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Classic rock acts, young stars packed the fans in

December 22, 2007|Randy Lewis | Times Staff Writer

Contentious or congenial, rock reunions were the hot tickets in 2007, as three high-profile band resurrections finished among the 10 highest-grossing concert tours of the year.

The Police led the way, topping Pollstar magazine's annual ranking of the North American concert business. The trio's reunion tour pulled in $131.9 million over 54 shows, coming close to the Rolling Stones' $138.5-million take that topped last year's list.

As much as the reunion of the three frequently bickering musicians had been eagerly anticipated, "I don't think anyone, including the band, expected the Police to be as huge as they were this year, not just here but worldwide," Pollstar Editor Gary Bongiovanni said Friday.

The return of "Diamond Dave" Lee Roth to the Van Halen fold in 2007 put that historically squabbling group's tour No. 5 on the list, generating $56.7 million in ticket sales in 39 tour stops. And even though veteran British rock band Genesis played only 25 shows in North America, it placed No. 8 on the list with $47.6 million in sales.

Nevertheless, the tour that placed only No. 15 on Pollstar's ranking was, by most accounts, "the hardest ticket of all to get last year," Bongiovanni said of the "Hannah Montana"/Miley Cyrus Best of Both Worlds tour.

The Disney Channel star generated sellouts at virtually all 49 shows she played and created near-hysteria among parents desperately trying to score seats for their preteen children. EBay's auction listings were rife with offers of tickets commonly selling for hundreds or even thousands of dollars for seats with an average face value of $54.16.

The tour wound up only at No. 15, Bongiovanni noted, because Pollstar's rankings are based on face-value ticket sales, not real-world dollars generated through second-party transactions by individuals or ticket brokers, which are impossible to monitor.

The year also was something of a breakthrough for Justin Timberlake, who finished No. 3, with $70.6 million in ticket sales.

"Justin definitely got beyond the teen-pop/N* Sync image and the transitory nature of that audience," Bongiovanni said. "That's something Miley Cyrus will have to face at some point as well, but right now she's on top of the world."

Operatic pop singer Josh Groban, who as of this week has the year's top-selling album with his "Noel" holiday collection, finished in the top 10 for the first time. His 2007 tour came in at No. 9 with $43 million in ticket sales from 56 shows. Last year, Groban didn't even break the top 50, Bongiovanni said.

In the final year of Celine Dion's long-running engagement at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, the Canadian pop diva made No. 4 on Pollstar's list, with $65.3 million. After last week's final performance, she'll be going back on the road in 2008 and "doing it the old-fashioned way," Bongiovanni said of her plans to resume touring the world.

Country acts fared well, scoring four slots in Pollstar's top 20 tours as finalized Friday. Kenny Chesney again finished near the top of the heap, at No. 2 with $71.1 million in sales. Chesney and the Police were the only two acts last year that sold more than 1 million tickets in North America, a sign of a measurable drop for the overall concert business during the year.

The Tim McGraw/Faith Hill husband-wife tour finished sixth, with $52.3 million; Rascal Flatts just made the top 10 with $41.5 million in ticket sales; and Toby Keith placed No. 19 with $34.3 million.

Given that all those acts have come into their prime in the last decade, as opposed to the classic-rock acts that dominate the rest of the list, "country music has been doing very well developing so many younger, fresher faces," Bongiovanni said.

One other notable presence in the top 20 is Mexican rock band Mana, one of the first Latin rock acts to make the upper reaches of Pollstar's ranking. The group sold $33.9 million worth of tickets over 46 dates, and while Colombian rocker Shakira has make the top 20 previously, "Mana's a different case -- they're not quite the pop star she is," Bongiovanni said.

On the other hand, he pointed out that the combined take for the top 20 tours is down 16% to 18% in terms of both revenue and the total number of tickets sold compared with 2006.

"This clearly was not the best year for concert business," he said, "but it wasn't a disaster year either, like 2000 or 2001, when the bottom of the business just dropped out. . . . And as the business has continued to push the boundaries with ticket prices, the margin for error gets greater and greater."

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randy.lewis@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Pay the pipers

*--* Act Gross ticket Shows sales (millions) 1. The Police $131.9 54 2. Kenny Chesney $71.1 54 3. Justin Timberlake $70.6 60 4. Celine Dion $65.3 113 5. Van Halen $56.7 39 6. Tim McGraw $52.3 44 /Faith Hill 7. Rod Stewart $49.0 58 8. Genesis $47.6 25 9. Josh Groban $43.0 56 10. Rascal Flatts $41.5 57 *--*

Source: Pollstar

Figures are for North American concert dates played during the 2007 calendar year.

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