Restrictions have eased and concerts are returning. Who’s coming, what will these shows look like, and will they still take place in the omicron era?
Pop stars and A-list toppers don’t sit in traffic. Nobody sees them as immobile people, patiently waiting to reach their destination. With access to personal assistants, drivers, helicopters and private jets, they don’t have to deal with the same things we plebs deal with on a daily basis.
But stuck in congestion is exactly where they are, says Paul Dainty, the veteran Australasian promoter responsible for bringing some of the world’s biggest bands to New Zealand. “There’s a dead end of artists trying to spin,” says the man who delivered Prince, Jerry Seinfeld, U2 and the Rolling Stones to a stage near you.
“All the artists in the world haven’t been on tour for two years. That’s how they make their living… there’s a traffic jam.
It will be music to the ears of local music fans who have largely been deprived of big stadium shows, music festivals and arena concerts since Covid-19 arrived in the country.
Among the effects of a fast-spreading virus: closed borders, closed places and restrictions on gathering. The impacts on an already strained industry are well documented: venues go bankrupt, artists leave to find more stable lines of work, and those behind the scenes leave and head for greener pastures.
Aside from a handful of missed MIQ spots scored for international acts, local artists have filled the billboards at shows and festivals over the past two years — when they’ve been allowed to.
All of that is about to change. Speaking shortly before Thursday’s traffic light changes which ended indoor gathering restrictions, Dainty told The Spinoff he had a long list of shows ready to be confirmed, all waiting for the green light from the government. “There’s a bunch of stuff,” he teased, “a long list of other acts we want to announce imminently.”
Dainty has already confirmed two stadium shows by reformed rockers Guns N’ Roses later this year, one gig originally scheduled for November 2021. “Everything is on track. Sounds good,” he says. Axl and Slash’s relationship remains strong and they are eager to move on. “The group is delighted to come here. They love it here. It will be good.
Other Dainty tours include Aussie comedian Celeste Barber, Postmodern Jukebox, 2 Cellos and comedian Chris Rock, who is due to perform his first shows here in August since Will Smith slapped and abused him at the awards ceremony. Oscars live. “He’s taken it to another level,” Dainty says, knowing he likely has a sale on his hands.
Now that gathering restrictions have been lifted, he can also announce new dates for two sold-out Kings of Leon shows, postponed indefinitely from their original date in March, the peak of the omicron outbreak in New York. -Zealand.
But Dainty is just a promoter bringing artists to New Zealand. Things really kick off in July when over a dozen Splendor in the Grass artists play side shows in New Zealand for Live Nation, including Tyler, The Creator, Jack Harlow, Maxo Kream, Tierra Whack, Wet Leg and Liam Gallagher.
Further on, major pop stars Billie Eilish, Dua Lipa and Justin Bieber are set to return, along with a fully rescheduled Lorde Tour and performances from Alanis Morissette, Tame Impala, The Killers, Backstreet Boys and Tash Sultana. Coldplay has teased a series of shows at Australasian stadiums, but has yet to confirm dates. (The Foo Fighters have canceled their concerts in New Zealand following the tragic death of drummer Taylor Hawkins.)
Concerts are making a comeback, but is Dainty confident that his shows, and those of everyone else, will be allowed to continue? “I am,” he said. He points to the economic benefits of bringing international shows here and thinks it’s time to live on. “It’s boosting many sectors of the economy: international flights on Air New Zealand, hotels for days on end for 100 people, sound and light companies are hired, caterers are hired, rental companies cars are hired, mass labor is hired.
“A huge amount of money that we generate from these shows goes straight back into the New Zealand economy.”
The music industry last peaked in 2019, when headlines hit the headlines like “Summer of Boom” thanks to the large number of concerts, artists and festivals held across the country. This season has been called “the busiest summer I’ve ever seen, absolutely, hands down,” by one promotion veteran. It was a time when I felt like every other day another international artist was playing on a stage somewhere in the country.
It’s hard to remember moments like this after two years of lockdown and restrictions, but Dainty thinks we’ll get to it – in time. “I still think we’re in for another year before things really calm down, in 2024,” he says.
Some changes in the mood of the concerts could also be evident. Dainty believes mask use will remain prevalent, especially at indoor shows. And if you’ve noticed an increase in ticket prices lately, there’s a good reason for that: yes, that damn supply chain is to blame again. “International freight has gone crazy,” says Dainty. “The supply chain issues that kicked in, freight, sea and air costs…it had an impact.”
Dainty admits the past two years have been “difficult” and he’s had more free time than ever in his career. But after two years of closed borders and canceled shows, he’s happy to be back in business. “It went from relatively quiet to going crazy,” he says. “There is not enough time in the day to take care of everything.”