WITH CONCERTS DOWN, WINNING ACTS PUMP IT UP
September 15, 2010
The shows succeeding in this challenging concert-biz climate are the ones with lots of theatrical punch.

Excerpted from article by Brad Wheeler

Fast-forward to 2010, and we see ... the costumed Kiss bringing high theatrics to arenas and amphitheatres - upping the ante boldly in the middle of a music-industry downturn.

"Nobody wants to go to the grocery store and plunk down their hard-earned dollars, and walk out with an empty sack," says Kiss front man Paul Stanley. "If you're going to pay money to see a band, you should at least see something." Stanley, the preening, grease-painted shout-it-out-louder, talked recently about spectacle and rock 'n' shows - the kind of high-wattage extravaganzas his band is known for.

Last week, Kiss brought its expensively produced tour to Toronto's Molson Canadian Amphitheatre, where a full house fanned themselves in the face of hotter-than-hell dramatics and fire-breathing. Asked about the slumping concert business, Stanley expresses disbelief. "You wouldn't know it from the 14,000 fans at our show last night," he deadpans, "and you wouldn't know it from the 15,000 tonight."

Indeed, while the summer of 2010 was the season of the tour-industry meltdown, Kiss, Roger Waters and other bombastic barnstormers are still burning up the road.

"I'm a great believer that if acts want to be a live act, they've got to deliver," says Riley O'Connor, chairman of Live Nation Canada, the country's dominant concert promoter. "If you want the adulation of the audience, you've got to give, before you can take."

Tours that suffered cancelled dates this summer included the Eagles and Lilith Fair - shows with steep ticket prices, but little in the way of production or presentation. "It's not a matter of people expecting spectacle," says Stanley. "But you shouldn't pay for spectacle and get simplicity."

Seats aren't cheap for Lady Gaga ($66 to $191.50) or The Wall ($69.75 to $264.75), but the prices would seem to be evenhanded given the high production costs involved. "I think it is completely fair that, if someone shows up with a guitar and a stool, they should be paid less than somebody who shows up with enough of an arsenal to take out a third-world country," reasons Stanley, whose band charges Kiss Army members a reasonable $35.25 to $139.75 to rock 'n' roll all night.

Pop spectacle and high-wire rock are having their way in 2010, but the notion of fair value is nothing new. "The wave of the future is the same as the law of the past," says Stanley, whose bang for the buck includes explosions of gun powder. "People want their money's worth. It's no big secret."