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2012 Concert Tour Preview: Who Rules The Road?

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Barely a week into the new year, and 2012 is already shaping up to be a potentially huge one for the concert industry. Step aside Lady Gaga, because it looks like classic rock and legacy bands are going to rule the road in 2012. Among the biggest tickets already confirmed for an arena near you sometime in 2012, are the Van Halen reunion and a long awaited Radiohead tour.

Bruce Springsteen’s first American shows with the E Street Band since the death of longtime right-hand man, Clarence “The Big Man” Clemons, are also expected to be announced any minute now.

Ditto that for dates reuniting the Beach Boys with creative genius Brian Wilson. A 50th Anniversary reunion tour from the Rolling Stones — including former Stones Bill Wyman and Mick Taylor, according to some reports — is also heavily rumored for 2012.

Figure in the other tours expected to do big business this year — including Coldplay, Roger Waters performing The Wall, and a possible Madonna run following her Super Bowl warmup — and all the ingredients for a record breaking concert season appear to be in place. But of course, there are also the inevitable intangibles.

With the economy still reeling, and so many big names to choose from this year, the question of ticket prices becomes a larger one than ever. So far, Coldplay and Radiohead have kept their top seats at about $100. or less, and Springsteen has traditionally held his prices at about the same level.

The Stones on the other hand have never shied away from charging the big bucks for their stadium extravaganzas. It’s hard to imagine things will be any different for the much bigger deal of an anniversary run — especially one that’s been teasing the return of a few names from the band’s legendary past. The Stones are also said to be eyeing arenas, rather than stadiums this time around, which could mean even higher prices.

The Beach Boys reunion with Wilson is probably the biggest question mark though.

While Brian Wilson has mainly toured solo in theaters and small halls, the Mike Love/Al Jardine led version of the Beach Boys has been a staple on the oldies circuit for years, performing mainly at county fairs and the like.

Both acts have also drawn significantly different crowds. The Beach Boys draw a more conservative group of oldies fans who just want to hear the hits, while Wilson’s audience are just as likely to come out expecting something like SMiLE or Pet Sounds, as they are “Surfin’ USA” and “Barbara Ann.” Fortunately for fans, both have kept ticket prices low. It will be interesting to see if they continue to do so on the reunion tour.

Here is what we know (so far at least), about some of this year’s biggest concert tours:

Van Halen:

The reunion of Van Halen “Mach One” with original vocalist “Diamond” David Lee Roth kicks off February 18 at Louisville, Kentucky’s KFC Yum! Center, and wraps up on June 26 in New Orleans.

Tickets for the first shows will go on sale January 14. Roth joins Eddie and Alex Van Halen, along with Wolfgang Van Halen on bass (replacing Michael Anthony, which has angered some fans). Fans of the latter, “Sam Halen” version of VH featuring Sammy Hagar, will likewise be disappointed.

Opening the shows is Kool & The Gang, the original seventies/eighties funk band responsible for hits like “Jungle Boogie” and “Let’s Celebrate” — a choice which is bound to leave some longtime VH fans scratching their heads. Van Halen will also release a new album (with Roth) called A Different Kind Of Truth, through Interscope Records on February 7. If a warm-up date at New York’s Cafe Wha! club was any indication, the band looks to be in top form and fans can expect to hear all the hits of the Roth era, from “You Really Got Me” to “Jump!”. A complete list of tour dates can be found here.


Radiohead’s three week American arena tour supporting last year’s The King Of Limbs album, gets underway with stops in Miami and Tampa at the end of February, and continues through March 15 with a date at Glendale, Arizona’s Jobing.com Arena.

Most of the shows are already sold out.

From there, Thom Yorke and company will be in Europe for most of the summer. Since their current itinerary leaves the rest of fall wide open — and nothing at all has yet been announced for the West Coast — it is almost certain that more dates will be added. In addition to The King Of Limbs album, Radiohead will likely be trying out some new, unreleased material as well. You’ll find the complete schedule posted at Radiohead.com.

Bruce Springsteen And The E Street Band:

Since the original announcement of a 2012 E Street Band album and tour back in November, all we really know at this point is that Springsteen will be spending a lot of time in Europe this summer.

Beyond that initial burst of news, the Springsteen camp has remained frustratingly silent about any American dates, fueling all kinds of thus far unsubstantiated rumors in the fan community.

The most common story is that Springsteen will do a string of U.S. dates this spring, and his keynote address gig at this year’s South By Southwest conference in Austin seems to back this scenario. However, with March fast approaching, and still no word, that window is also closing fast. There has likewise been no word of a replacement yet to fill the very big shoes of a certain very Big Man. There has also been no release date set for Springsteen’s new album, which likely consists of sessions recorded last year with producer Ron Aniello, and has been described by Bob Seger as “really unusual” and “the best thing that he’s done in years.”

The most likely scenario for an American tour at this point looks to be a fall run, although I would love to be proved wrong and see a few, select stateside shows in March. The best place to check for any new info on Springsteen dates is Backstreets Magazine.

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About Glen Boyd

Glen Boyd is the author of Neil Young FAQ, released in May 2012 by Backbeat Books/Hal Leonard Publishing. He is a former BC Music Editor and current contributor, whose work has also appeared in SPIN, Ultimate Classic Rock, The Rocket, The Source and other publications. You can read more of Glen's work at the official Neil Young FAQ site. Follow Glen on Twitter and on Facebook.
  • Kool & the Gang will be fun as hell opening for VH. Those with limited tastes like can stay in parking lot drinking their Mickey’s Big Mouths. Radiohead is rumored as Coachella headliner. With those and the must-see 60th anniversary tours, not gonna bother with Bruce unless I get free tix.

  • I’ll be first in line for Bruce…but you already knew that.

    No Seattle date for Radiohead yet, and I’m too broke for Coachella.

    I think Kool & The Gang make the VH tour potentially a lot more interesting than it already was, and because of the contrast in styles, even more entertaining as a double bill.

    But I’ve already seen some dumb comments posted about it. For some people, its still the seventies, and disco still sucks I guess.


  • Damn! You know who I forgot here? Black Sabbath with Ozzy! I should be hearing from Paul Roy any second now….


  • Greg Barbrick

    Who the hell thought Kool And The Gang opening for VH was gonna fly? It does not take a genius to figure out that nobody is going to get revved up by “Celebrate” before hearing “Eruption.”

    The first VH album still stands as one of the greatest debuts in rock. Does anyone think that those fans who hated R&B or soul or disco are going to be there to celebrate the good times with K&TG?

    At the height of his powers, Stevie Wonder was booed off the Rolling Stone’s stage in 1972. Hell, I skipped Skid Row when they opened for Guns & Roses back in ’92 – because I didn’t give an S about them.

    And with all the excitement about 2012 looking great for the industry – let’s be real. VH (even with Roth) is not worth $100 to me, and that is for the “cheap seats”

    I think 12 months from now we will look back on these tours, and maybe understand that the real problem was that the pricing was unacceptable.

    We might well “blame” Steve Jobs for the end of record stores as we used to know them – but Irving Azoff’s greed has killed the concert industry.

  • Actually, Stevie was pretty great opening for the Stones in ’72. I was there, and believe me, no one booed. In fact, a lot of folks still say Stevie was better. Prince in ’81? Not so much. But it was a far different time.

    I’m not sure I completely understand the logic behind Kool & The Gand opening for VH either (5/5/12 at the T Dome by the way).

    But I do like the concept of a show not completely dictated by the separation of genres – kinda reminds me of 60’s shows like the one where Neil Young shared a bill with Miles Davis at the Fillmore. In a weird way, I think its healthy.

    As for the pricing? Yes. Completely unacceptable. The other stuff about Irving Azoff, the internet and what killed rock and roll dead?

    Fodder for another conversation entirely, and one which could take days at that.

    Great comment though, Greg.


  • Greg Barbrick

    “The other stuff about Irving Azoff, the internet and what killed rock and roll dead?” is another conversation, but we both know that Azoff has won his position by (metaphorically) charging $100 for every nickel.

    As far as Miles playing with Neil – Wow, huh? A pretty clear example of why Bill Graham is revered in some quarters – myself included.

    My real point is that pricing will have to come down for tix to sell.

  • Agreed. Especially in the post Bush era depression, that is likely going to cost Obama re-election, now that the nuts have been sorted and Romney is likely to be the GOP nominee (as I’ve predicted all along).

    We could go any number of places with this discussion, and I am quite sure we will do exactly that when we get together — soon, I hope — for our usual, post holiday thing.

    But right now, dude, I’m going to bed. Wake me up this afternoon…LOL.


  • Steve

    I have been looking forward to the new Van Halen album and tour ever since the rumors began about the new album. Cannot wait for the 10th when the first song is released. I think they sound better today in some ways then they did when they first came out on the scene.

  • You can have front of the line. He should wait a year because his going back out again will barely be a blip beyond the old diehards. Sabbath and Ozzy were together at OzzFest. Not such a big deal, unless their album is great.

    “nobody is going to get revved up by ‘Celebrate’ before hearing ‘Eruption’.”


    What cheap seats are you looking at? With fees, $65ish is most of the few venues on Ticketmaster. And don’t blame Azoff. Blame Glen and people like him who pay those prices. When I think tickets are too high, I don’t buy it. I don’t complain on the Internet and then still go to the show.

  • Yes, by all means blame Glen. Wouldn’t be the first time, and it won’t be last.

  • Bicho,

    If you’re referring to Neil Young — who I have criticized in the past for charging high ticket prices — I actually did sit out his Twisted Road tour last time around, for that very reason. I couldn’t afford it.

    But when I can afford the price of a ticket, I’ll buy it and hold my nose. By purchasing that ticket, I also feel that affords me the right to criticize the high prices. Call it part of the price of admission.

    Most of this years big tours appear to be reasonably priced though, at least by today’s standards. But I also think Greg is absolutely correct. If the Stones end up charging hundreds of dollars as usual for their big deal anniversary tour, I think they might be in for a rude awakening at the box office.

    The marketplace has changed, because nearly everybody is broke these days.


  • “By purchasing that ticket, I also feel that affords me the right to criticize the high prices.”

    If that makes you feel better, but it doesn’t because by purchasing the high-priced ticket, you are part of the reason the tickets are so expensive.

    Is a musician or promoter supposed to care that some guy is complaining on the Internet when the venue is sold out? Please explain what the is incentive to cut prices? There’s no more seats to sell so the argument that it’s too expensive falls on deaf ears. Cutting 20% won’t sell more tickets when there are no more to sell.

    Why not show some real gonads and Occupy Benaroya Hall the next time Neil shows up with outrageous prices?

    And if you think the knuckleheads who spend $200 on a regular show won’t pay even higher for a reunion of Wyman and Taylor in the band, you have to be kidding.

  • If the Stones tickets are overpriced, I won’t be going, even with Taylor and Wyman back in the fold. I’ve seen the Stones enough times with both of those guys, back in their prime on the ’72 and ’75 tours, to last me a lifetime. If the younger folks who never were able to witness that wanna’ shell out $300. to see them, then more power to them.

    The last time I went to a Stones concert, back in the 90s, I thought they were basically parodying themselves and wasn’t terribly impressed. Video I’ve seen from more recent tours has done little to convince me otherwise.


  • Greg Barbrick


    I commend you on mentioning Benaroya Hall as one of the fines spots to see a show in Seattle. Well done.

    I bring up Azoff because he is a smart businessman. Somebody is getting $500 to $1000+ per ticket, and those dollars are not going to the artist.

    But old fart that I am, there is no way I am willing to pay over $50 to see any band – even if John and George rose from the dead and played The Cavern with Paul, and Pete Best.

    It is my own tiny boycott – and as irrelevant as I am certain it is, that is my story.

    And I am sticking to it.

  • Maybe we’ll get that long awaited Buffalo Springfield tour that keeps getting postponed?!

    yeah, right…

  • Greg, half the credit goes to Pearl Jam. Never heard of the venue before their live album

  • Rooster

    Can t Waite true stones fan and willing to pay the buck also taking the kids there fans as well they had a good upbringing

  • Radiohead just added some West Coast dates — including Seattle! — as a warmup to their Coachella headlining gig.