Stars come out to aid T.O.
TORONTO — Sarah McLachlan, Avril Lavigne and the Barenaked Ladies will lend their popularity to a concert billed as “the music event of a lifetime,” as part of the ongoing effort to counter the taint of SARS.
Officials are hoping the star-studded show next month will restore the city’s reputation as a fun, safe place to visit and bring much-needed tourism dollars to the city.
“We want summer to start with a real bang, something that’s going to bring a lot of livelihood, rockin’ and poppin’ and all that,” Brian Coburn, Ontario’s minister of tourism, said Wednesday as he announced the June 21 show.
Six hours of music will be spread across two venues — SkyDome and the Air Canada Centre — to accommodate 70,000 people. Tickets, $29.50 and $19.50, go on sale Thursday at noon through Ticketmaster.
Other acts on the bill for the Concert For Toronto include the Tragically Hip, Swollen Members, Remy Shand, Glenn Lewis, Sum 41 and Our Lady Peace.
Officials said more performers will be added in the coming weeks. Neil Young and Shania Twain are among those rumoured to be considering participating in the show.
The two venues will be linked by video feed so that fans at one place can watch performances at the other. Performers will be spread out so no one is on the stage at the same time.
“It’s going to be a historic event. We’ve never presented two shows like this simultaneously,” said Shane Bourbonnais, senior vice-president of ClearChannel Entertainment, which is producing the show. “It’s going to be one long six-hour show that goes back and forth between both venues.”
The announcement comes after weeks of speculation that the Rolling Stones would headline a free “everybody loves Toronto” show at a large park north of the city.
Coburn said the Lavigne-McLachlan show was not the same project.
“There’s ongoing discussions (for the Stones show),” he said. “If something like that happens it’s one more big plus for us.”
Liberal MP Dennis Mills, who has been trying to organize the Stones show, has said private-sector backers are willing to offer up half of the $10 million cost to stage the event, but that government support was needed for the rest.
The concert announcement was made amid the ongoing battle to contain severe acute respiratory syndrome, which escalated late last week in the form of several clusters emanating from North York General Hospital. Thousands of people have been quarantined.
While officials recognize that the SARS outbreak is far from over, Coburn said a high-profile event is needed to demonstrate that Toronto is open for business.
“It’s to get people back up on top again, get the juices flowing,” Coburn said. “We believe it’s time to get on with some of these events, these celebrations to showcase Toronto.”
The province is pitching in $5.2 million for the show, and as previously announced, lifting the provincial sales tax on entertainment attractions and hotel accommodations, which lasts through to Sept. 30. The federal government has yet to contribute financially, Coburn said.
The concert will run from 3:30 to 9:30 p.m. Officials hope the crowd will then spread across the downtown core and spend money at restaurants and bars that have taken a huge financial hit ever since the SARS outbreak began in mid-March.
The concert industry has also suffered with many high-profile acts, including Elton John, Billy Joel and Lisa Marie Presley, cancelling trips and shows.
“We’ve lost over $600,000 during this period,” Bourbonnais said. “It’s our duty and our job to make sure we tell the artists of the world that Toronto is a safe place to come.”
To help promote the city and the event, Roots Canada will create a Concert For Toronto T-shirt, with a portion of proceeds going to SARS research.
“This concert has the possibility of being the single, greatest musical event in the history of Toronto,” said Don Green, one of the founders of the clothing company.
“It’s really going to show the world that Torontonians are not hibernating and they’re not hiding at home . . .they’re really coming out and enjoying this fine city that we live in.”
Stars come out to aid T.O.