Touring powerhouses bow out
In a string of announcements, two of the biggest names in global touring, along with several other veterans of the live scene, have revealed they are to quit touring.
Legendary crooner Neil Diamond – one of the best-selling artists in music history, and still a major live draw, placing no20 on Pollstar’s end-of-year top 100 in 2015, the year of his previous concert tour – announced his retirement on Tuesday after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
Commenting after the cancellation of a string of his 50th Anniversary tour dates in Australia and New Zealand, Diamond said: “My thanks goes out to my loyal and devoted audiences around the world. You will always have my appreciation for your support and encouragement.”
Alluding to his song ‘Sweet Caroline’, he added: “This ride has been ‘so good, so good, so good’, thanks to you.”
Diamond was followed yesterday by 70-year-old Sir Elton John, who announced at a press conference in New York that 2018–2021’s Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour, promoted by AEG Presents, would be his last.
“I’m very much looking forward to closing off that chapter of my life”
“I’ve had an amazing life, amazing career,” he said. “My priorities now are my children, my husband and my family and I’ve been touring since I was 17 with various bands, then as Elton John in 1969, and I thought the time was right to say thank you to all my friends around the world globally and then to say goodbye and just to have a breather.”
“After the tour finishes, I’m very much looking forward to closing off that chapter of my life by saying farewell to life on the road,” he added. “I need to dedicate more time to raising my children.”
The tour kicks off in Allentown, Pennsylvania, on 8 September, and will consist of 300 shows across five continents, visiting North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia, South America and Australasia.
Also bowing out are metal pioneers Slayer, who after 37 years are calling a day with a global farewell tour, and Spanish singer-songwriter legend Joaquín Sabina – while Canadian prog-rock heroes Rush have confirmed they quit touring in 2016 and have no plans to return to the road.
“It’s been a little over two years since Rush last toured,” guitarist Alex Lifeson explains to the Globe and Mail. “We have no plans to tour or record any more. We’re basically done. After 41 years, we felt it was enough.”
Irving Azoff, AEG in LA ‘booking war’
Irving Azoff has responded to reports of a bad-tempered Los Angeles ‘booking war’ between AEG and MSG Azoff Entertainment, saying the alleged offering of incentives to artists to play the rival companies’ respective venues is “good, tough business”.
Former Ticketmaster/Live Nation chairman Azoff (picture) issued the statement after Billboard reported that LA booking agents are being told by MSG Azoff – a joint venture between Azoff and the Madison Square Garden Company – their acts cannot play Madison Square Garden (in New York) unless they also play MSG’s the Forum in Inglewood, Los Angeles.
AEG is also alleged to be pushing artists to play its Staples Center venue or risk losing the chance to play at other AEG arenas, including The O2 in London and Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg.
After chiding AEG COO Jay Marciano, Staples Center president Lee Zeidman and WME’s Marc Geiger – whose client Neil Diamond had pulled out of playing the Staples Center after reportedly being told he could not also play Madison Square Garden, earning the ire of Marciano, who accused Geiger of “caving” to Azoff – for “hid[ing] behind anonymity”, Azoff suggests offering such deals to those who want to perform at the over-subscribed Garden simply makes business sense.
“While I realise that Phil may not be happy with Los Angeles being a competitive market, that’s the American way”
“They [AEG] offer huge rebates at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, London’s The O2 Arena, Germany’s Barclaycard Arena and a residency on the moon to secure an act to play Staples Center,” he tells Billboard. “They know, of course, that it is unlikely they will deliver the Staples date, but they work for a hard-nosed businessman [Phil Anschutz].
With regards to Madison Square Garden, he continues, “we have far fewer nights available than requests by artists to play there. And of course, the premium MSG nights are going to loyal friends of the company.
“Playing the Forum – the obviously better music venue in Los Angeles – makes you a friend of the company. I only wish we could accommodate everyone with dates in Manhattan, but it’s simple supply and demand. Besides, unlike London and Germany, there are now four arenas in the New York area, so if an act can’t play the Garden, they can go elsewhere.
Azoff is also co-founder, with ex-AEG CEO Tim Leiweke, of Oak View Group – which is bidding against AEG on Seattle’s KeyArena. He concludes: “While I realise that Phil may not be happy with Los Angeles being a competitive market, that’s the American way.”