When Foo Fighters‘ Dave Grohl too a spill two songs into a Foo Fighters show on June 12 at Ullevi Stadium in Gothenburg, Sweden, dislocating his angle and “snapping my fibula like an old pair of take out chopsticks” in the process (as he put it in a letter to fans), he was remarkably able to finish the show. But the band was forced to cancel the remainder of its European tour, costing the band as much as $10 million in lost fees and travel expenses not offset by box office revenue.
But the real pain will come if the Foos are forced to cancel all or part of their upcoming North American tour, scheduled to begin July 4 in Washington, D.C. While no word indicates that the tour is in jeopardy, the band’s handlers also gave Billboard a “no comment” to a direct question of whether the tour will begin as scheduled.
Grohl himself was typically flip in his letter to fans, referencing a similar stage (non-injury) fall by fellow guitarist Edge of U2 on that band’s current tour. Grohl’s “mad dash” to stage right sent him “feet first over the Edge (pun intended)” for a 12-foot drop that caused the injury. That was one expensive “whoopsie daisy,” as Grohl called it in his letter. The Foos are a stadium-level band in Europe, commanding $1 million per show or more as a festival headliner and often bringing in more than that when headlining stadiums. In total, the band cancelled seven shows, beginning with Pinkpop on June 14 and including AFG Arena in Switzerland, a double at London’s Wembley Stadium, BT Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh, Festivalpark Werchter in Belgium and a coveted headlining slot at Glastonbury on June 26.
The Foos had been in the territory since May 24, when they played BBC Radio’s Big Weekend in Glasgow, and performed a half dozen shows across the U.K., Denmark and Germany prior to the fateful Ullevi show. The band’s gear that could not be duplicated locally would have been with them in Europe, and deposits would have been paid on other sound, lights and production, and the tour likely had trucks on hold across the country at significant expense, some of which won’t be recoupable. And the band’s own equipment must be chartered back stateside at considerable cost, as much as $200,000, an expense they would have incurred anyway but would have been mitigated by actually playing the dates. Another expense that looms large in situations such as these are salaries, per diems, and hotels for scores of crew and tour associates, again, not balanced against the revenues coming in. Also on the line are sizeable marketing and PR expenses, and the un-recoupable labor hours of shutting an overseas tour down mid-stride.
Potentially, the millions of dollars in marketing, travel, transportation, and other expenses, as well as any foregone profits, might be covered by “contingency” insurance — or perhaps not. The final impact on the bottom line depends largely upon the level of insurance carried by vested parties. In order to be covered, the cancellation must be for a reason beyond the control of the insured, and the artist must be unable to perform for that reason. A shattered fibula for the band’s most prominent member would certainly seem to qualify. If the Foos’ insurance is comprehensive, the band could come through this virtually unscathed, at least financially. Manager John Silva and agent Don Muller of William Morris Endeavor Entertainment both declined to comment for this story.
Now the question becomes what happens next. The Foo Fighters are scheduled to begin a 28-date North American tour on July 4 with a 20th anniversary megashow at Washington D.C.’s RFK Stadium, an extravagant all-day affair with a bill that boasts Buddy Guy, Gary Clark Jr., Heart, Joan Jett, LL Cool J, and Trombone Shorty. Then the Foos were scheduled to begin a run of amphitheaters and stadiums that includes doubles in Toronto, at Citi Field in New York, and Boston’s Fenway Park, all of which would generate grosses of over $1 million. The band is scheduled play America through October, and then are booked to wrap the year in Euro arenas. Again, while there has been no indication that these shows won’t come off, the band’s handlers did not confirm by press time that the tour would happen as scheduled.
Grohl himself seems unwilling to forego long term health for immediate rock ‘n roll gain, and was vague about when he will again perform. “I need to make sure we have YEARS of gigs ahead of us,” he wrote in his letter to fans. “I will do everything I can to come back and give you a night to remember for the rest of your lives AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.”
An edited version of this article first appeared in the July 4 issue of Billboard.