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STANDING FOR U2
WITH A TOP TICKET PRICE OF $130, FANS MAY CHOOSE TO PAY $45 FOR A STANDING-ROOM-ONLY SPOT NEAR THE STAGE

U2's latest concert series is called the Elevation Tour, and critics charge the name fits - at least when it comes to inflated ticket prices and possible safety concerns for fans.

The band and concert promoters insist ticket prices are justified and security personnel will ensure the safety of those attending the 80-show tour, which starts March 24 in Miami and comes to HSBC Arena on May 31.

U2's top ticket of $130 is the highest ever for a rock show in Buffalo.

"To pay $130 for a U2 ticket is absolutely crazy," said David Taylor, a local concert promoter.

Not so, says Jennifer Stich, director of event booking at HSBC.

"This is one of the most popular bands in the world, and they haven't toured in three years," she said. "Everybody wants to see them and we're glad U2 is coming to Buffalo."

Reserved seats cost $85 and the price is $45 for the controversial "general admission" floor admittance.

All fans with general admission tickets, 1,800 in all, must stand.

This has caused safety concerns over what is called a "festival seating" arrangement, which can lead to problems with people rushing the stage at the beginning of the concert, or rowdy behavior during the show.

In the past, such arrangements have led to tragedy.

Nine persons were crushed to death at an outdoor Pearl Jam concert last year that didn't have assigned seats. Last month, a teenager died from injuries suffered in a crowd crush at a Limp Bizkit concert in Australia.

But U2 is hardly Limp Bizkit, which played the Arena without incident late last year. Phish, Eminem and Creed are other acts that have also used festival seating on occasion. Still, there is concern about people standing on the floor.

"When you have everybody standing and jamming in close to the stage, the crowd gets all pumped up and people can get hurt," said Wes Fletcher, who has worked concert security for such acts as Ice T, Slaughter, George Strait, Billy Ray Cyrus and many more.

"Festival seating is a nightmare waiting to happen," Fletcher said, but admitted the U2 crowd is older and mellower than a hard rock or rap act. Also, the Arena will strictly limit the number of fans on the floor to 1,800, out of an expected crowd of 16,000.

"It's only the floor and not the whole building; we have a plan and people are going to be safe," said Stan Makowski, senior director of facilities management for HSBC Arena.

Fans with the floor tickets will be admitted with the rest of the audience and must pass through ticket booths inside the arena. That means they won't be able to rush the stage all at once, Makowski said.

Also, Makowski said, the stage is designed with a huge heart area in front of it for 500 fans, surrounded on both sides by runways. That means the floor area will be divided, with 500 fans standing inside the heart area, and 1,300 outside of it.

"We can handle it," Makowski said. "I think this is going to be a fun show by a great band. It's going to be more fun to be in the middle of that crowd on the floor."

Makowski would not say how many security personnel would be on the floor but did say they would be out in force to watch fans and control the situation. Also, he said, fire officials have been involved with setting the safety regulations for the floor area.

SFX, the concert promoter, has stated that fan safety is a priority and Bono, lead singer for U2, told USA Today: "I don't think there are going to be any accidents. Because of safety regulations, we're not going to be able to fill the floor the way we do in Europe. The only thing that I'm worried about is that the floor will look empty."

One thing the general admission policy has done is change the economic dynamic for the paying fans. "The best seats are actually the cheapest seats in the house," Bono told MTV.

"This kind of seating is not about making more money," Jennifer Stich said. "We don't sell more tickets for the floor because the seats aren't there."

Stich believes the general admission policy makes it more difficult for scalpers, who tend to buy the seats closest to the stage and sell them. "I really believe U2 is doing this for the fans."

But the cheapest seats, at $45, actually cost more than the best seats for the last U2 live show, the PopMart Tour, which played mostly stadiums. Also, for the Elevation Tour, there are a lot of other high-priced seats away from the floor.

"This show is about money," Taylor said. He does add, however, that "U2 has been around for 20 years and are one of the few bands who can pull off this kind of tour."

The band has a track record. Most of the tour dates are selling out, although 2,000 seats were left for the Buffalo show as of Monday. Three years ago on U2's last tour, the band grossed more than $170 million and played to nearly 4 million fans.

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