, Steve Macklam, agrees that '70s bands have a much easier time at the box office than newcomers.

"Most of the newer acts haven't had a chance to develop a following," he said. "The business these days, with its desire to turn a profit as quickly as possible, doesn't allow for the development of a fan base."

With classic rock bands, he said, "You have a mom and dad and sister and brother that bring the whole family. It's a safe ticket. You know what you're getting."

Also, fans of '70s bands are now in their 40s and 50s, and can afford high-priced concert tickets, while newer acts have younger fans with less money to spend. That means promoters make more money with older bands, no matter what size the venue.

"The older acts draw largely older audiences with disposable income that are willing to pay a premium price for the best seats," said Gary Bongiovanni, editor of Pollstar, the concert industry trade publication.

"We're talking about the baby boomer generation, which is the first generation to grow up on rock 'n' roll, and as they got older, they kept their musical tastes the same."

Bongiovanni predicted the top tours this summer would include Fleetwood Mac, Springsteen, and the Aerosmith-Kiss and Elton John-Billy Joel double bills.

Other '70s acts touring this summer include Boston, Steely Dan, Heart, Meat Loaf, James Taylor, Chicago, Jackson Browne, ZZ Top, Ted Nugent, Sammy Hagar, David Lee Roth, and Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers.

Ringo Starr once observed that "It Don't Come Easy." It won't come cheap, either.

Tickets for The Eagles at Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall, capacity 13,800, top out at $200, and Fleetwood Mac is charging $150 for their concert there. The best tickets for Elton John's show at The Arie Crown Theater in Chicago, capacity 4,249, go for $250. And Kiss is offering a "platinum package" this summer that includes one ticket in the first five rows, some concert trinkets and a backstage photo with the band -- for a staggering $1,000.

Meanwhile, Jones was scheduled to play the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, which has 7,000 seats plus an open-admission lawn, instead of the 20,000-seat Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford.

Her show in St. Louis July 15 at the Fox Theatre is sold out. Ticket prices ranged from $29.50 to $49.50.

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