This summer, get ready to travel back in time. Although there have been package tours featuring ’80s artists for years, the upcoming summer concert season marks a notable increase. Promoters say the acts’ multigenerational appeal, strong catalog of hits and, perhaps most important, reasonable ticket prices are propelling the upswing.
As previously reported, the eighth annual Rock Never Stops tour, scheduled to hit 2,500- to 5,000-seat theaters in at least 40 cities starting in June, will feature Cinderella, Ratt, Quiet Riot and Firehouse.
Also in June, Def Leppard and Bryan Adams are launching a 26-date co-headlining tour of minor league ballparks.
“When we started eight years ago, this style of rock’n’roll was niche. There weren’t a lot of people banging our doors down,” says Mark Hyman, a partner at Paradise Artists, creator of the Rock Never Stops tour. “The fans used to be embarrassed to come; they didn’t want people to know they love the music. With Motley Crue out there packing them in, that tells you that this music has once again arrived.”
So-called “hair bands” and other rockers from the 1980s are rising in popularity on the touring circuit because their initial fans continue to go to concerts.
The 2003 edition of Rock Never Stops, with Whitesnake, Warrant, Kip Winger and Slaughter, grossed about $1.1 million and attracted nearly 85,000 people for 24 dates, according to Billboard Boxscore. Full results were not reported for the tour’s 2004 outing.
Fans are now bringing their children to these shows, and a new generation is developing strong connections to these acts.
“These bands are the new classic rock of the current era,” says John Domagall, manager of Firehouse at Artists Representation & Management and a former promoter for Rock Never Stops. “The people that really listen to those ’70s artists aren’t going to as many concerts. The demo for the ’80s stuff are mostly in their 30s and 40s, and they are warmly receiving these acts. I’ve also got 12-year-olds wanting to see Motley Crue and Lynyrd Skynyrd so bad.”
The shows themselves are also more theatrical, and perceived to be a good deal by consumers. Tickets for Rock Never Stops range from $35 to $45. Def Leppard/Adams has a base price of $45. Tim Heyne, Cinderella’s manager at Union Entertainment Group, notes, “We will have pyro and other special things for Rock Never Stops. You’re going to get a lot of pop for your dollar.”
At each Def Leppard/Adams stop, a stage will be built on the field, and fans can sit in the outfield or in the stands. “Everybody wants to play Madison Square Garden, but there’s a point when you want to do something that’s a little different,” Def Leppard lead singer Joe Elliott offers. The band’s two-disc set “Rock of Ages: The Definitive Collection” (Mercury/UME) will be released May 17.
Elliott says that although Def Leppard has generally toured alone, pairing with Adams makes sense and is even a way to draw in new fans. “A Bon Jovi or a Bryan Adams is what people would perceive is a right fit for us,” he says. “We’re comfortable accepting the way people think.”