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The Phone Booth is rockin'

MTS Centre defies recession with flurry of 'Triple-A shows'

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 30/4/2009 (4046 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Brad Paisley (top) New Kids on the Block, Eagles and Nickelback have all graced the stage so far this year.


Brad Paisley (top) New Kids on the Block, Eagles and Nickelback have all graced the stage so far this year.

WHAT the heck is going on with the blistering pace of big con­certs in Winnipeg?

Country superstar Keith Urban's September show at the MTS Centre is expected to be a quick sellout when tickets open to the masses Friday morning.

The incompar­able Leonard Cohen brings his brilliant show here tonight, and enduring local dinosaurs Randy Bachman and Burton Cummings have just trum­peted a joint gig for June 30.

AC/DC, Fleetwood Mac and Rod Stewart have recently entered the fray, and an announcement of another ma­jor show -- rumoured to be an Aug. 7 visit from Aerosmith and ZZ Top -- at Canad Inns Stadium is expected early next week.

Are touring musicians so dense they don't know there's a recession going on? Have fears of swine flu affected their judgment, if not their bowels?

Apparently Manitoba is rolling in money, according to Kevin Donnelly, the MTS Centre's senior vice-president and general manager.

"The concert business can be div­ided in two," he says. "Canada and the rest of the planet."

Western Canada, in particular, is going great guns, Donnelly says, while the U.S., predominantly the south and Detroit, is sucking wind.

"At this point, I'm expecting another banner year. I won't say a record, but it will be as strong as we've ever seen." A top official with the country's main promoter, Vancouver-headquar­tered Live Nation Canada, concurs with Donnelly.

"Business has been great," says Ian Low, a Transcona boy who has risen to become the monolith's executive vice­president for talent in Canada.

"Six of AC/DC's 15 North American stadium shows are in Canada. We sold out all four in the West in less than an hour."

Locally, while some acts have not been sales barnburners (Diana Krall, Cohen, Gordon Lightfoot), Donnelly insists he has not had so many sellouts on the books in one year.

The Eagles and Nickelback recently filled the 15,000-seat Phone Booth. All 41,000 tickets for AC/DC are gone, and Coldplay, the Jonas Brothers, Taylor Swift and Metallica tickets can be found only on the scalpers' website nearest you.

Fleetwood Mac, which went on sale last weekend, will be sold out before the June 6 show date. Keith Urban tickets, too, will be hard to come by (at their retail price) after Friday.

"The shock value of the $100 ticket is absolutely gone," Donnelly notes.

"That lack of resistance helps a lot in keeping up the flow of Triple­A shows."

He points out that the strong busi­ness is not limited to rock concerts, or even music shows. The Harlem Globetrotters, a monster truck rally, and WWE wrestling attracted huge crowds. This past winter's Disney on Ice show did the best here it's ever done.

And let's not forget the arena's prin­cipal tenants, the Moose. Spokesman Scott Brown says the team's playoff games are drawing twice as well as anyone else in the American Hockey League, and this after finishing first in ticket sales for the regular season.

Meanwhile, life seems rosy for the establishment arts. Manitoba Opera has essentially sold out its three-show run of Madama Butterfly (which ends Friday at the 2,200-seat Centennial Concert Hall).

And Manitoba Theatre Centre is predicting big crowds for its national headline-earning production of The Boys in the Photograph, which offi­cially opens, opposite Cohen, tonight.

At the 1,600-seat Burton Cummings Theatre, general manager Wayne Jackson reports that the ceaseless ac­tivity at the MTS Centre is not sinking his ship.

"We're holding steady with where we've been the last two or three years," says Jackson, whose venue has played host to this week's Winni­peg Symphony Orchestra Indigenous Festival.

"The big road shows are our bread and butter, and if we can do 40 a year, we're fine."

Sunday's concert by the British post-punk band Bloc Party sold out in 10 minutes, he says, and Wednesday's forthcoming concert by Toronto rap­per k-os is also expected to do well.

Mind you, k-os seats are technically free, as long as you make a "donation," in exchange for the concert, a T-shirt and a CD.

"That's his way to get around Ticketmaster and high ticket prices," Jackson says. "He's saying 'support me if you like my music.'" As for the perennial burr of online scalping, Donnelly warns, it will not disappear.

"All cynicism and criticism aside, Ticketmaster does a remarkable job," he says. "We almost never have to deal with a duplicate ticket."


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