Laborde was previously with rival Live Nation for 15 years and takes up the newly-created role of VP, promoting division
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The CEO has overseen a revamp of operations at the company, which is celebrating the long-awaited reopening of The Halls Wolverhampton
By James Hanley on 02 Jun 2023
Steve Homer has given IQ an insight into his plans for the next phase of AEG Presents UK after overseeing a revamp of operations at the firm.
Homer took sole charge of the company’s London office following the departure of former co-CEO Toby Leighton-Pope at the start of 2022. Since last autumn, AEG has made a string of significant hirings including Chris Wareing and Paris Harding from SJM, ex-Live Nation veteran Lee Laborde, Lucy Noble from the Royal Albert Hall and Georgie Donnelly as its first head of comedy, as well as announcing a handful of other new appointments.
Speaking to IQ, Homer says he expects the influence of the new arrivals will not be fully felt until next year.
“It takes a while to get going and settle in and I envisage that, by the autumn, we’ll probably start to be firing on near enough all cylinders,” he says. “So for shows going into ’24, I think that’s when we’ll see a significant change in how we’re performing. That’ll give us a good benchmark, so I’m looking forward to seeing what the autumn brings.”
Former National Arenas Association chair Noble, who joined AEG’s European senior leadership team in late 2022, has been tasked with overseeing content creation as well as the production of new events such as Christmas Classics with the Philharmonia Orchestra, which will take place at London’s Royal Festival Hall on 15 December.
“The aim was always to try and get someone of superstar status. That was always a hope, but it was never a guarantee”
“We’re branching out into other entertainment facets, so it’s exciting on that front,” says Homer. “We’re challenging ourselves a little bit in terms of [deviating from] our traditional core markets of entertainment.”
AEG is also basking in the glory of the successful relaunch of The Halls Wolverhampton, which reopened with a special show by Blur last Friday (26 May).
“It couldn’t get much better than Blur in terms of a big name to reopen a venue that’s close to a lot of people’s hearts,” enthuses Homer. “They’re doing warm-ups before their run of festivals and then stadiums in London, so it was great to have them as the first act and it was a great show. The aim was always to try and get someone bigger than the venue – someone of superstar status, as it were. That was always a hope, but it was never a guarantee.
“We’d decided the first day we were going to be open was 1 June, so we started to look at who was available and who was around. So when Blur said they were looking at doing some warm-up shows, but it would have to be at the end of May rather than beginning of June, you suddenly start going, ‘I don’t care if the paint is still wet, I’m going to open it,’ because when you get an opportunity like that, you have to take it. Luckily, all the paint was dry and the bars were open, so it was a great one to have.”
“We’ve got 24 shows from now until the second week of July, mostly in The Civic, and the autumn is looking pretty solid”
Formerly the Wolverhampton Civic Halls, the West Midlands venue – which comprises the 3,404-cap The Civic at The Halls Wolverhampton and 1,289-cap The Wulfrun at The Halls Wolverhampton – had been closed since 2015 while it underwent a multi-million-pound regeneration project in partnership with the City of Wolverhampton Council.
AEG agreed a 25-year deal with the council to run the complex back in 2019, with Crissie Rushton, who has worked with the venue for more than two decades in various capacities, installed as GM back in March. Concerts by McFly, Sugababes and The Vamps also form part of its opening lineup, with acts such as Seal, James, Future Islands, Royal Blood, Babymetal and Suede slated to visit before the end of the year.
“We’ve got 24 shows from now until the second week of July, mostly in The Civic, and the autumn is looking pretty solid,” he says. “We didn’t open the diary much before December ’22, so a number of tours were already in place for the end of this year. But we’re seeing good usage from all the national promoters, some local promoters as well. There’s a real spread of acts coming in on a weekly basis so we’re feeling pretty confident.
“It never had [its own] sound and lighting before – people used to have to bring it in – so we’ve added another element to it. And there is another balcony which has taken the capacity up to the same as Manchester Apollo for standing shows, so it fits into that theatre level.”
“It was interesting talking to some of my American bosses and trying to explain where Wolverhampton was”
For Wolverhampton native Homer, the venue also has a particular resonance as the site of his first concert – The Clash in 1978.
“The first ever gig I went to was there, and I’ve promoted a load of shows there,” he says. “It’s one of my favourite venues anyway, so when the opportunity came up to have it in our portfolio of venues I just said to everyone, ‘We have to go for this. This is a great room.'”
He continues: “It was interesting talking to some of my American bosses and trying to explain where Wolverhampton was and sharing some of the history but there’s a real appetite for mid-sized venues within the company anyway, so once they understood where it was and how it fitted into the history of venues in the UK, it became easy to get them to agree to go forward. But it means a lot – as I jokingly say, but only half jokingly, it gives me a better parking space near the football ground as well, which is not untrue!”
The Halls Wolverhampton joins AEG’s global network of more than 350 owned, operated and affiliated venues. In the UK, these include the Eventim Apollo London, Indigo at The O2 in London and the new live music venue at Olympia London set to open in 2024. It will also manage the 2,000-cap Watford Colosseum when it reopens that same year.
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