Show Me Center ready to kick off a month of big-name acts

Friday, June 1, 2007

Ticket sales are well below sell-out level for all three acts.

The Show Me Center will kick off a big month when award-winning country artists Martina McBride and Little Big Town play the venue Thursday night. The concert will be the first of three taking the stage at the center this June -- a sharp contrast to recent summers when concert offerings were slim.

In addition to McBride's Thursday concert, L.A.-based rock band Tool will perform June 16 followed by outlaw country legend Merle Haggard June 26.

But so far fans have only given a lukewarm response in terms of ticket sales to all three acts. As of Wednesday McBride had sold about 3,100 seats, Tool had sold about 2,900 and Haggard had sold about 1,200, Show Me Center marketing director Shannon Buford said.

Those numbers are well below sell-out level, which for many shows is more than 5,000 seats, depending on the stage setup. With the release of an additional 500 tickets Wednesday for McBride's concert, a sellout for the country superstar will be even harder to achieve. Those tickets were released after the show's stage plan was finalized.

If McBride doesn't sell out, it seems unlikely to jeopardize the venue's chance of getting other big-name country artists to play in Cape Girardeau. Country shows have been a regular occurrence at the Show Me Center, even if some, like Sara Evans' recent concert, didn't sell well.

Tool is a different story. In the past few years the Show Me Center has seen a drought of modern, upper-echelon rock acts. Not to say there haven't been any -- Matchbox Twenty and Nickelback played separate shows at the venue in 2003 and 3 Doors Down performed in 2004. Since then the closest thing to rock 'n' roll to hit the venue was the rock-opera group Trans-Siberian Orchestra, which has played the Show Me Center every November since 2004.

Dozens of Tool fans spent hours in line waiting for tickets when they went on sale May 11, some because they were worried about a quick sellout, some as a show of solidarity. Among local rock music fans, the Tool concert is seen a chance to communicate the message that Cape Girardeau can support rock shows.

But that message may not be communicated if Tool's date doesn't sell out, said Scott Hartline. Hartline is program manager for Real Rock 99.3, the radio station presenting the concert and exclusively promoting the show on its airwaves.

In Hartline's opinion, a sellout is necessary, or other promoters shopping big rock tours won't look Cape Girardeau's way again.

"I think it definitely needs to sell out to make sure that we get any other quality rock acts in here," said Hartline.

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