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Big Venues Reveal New Pop Lineups

April 02, 1987|ROBERT HILBURN | Times Pop Music Critic

Frank Sinatra will headline the Greek Theatre from Aug. 20 to 22, a coup for the outdoor facility in its annual "star wars" booking competition with the rival Universal Amphitheatre.

Sinatra, the most acclaimed male singer of the modern pop era, had appeared exclusively in Los Angeles at the amphitheater since 1978 when he selected the then-open-air theater for his first local engagement in nearly 20 years.

Sinatra, who'll be joined on the Greek bill by Sammy Davis Jr., is one of 25 attractions already signed for the Greek summer season. Others headed there include the Bangles (July 5), Los Lobos (July 31), Anita Baker (Sept. 4-5) and the team of Dionne Warwick and Burt Bacharach (Sept. 11-12). Rudolf Nureyev also will return on Aug. 15. Subscription mail orders (a minimum of four acts required) will be accepted beginning April 9.

Meanwhile, Kenny Rogers (May 28, 30, 31); Tom Petty (June 8, 9, 11, 12); Diana Ross (July 28-31); Glenn Frey (Oct. 8-11); the Pointer Sisters (Dec. 17-20), and Manhattan Transfer (Dec. 26, 27, 29, 30) are among the more than 50 shows on Universal's "extended" summer lineup. Mail-order blanks are available at Music Plus stores. Tickets for individual shows will be available through Ticketmaster or the amphitheater box office about six to eight weeks before the performances.

Hal Lazareff, who signs acts for the Greek as part of his duties as director of West Coast booking operations for the Nederlander Organization, said Wednesday that he had contacted Sinatra's management several times in recent years, but that he made a "concerted effort" to attract the singer this year. Sinatra played the outdoor Pacific Amphitheatre in Costa Mesa, which is operated by the Nederlander firm, in 1984 and 1986.

Larry Vallon, vice president of entertainment for the Universal Amphitheatre, said he hopes Sinatra will return to Universal in the future, but said he did not want to meet the "guarantee requirements" being asked by the singer's representatives this year.

"The truth is we and the Greek are in negotiation for every one of the acts you'll see on our schedules," he said. "Sometimes it's a matter of money, but other times an artist simply wants a change of scenery. Neil Diamond, for instance, has been identified with the Greek, but we are hammering at him all the time. We think it makes sense for him to play the amphitheater next time."

If the names sometimes shift venues (Manhattan Transfer will headline at Universal this summer after several appearances at the Greek), the constant is that both facilities continue to do excellent business.

"The Los Angeles and Orange County area continues to be the most successful concert market in the country--by a large margin," said Vallon. "The Southern California audience is lucky it has a lot of nice places to see a show, and that has made going to concerts almost second nature . . . like going to the movies."

The 6,251-seat amphitheater, which has been operating on a year-round basis since adding the roof, had its biggest box-office year in 1986: $18 million, based on 155 shows, said Vallon. The 6,187-capacity Greek, which is open from May to October, grossed nearly $7 million with 70 concerts, according to general manager Susan Rosenbluth.

In fact, business is so good that both MCA Inc. and the Nederlander Organization, the parent companies of Universal and the Greek, respectively, are both expanding.

MCA is opening amphitheaters in other cities. Jay Marciano, director of entertainment, said the first new theater will open next year in Denver with several other cities on the schedule. The facilities will be booked out of Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, the Nederlander group, under the banner Parc Presentations, is moving aggressively into the area of concert promotion by putting on shows at the massive, 50,000-plus Hollywood Park, the 18,000-seat Forum and at small clubs like the Roxy. In addition, Parc expects to put on shows--possibly as many as one a month--at some of the theaters owned by Nederlander, including the Pantages and the Henry Fonda on Hollywood Boulevard.

Rock acts are usually the last to confirm dates because tour plans are tied to the release of new albums, so there's usually an older, middle-of-the-road flavor to the preliminary Universal/Greek lineups. This year, however, the number of acts from the '60s and '70s seems unusually high.

"I think you have an enormous population bulge between the ages of 30 and 40 that grew up going to concerts and have never outgrown that concertgoing experience," said Vallon. "They'll sometimes check out new groups, but they don't find a lot that appeals to them. Once in a while, however, a Talking Heads or a U2 will break through to them."

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