As reunion tours rock out, money rolls in
Summer's slate is full of acts getting together again. It's a nostalgia trip for fans and bands.
LOS ANGELES - Your favorite '90s band broke up? Fear not, they'll be back.
Seventies and '80s bands, too. And if not this year, maybe next.
This summer's concert calendar boasts tours by reunited rockers and relics - Stone Temple Pilots (split in 2003) and New Kids on the Block (split in 1994) - and recently reenergized bands such as the B-52s, the Black Crowes, Mötley Crüe, and Yes. A round of reunion shows filled last summer's slate as well, with the Police, Led Zeppelin, Genesis and Van Halen playing their time-tested hits.
It seems that no matter how storied the split, almost every band is bound to get back together - and that could make the magic of an anticipated reunion a little less magical.
"If you can say it's a reunion of some sort, it does make it feel special and unique," said Michael Endelman, senior editor of Rolling Stone. "But some you hear and it's exciting, and some you hear and say, 'Didn't they just tour last summer?' "
The reunion-tour trend is inspired by money and the power of nostalgia, for both fans and artists, so don't expect a slowdown, Endelman said.
"To go back on stage in front of an adoring crowd and relive some of these great moments and play all these old songs of theirs, psychologically it must be very seductive and very powerful for them," he said. "Because it's become so profitable for so many bands, it's become very attractive, and it's bringing out a lot of bands to try that. . . . There's a lot of money to be made in cashing in on people's nostalgia for things they were excited about when they were teenagers."
Not all reunion tours are created equal. They must be examined on a band-by-band basis, said Erik Pedersen, music coordinator and news editor at the Hollywood Reporter. Some are really for the fans, some are really for the bands, and some are really for the money.
Stone Temple Pilots could hit all three. With songs still on radio playlists, the band has younger fans who know the tunes but have never heard them played live, Pedersen said. Their breakup was "spectacular" and like "a rock-and-roll soap opera," Endelman added, so fan interest remained. And the quartet "ran out of money," singer Scott Weiland quipped at a news conference announcing their summer tour. (The band played the Susquehanna Bank Center a week ago; it plays the Borgata Aug. 9.)
The New Kids on the Block tour, on the other hand, inspired shrugs. "That's pretty weird since they aren't new or kids," Pedersen said.
"I'm sort of surprised they ended up doing it," Endelman echoed.
The group (which plays the Borgata Sept. 27 and Wachovia Spectrum Nov. 5) sold millions of albums and played to stadiums of screaming teens during their early-'90s heyday. After disbanding, four of the five members enjoyed modest success in entertainment, and one left show business to work in real estate.
They often toyed with the idea of reuniting and were offered various opportunities, said New Kid Joey McIntyre, but they wanted to wait until the time was right.
"I'm sure there's a way we could sleepwalk through this thing, but that's not who we are," he said. "We want to make it real and make it last; make it last like last time."
The group is recording an album to be released in late summer or early fall, he said.
New music is a must for reunited and revitalized bands. It shows they're not just touring for dollars and helps older bands avoid "becoming a tribute act to themselves," Endelman said. And record sales aren't what they were.
"If you're going to reunite, you have to tour, because that's the only way it's going to be worth it financially," he said. "If they want to be taken seriously, that they're getting back together for artistic and creative reasons, they have to make an album, too."
Weiland said Stone Temple Pilots would record an album after the tour. The B-52s and the Black Crowes have new albums out and thus new material for shows. Mötley Crüe's album is due June 17.
Kate Pierson of the B-52s said new music makes reunions more exciting for the musicians and audience.
"Having a new record is just like a whole new life," she said. "I've seen so many bands that I've loved and when they come around again, it's really an amazing thing. You get another chance to experience it."
But Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee said familiarity with classic tracks is what makes reunions hot tickets. "It's a completely different experience going to see a new band where you only know one of their songs, versus a band you grew up with and know five or six or seven albums worth of their material. I think that's what people dig," he said. "That's got to be why a lot of the bands are getting back together."
Another reunion trend is the packaged tour. Mötley Crüe is hitting the road with Buckcherry, Papa Roach, Sixx:A.M. and Trapt for a multi-band show dubbed CrueFest. (Susquehanna Bank Center, July 12.) The nationwide Regeneration Tour is a hodgepodge of '80s acts including Human League, Belinda Carlisle, ABC, and Dead or Alive. (Sovereign Bank Arena, Aug. 21.) Seventies bands Journey, Heart and Cheap Trick are also touring together. (Susquehanna Bank Center, Aug. 26.)
The package deal is good for bands that couldn't sell out arenas on their own, Pedersen said, and for fans who want to maximize the nostalgic bang for their buck.
"If people are going to spend $75 for a crummy ticket, they're going to want to see big bands playing their big hits," he said, "and ideally more than one of them on the bill."