U2 Tour Set to Begin March 28 in San Diego
NASHVILLE (Billboard) – Irish rock band U2 is set to explode on the road at the end of March, just in time for a beleaguered concert industry desperate for a major buzz-generating tour.
The band will begin its worldwide Vertigo tour March 28 at the San Diego Sports Arena, Billboard has learned. Details will be provided in a Jan. 24 announcement. Tennessee rock band Kings of Leon will open the first leg.
Conservative estimates put the Vertigo tour’s gross potential at $225 million-$250 million from as many as 110 shows. U2’s Elevation tour in 2001 grossed $143 million from 113 shows worldwide, playing to more than 2.1 million fans.
The first U.S. leg will wrap in Boston in late May. The tour, in support of its latest release, “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb,” is routed to accommodate multiple shows in many markets.
History suggests quick sellouts. In 2001, U2 rang up six sellouts at Chicago’s United Center that grossed a combined $9.6 million. The band also notched four sellouts in 2001 at Boston’s FleetCenter ($5.6 million) and at Earls Court in London ($4.5 million). Two sellouts at Dublin’s Slane Castle drew 157,418 and took in $6.7 million.
Following two months of U.S. shows, the Vertigo tour will hit some 30 European stadiums, beginning June 10 in Brussels. The band will stay in Europe through mid-August, then return to North America for another run of 30 arena dates.
Ticket prices will average $90, with $49.50 at the low end and $165 at the high end. Last time out, the range was $45-$135.
As on the Elevation tour, the arena floor will be general admission for about 1,700 seats, depending on the building. And, again like Elevation, the tour will feature unique production elements.
“This tour will be not unlike the last production, in that the lowest- priced tickets will be on the floor,” said U2 manager Paul McGuinness. “The best seats are the cheapest, and we want people to get excited.”
STADIUMS VS. ARENAS
Stadium dates were not considered in the United States, partly because of higher U.S. ticket prices, said Arthur Fogel, president of the tour’s Toronto-based promoter The Next Adventure, a unit of Clear Channel Entertainment.
McGuinness said another factor was the lack of state-of-the-art arenas in Europe. “The arenas in America are just absolutely ideal for rock’n’roll,” he said. “I wish there was one in every city in Europe.”
On-sales for North American shows will begin Jan. 29 and a day earlier in Europe. Rather than putting all dates up at once, on-sales will be rolled out over a three-week period.
The tour will carry about 150 crew members and 18-19 trucks on the arena leg, though McGuinness kept details of the show close to the vest.
“Production will be different (from Elevation), but I’d rather it be a surprise on opening night,” McGuinness said. “We have always felt it was incumbent on the band to give value for money. We will have a very elaborate but seemingly simple and very stylish production, as before. Then when we go to Europe in the summer, the rules change completely, because what works in an arena doesn’t necessarily work in a stadium, so we have to rethink it completely.”
It is possible some shows will be available as downloads. “We’re exploring technology where it might be possible to download the show you’ve just seen,” McGuinness said. “We’ve been talking to iTunes and the folks at Apple, with whom we have a great relationship, but it’s not quite there yet. We’re certainly looking at it.”
A DVD is also likely, according to McGuinness. “We always do that, but that will come toward the latter end of the tour.”
At one point the tour was scheduled to begin March 1 in Miami, but it flipped coasts and was pushed back three weeks. Despite published reports speculating that the tour might be severely delayed or even canceled because of a family illness, Fogel contended concerns were strictly related to routing.
“At a point in time we had to reorganize the tour, but we did it and now we’re ready to go,” Fogel said. “There were logistical issues to resolve.”
Even though last year was brutal for some on the concert trail, McGuinness was confident in U2’s ticket-selling ability.
“Nobody’s bulletproof, but I’m not worried about the ticket sales at all,” he says. “The U2 audience knows that we do great shows, and they are one of the greatest live acts in history. And they’re touring on their biggest-ever album. Simply because of the size of the world and the number of places where they’re popular, it’s impossible not to underplay.”
“How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb,” released in late November, has sold 2.26 million units in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. “Aha Shake Heartbreak,” the new set from Kings of Leon, already out in Europe, is due Feb. 22 in the United States.
U2 Tour Set to Begin March 28 in San Diego