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Tours de force ; List breaks down meaning behind 2010's successful concerts

Last week, touring industry watchdog Pollstar calculated its Top 10 Tours of 2010. Reading over the results -- based on the number of tickets sold and money hauled to the bank, not on artistic criteria of any sort -- is always both bizarre and interesting. Bizarre because the analysis can often defy what one's experience suggests is reality. Interesting because it bursts any bubbles of idealism we may have inflated for ourselves over the years.

These are the cold hard facts, then. We may think Wilco is awesome, that jamtronica is breaking ground, that the Internet will level the playing field and allow the "music" back into the "music business," that the mainstream is catching up with what the underground has known for so long, or what have you. But in truth, Bon Jovi remains one of the most popular bands in the world. Go figure.

After thoroughly digesting the Pollstar report, I tried to extrapolate some thread of meaning running throughout the results. I've reduced my findings down to a Letterman-esque "Top 10 List" of year-end revelations.

1) Even more people love Bon Jovi than love David Hasselhoff!

The New Jersey-born, lite-metal, sugar-free, Cliff Notes version of the E Street Band knocked down all comers in 2010. The group played 51 shows in North America and, according to Pollstar, grossed $108 million for its trouble. That's about $2 million for every time Jon Bon Jovi proclaimed, without a hint of irony, "I'm a cowboy/On a steel horse I ride." Buffalo date in 2010?: No, but give it time -- odds are the cowboys will be stopping by on their steel horses at some point in 2011.

2) That "Wall" sure was built sturdy!

Roger Waters kicked off his reconstruction of Pink Floyd's iconic "The Wall" at midyear, but he still managed to bag $90 million by performing mostly multiple nights in 35 North American cities. More importantly, the show was completely, mind-blowingly awesome! Buffalo date in 2010?: Yup. HSBC Arena.

3) Headbanging leads to a longer, healthier and more fulfilling life!

Just ask Angus Young! AC/DC delivered the goods on its "Black Ice" tour, taking in a combined $177 million between North American and European shows. Some things never go out of style, and this band's hyper-caffeinated interpretation of old-school rock 'n' roll is one of those things. Buffalo date in 2010?: No, but the band did play HSBC Arena in 2009.

4) Concert tickets cost too damn much!

Which may explain why total concert ticket sales were down 12 percent from last year -- $2.93 billion in 2010 compared to $3.34 billion in 2009.

5) Wow, that Lady Gaga sure is one freaky chick!

This Lady is no Madonna! Or is she? The "Fame Monster"-toting performance artist urged North American audiences to contribute to her cause to the tune of $51 million smackers. Not exactly pocket change, but then, I've never seen Lady Gaga in an outfit with pockets on it! Buffalo date in 2010?: No, but she'll play HSBC Arena on March 4.

6) Geez, that McCartney fella sure has written a lot of good songs!

When you're a Beatle, you don't even have to go on tour. You can just announce a few dates here and there, and watch them sell out instantly. Which is what Sir Paul did last year, walking away with $61.8 million in North America and $93 million worldwide. Buffalo date in 2010?: Seriously? Um, no. He killed in Toronto over the summer, though.

7) You can check out any time you like -- but you can never leave! Bummer, dude!

The Eagles are still making tons of money -- $64.5 million in North America during 2010. Not that they don't deserve it, having made a few bona fide classics over the years, songs that will most likely endure for generations to come. But really?!? Buffalo date in 2010?: No, but thanks for asking.

8) OMG, like, tonight really was a good night!

The Black Eyed Peas convinced you that's "genius" (just ask him) and Fergie's "Fergaliciousness" (no need to ask her!) were worth $50.5 million in North America. Who am I to argue? Buffalo date in 2010?: Mmm hmmm, HSBC Arena.

9) Breaking up with Jennifer Aniston is good for your career!

John Mayer made $49.9 million touring North America in 2010. He's certainly got talent. But at this point, he's got waaay more money than he does talent. Buffalo date in 2010?: Naturally. The Darien Lake Performing Arts Center.

10) Maybe we should just stay home, buy a 12-pack, and listen to the CD.

There is no reason a concert ticket should cost more than $50. And for $50, we should also get a free MP3 download of the show, redeemable via the bar code on our ticket stub.

If you, Mr./Mrs. Touring Artist, insist on hauling around some sort of pseudo-futuristic apparatus that looks like a many-headed sea-beast with floodlights for eyes, be our guest -- but don't expect us to pay for the stupid thing! A nice light show and a few screens will do, thanks. Invest the surplus in your live sound, which is what we really care about anyway. Sure, we like looking at you while you make the guitar face and aerobicize in your "pleather" pants. But we're kinda in this for the music.

The summer concert season kicks off in a mere five months or so, folks. Hope you're stockpiling those returnables!


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