Shorter shows?

L. Bird pkeets at
Sun Aug 29 16:12:01 CDT 2004

Here's a contribution to the "shorter shows" discussion courtesy of 
Relayers.  As we previously noted, Who are holding the line on two hour 
shows, but (after getting one at MSG in 2000) avoiding the fine for longer 

Music fans feeling shortchanged by ever-shorter live concerts
By Ricardo Baca
Denver Post Pop Music Critic

Sunday, August 29, 2004 -

Bob and Bernadine Perez love live music. But they left the Paramount
Theatre on June 25 fuming after spending $158 (plus service charges) to
see R&B legend Al Green, a singer with more than 30 albums, play for
only an hour.

"I was really upset," said Bob Perez, who lives in Northglenn. "When you
see a person like Al Green and you know his catalog and you only hear
six or eight songs, it leaves your mouth open."

Long gone are the days of Bruce Springsteen and his legendary four-hour
sets. The nationwide norm today is right around 90 minutes - down from
about two hours a decade ago - and many popular rock and pop acts are
playing even less.

Madonna, queen of a dozen albums and countless Top 40 hits, played an
hour and 40 minutes on her recent U.S. tour. The average ticket price:
$174.17. Garage rockers The Strokes, touring in support of their
sophomore record "Room on Fire," played a 55-minute set at the Fillmore
Auditorium for a $25 ticket. Josh Groban has only two records out, but
he's playing longer gigs than both Madonna and The Strokes.

It's not just the fans who are noticing. Even the promoter of last
year's k.d. lang show at the Denver Botanic Gardens was taken aback when
the singer left the stage after 60 minutes.

"One hour out of that artist is not enough," said Doug Kauffman, an
owner of Nobody in Particular Presents, which books the annual concert
series at the gardens. "Most bands contract for 75 to 90 minutes. Arena
(headlining sets) should be 90 minutes, minimum. But yeah, not a lot of
people play for two hours anymore."

Jesse Morreale, another owner of NIPP who resigned in January, said fans
were constantly complaining to NIPP that bands' sets are "too short, and
only getting shorter. And ... tickets are only getting more expensive."

Morreale said much has changed in the years he's spent in the business.

"There's less magic about concert events lately, and maybe it's that way
for the artists as well," Morreale said. "(For the artists) it's less
about the art of the performance, and it's more about the business."

Fans want the return of 2-hour sets

Frank Black is concerned with both the art and the business. The Pixies
frontman takes the music seriously, especially after a dozen years of
not playing it. But he's also quick to say the cash flowing in from the
current Pixies reunion tour, stopping at Magness Arena on Sept. 30, is
also pretty great, too.

For their $39 tickets, fans will hear 80 minutes from the seminal '90s
group - no more, no less, Black said.

"People aren't really coming to hear us play the very questionable
B-side," Black said matter-of-factly, arguing that his fans only want
the hits.

Most Pixies fans will disagree with Black. They want two-hour sets, like
those recently played by Eric Clapton, Metallica, David Bowie and Simon
& Garfunkel. In the last week alone, Gloria Estefan and Prince have
played sets in Denver that surpassed the two-hour mark.

"Two hours, and you got your money's worth," said Barry Fey, for many
years one of the country's top concert promoters, recalling his decades
in the business. "If you've spent two hours with Mick (Jagger) and Keith
(Richards), you're doing pretty good."

"The artist isn't feeling the vibe"

In the '80s and '90s, two hours was the norm for an arena headliner, Fey
said. But now Cher has to use countless video montages just to fill up
her 120 minutes. And as big rock shows have gotten shorter, the ticket
prices have gotten higher. They jumped 13 percent from July 2003 to July
2004, according to figures released by Pollstar, a magazine tracking the
touring industry. At the same time, the number of tickets sold declined.

David Byrne is playing about two hours on his current tour, which has
four Colorado stops Sept. 3-6, and he's not having a problem selling
tickets. But the singer also said: "If it is a super incredible show,
then who cares if it was only an hour long?"

Annie Lennox, who will open for Sting in a tour that stops at the Pepsi
Center on Sept. 21, was equally defensive of musicians.

"Every time it's a free-fall jump," Lennox said. "If people only knew
the work that we do as live performers and our crews and musicians and
the enormous amount of effort that goes into these tours."

But NIPP's Kauffman makes the contrary point: "When you go through all
that trouble and you're touring the country, there's really no excuse to
only play for an hour if you're the headliner of a big show."

Clear Channel Entertainment's Don Strasburg said the time an artist
plays is fluid.

"Sometimes the artist isn't feeling the vibe from the audience,"
Strasburg said. "I remember when Gregory Isaacs played the Fox Theatre
(in Boulder) and he's notorious for short shows, and we had him at a
75-minute set and he walked off after 48 minutes. I went to the dressing
room and told him he had to get back onstage or else there would be some

Conversely, Strasburg points out that the Dave Matthews Band was feeling
the vibe at a July 2001 concert at Folsom Field - so much so they went
15 minutes past the venue's 10:30 curfew. The fine: $15,000. The end
product: the epic live disc and DVD "Live at Folsom Field - Boulder,

Despite the feelings of fans like Bob and Bernadine Perez, the promoter
of the Al Green show said they should be happy the singer performed for
an hour.

Green is "legendary for playing the same 65 minutes that he did that
night," said Jim McCue of House of Blues Concerts. "That's his show. And
it's great."

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