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U2 fans left rattled and bummed

Many fail to get concert tickets after paying $40 each to join the band's website on a promise of priority access.

January 29, 2005|Randy Lewis | Times Staff Writer

U2's new tour is called Vertigo, but it might well be rechristened Hysteria in the wake of frenzied reports from fans frustrated by this week's presale of tickets through the group's website.

Several days after Tuesday's Internet sale of tickets to fans who paid $40 each in recent months to join U2.com on the promise of priority access to "some of the best seats available" for the upcoming tour, throngs are wailing that they still haven't found what they're looking for.

"People are really tweaked about this," says Steve Rossier, 37, of San Diego, who joined U2.com in hopes of landing prime seats but came away empty-handed Tuesday. "I can't count how many times I've seen the band over the years, but I really feel like the bubble's been burst."

That chorus is only expected to grow over the weekend as tickets for the general public go on sale for the majority of stops on the first leg of the Irish rockers' North American tour, which opens March 28 in San Diego. The band plays April 1 at the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim and April 5 at Staples Center.

For those connected with the tour, it's a case of intense demand outweighing the finite supply of tickets.

"I spoke to the Ticketmaster people on Tuesday and they reported over 2 million hits within a very short period of time," said Arthur Fogel, president of Clear Channel Entertainment's TNA Productions division, which is promoting the Vertigo tour. "Obviously this caught everybody off guard, and everything possible is being done to make sure people are satisfied. We're looking at a whole range of options in terms of freeing up more inventory and addressing the technical side of the process."

Fogel said U2.com members will be contacted early next week with information on what measures will be taken to mollify disgruntled fans. That could include priority access for shows that are expected to be added to the existing dates, or to additional concerts on a second U.S. leg of the tour this fall.

Many fans reported logging onto Ticketmaster's website Tuesday at 10 a.m. when the presale began, six-digit priority codes in hand, only to encounter "internal server error" messages preventing them from proceeding for minutes, or even hours, at which point the hotly sought-after floor seats were gone. Others said the only tickets listed as available were the most expensive, upper-deck reserved seats going for $165 each.

"I felt misled that general admission tickets disappeared so quickly," said Brian Sobol, a 48-year-old fan from Minneapolis who quickly checked one of the unofficial U2 websites to see what other fans were saying. "I realized that hundreds of people were reporting similar problems, many were locked out altogether and that within less than an hour, general admission tickets were appearing on eBay, at upwards of $300 a ticket, and now higher....

"The large number of tickets on eBay," Sobol said, "suggests that somehow scalpers had access to the system in advance of club members."

Industry veterans, however, downplay the likelihood of misappropriated tickets.

"Not with U2," said Gary Bongiovanni, editor of the concert-industry tracking magazine Pollstar. "Some artists out there might be pumping out some tickets to the secondary market, but definitely not U2.

"I honestly think the band recognizes there was a problem and is going to find a way to make it right for all those people who bought into the fan club," he said.

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