LOS ANGELES (CelebrityAccess) As more and more musical artists look at debuting the biggest new fancy arenas, CelebrityAccess took a look at the older buildings and how they can still be more than just a little cool for tours.
There’s no stopping to new arenas opening up with big announcements. The Forum in Inglewood, Calif., with its intimate relationship with Irving Azoff, launched with a series of Eagles dates that included a giant, spinning album on its roof. There’s The Killers opening up the T-Mobile in its home town of Las Vegas or Paul McCartney breaking the tape on the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento.
On and on. And on.
But what of the older buildings? It turns out they play a significant factor in the bottom line of major companies like promoters Live Nation and AEG and facility managers like SMG. Many acts travel through these facilities – meaning more than 20 years old – for several reasons.
One, many find them cool.. They love the history. Two, there is a simplicity to them. Three, promoters love the staffs. Four, and this one is a little debatable: When it comes to GA floors, old buildings are easier to accommodate these shows because they are built above ground. In other words, newer buildings build their floors underground, and fire marshals need to recognize that the floor audience needs to leave through stairs or elevators versus just walking out through some doors.
Jim McCue, senior VP at facility manager SMG, didn’t agree with that as the deciding factor for why bands would play older buildings. SMG handles everything from Fresno’s ancient Selland Arena to the US Bank Stadium that handled the recent Super Bowl.
“There was a brilliant job we had last year with our friend Joey Lee at WME who took Thomas Rhett out on his first headline tour,” McCue told CelebrityAccess. “For various reasons it ended up in our not-brand-new buildings. It was a really intelligent way to get a guy to prove his headliner status. It was a smash in places like Saginaw and Knoxville. It was just a great strategy for me who’s been around a long time to watch an agent break an act big time and and to play a little role in that.
“And I think those buildings work really well for hard rock ‘n’ roll bands,” he added. “They don’t want to be in shiny new places. And we do have shiny new places like where they played the Super Bowl a couple weeks ago. We’ve got those too. But a band like Avenged Sevenfold, which Chris Moore took coming off of stadium shows (as the opening act for Metallica) that played in Minneapolis.”
Meanwhile, many of the newer arenas don’t necessarily equal coolness. There has been criticism against the Barclays Center in the Brooklyn borough of New York because it wasn’t designed to bring the audience close to the Islanders hockey team (and there has been very public attempts to find the team another home).
“A lot of time the older buildings just have two levels and you’re not dealing with the issues of suites,” McCue said. “Not in all cases but many. I think for a promoter’s standpoint that makes life a little easier. They’re easier to staff. If you draw the analogy of airplanes, an old plane has first class and coach. Newer airplanes have first class, business class, economy plus and coach. New arenas have different stratas and club levels. Old arenas have first class and coach. Maybe just coach!”
Elliott Lefko, famed promoter for Goldenvoice, recently brought Eagles Of Death Metal and Queens of the Stone Age through some older buildings and had his own thoughts on why this is so.
“I work in a lot of older arenas and there’s a lot more flexibility,” Lefko said. “Sometimes you can have a larger GA floor and the bands that I work with love that. Sometimes the costs are lower, especially for groups where you have to watch your ticket price. Having lower costs really help them achieve what they’re looking for and it makes it a little easier for me.
“When you do a tour, there are going to be some markets that are stronger than others whether the band’s from there or they have more radio airplay so I think you have to mix and match. Sometimes you need the ‘big building in town’ and other times you can kind of go and get another building that isn’t working that much, where there is another arena in town that’s kind of been forgotten. It’s kind of nice to go into that building because it’s a young audience. They just want to see the band; the band just wants to put on a good show. It’s OK to play the forgotten room.”
He stressed that acts from the Killers to the Foo Fighters just plain love the older buildings.
“It’s always fun to go to an old historic building, that may have hosted Broadway,” he said. “I see some cities like L.A. or Minneapolis don’t tear down their old theatres. When you’re able to put a band into a place that has a lot of history and you look up and see the architecture from the ’20s, man, there’s nothing like that, both for the fans and the band..”