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November 16, 2010

Robert Plant to skip Baltimore in new 2011 tour

Robert Plant announced Monday a new 15-city tour that will include a stop in Washington D.C.

The former Led Zeppelin frontman will perform at DAR Constitution Hall February 1. The announcement is surely good news for fans in the metropolitan area, but raises the question: what gives?

As I've been posting 2011 tour dates for the last couple of weeks, the clear trend emerging is major headliners scheduling shows in DC and sometimes Philadelphia, and almost invariably skipping Baltimore. Linkin Park, My Chemical Romance, the lady from Lilith Fair - all will stop by our neighbor cities and spurn Charm City.

When referring to the back-to-back U2 and Sade concerts next year, mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said 2011 would be "a real statement" for Baltimore. But two headliners does not a statement make.

I have already reported on the difficulty area stadiums have had in booking major acts, something that's occurring nationwide. But the schedule at our mid-sized venues isn't that much encouraging. Ozzy Osbourne and Usher will both play 1st Mariner Arena in the next month. But after that the biggest star on the venue's calendar from now through June are the Harlem Globetrotters.

Pier Six hasn't posted shows for 2011 yet. Here's hoping both venues pick up the slack otherwise, it's going to be a long wait until the various summer concert series  start again.

Tickets for Robert Plant go on sale Friday on Ticketmaster.

Addendum: Let me add a couple of clarifying points to the post. Yes, headliners have passed over the city in the past, but what remains debatable is the why: is it residents, Live Nation, the city? There are actually several possible answers, which is why I posted this. Seth Hurwitz, founder of promoter I.M.P., has said in the past that a big reason headliners bypass Baltimore is the city's 10 percent amusement tax, which stipulates that  10 percent of all ticket grosses must go to the city. Live Nation is another major obstacle, because it too often directs acts to its other venues (Jiffy Lube Live) or just to A-list markets like Washington. What are some of the other reasons? Commenters have mentioned some others below.

Now, in the past five years, Hurwitz and Frank Remesch, the big honcho at 1st Mariner Arena, have done a tremendous job in courting major talent to the area, succeeding with Taylor Swift, Bruce Springsteen, even Robert Plant and Alison Krauss (two years ago at Merriweather Post Pavilion).

The 2011 tour announcements that have been made so far perhaps suggest an early reversal to that trend. We'll only know if it changes as headliners announce their tours over the coming months. (Pier Six Pavilion won't make its summer concert series announcement until the Spring.)

Full Robert Plant dates after the jump: 

Robert Plant tour dates:

1/18   Asheville, NC   Thomas Wolfe Auditorium
1/19   Pittsburgh, PA   Peterson Events Center (University of Pittsburgh)
1/21   Ann Arbor, MI   Hill Auditorium
1/22   Toronto, ONT   Sony Centre for the Performing Arts
1/25   Boston, MA   House of Blues
1/26   Upper Darby, PA   Tower Theatre
1/28   Mashantucket, CT   MGM Grand Theater at Foxwoods Resort Casino
1/29   New York, NY   Beacon Theatre
2/1   Washington, DC   DAR Constitution Hall
2/2   Raleigh, NC   Raleigh Memorial Auditorium
2/4   North Charleston, SC   North Charleston Performing Arts Center
2/5   Atlanta, GA   Fox Theatre
2/7   Charlotte, NC   Ovens Auditorium
2/8 and 2/9   Nashville, TN   War Memorial Auditorium 

Photo: Robert Plant official page 

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Posted by Erik Maza at 8:00 AM | | Comments (17)
Categories: Music News


Without Page, Plant is a major tour opener, not a major touring act. I saw him open for The Who several years ago. No big loss for Baltimore.

Seems like Baltimore just isn't big/important enough. I think it has less to do with Baltimore per se than it does the fact that we are so close to other major population centers.

a) Sade is not a big deal. The fact that she decided to kick off the tour here is kinda cool, but still not something to write home repeatedly.

b) This is not news.
b1) Baltimore has never been a hot spot for concert tours.
b2) Writing about the lack of something that never existed before is a terrible premise; no one here is asking "what gives?". We know what's up.

c) It would be really unlikely for Pier Six to announce a winter show. I could be wrong, but I can't think of a single show there not during the summer.

well what size venue in baltimore would be comparable to DAR Constituion Hall?

It's always been this way, for one main reason:
People who live in Baltimore are happy enough to jump in their cars and go to DC or Philly. The same is not true in reverse.

@joe: Comparable Baltimore venue to DAR Constitution Hall would be The Lyric. Prince played there about 10 years ago before the Musicology 'comeback' album and tour. Lyric was a great great place to see him, especially from the fifth row! The older building was actually 'part' of the show, it MOVED much like the old Memorial Stadium used to 'rock' during big Orioles games. By the way the Musicology tour 'skipped' Baltimore for a run of 4 or 5 soldout shows at the Verizon Center in DC.

@ bonnie: You are correct. I have usually never been averse to drive to DC for a show, going back to the early 80's and the days of the original 930 club on F Street. I can/could almost always find street parking within a block or two of various venues. The best thing about a show in DC is that I get to GO HOME to Baltimore. DC is a nice place to visit but I'm glad that I don't live there.

delete this one too!

the trend nationwide is that mid-sized venues, like 1st Mariner, aren't having problems booking acts because tickets sell, and they sell faster.

This hasn't been the case in Baltimore for at least the past five years; the city gets headliners here and there, like you've all noted. The question that came up while I was reporting my U2 A1 was why? So this is a worthwhile question to ask, and not one to be dismissed with just a, 'this is old news."

In fact, while it's right the city has been ignored by headliners in the past, with her U2 announcement, and more recent plans to expand/renovate 1st Mariner, the mayor and city officials have made it clear they want to make the city into an attraction for music acts.

Whether that takes a while to happen remains to be seen. I don't think it's a question of whether people are willing to pay for tickets, but if local venues and city officials will do enough to make Baltimore into an attractive destination. M&T had to WORK that U2 deal, the band could have easily gone to Philly or DC.

So far, what's clear is that venues and city officials haven't stepped up. Until they do, fans will only be too happy to drive to FedEx Field or Verizon for a show.

In the 70s and 80s, Baltimore drew lots of big names to the Civic Center. Ironically, Led Zeppelin played here for 5 years straight in the 70s. Since then, it's been the big festivals that drew the big names. It's probably a combination of Baltimorons being used to having to travel for big names and the fact that the arena is more like a glorified high school gymnasium than a word class arena.

Really? As a former agent for William Morris I don't understand how this is news. Talent has been booked the same way for the past 20 years. The country is divided into market territories, A, B & C.

Most talent agreements have a guarantee and back-end financial clause, especially a-list acts.

The guarantee an artist charges depends if they are soliciting an A, B or C market.

Some would argue Baltimore is a B-market, but in reality it is a C-Market.

Why would an act want to take 20-40% less to play Baltimore when they can command a much higher guarantee in DC, which is an A-Market? The manager of 1st Mariner is fantastic. He’s worked diligently to bring Bruce and now U2 to Baltimore. It’s not about ‘stepping up’ however. Be pleased that you’re getting a one-off here and there, this is a feat unto itself, and this is all thanks to one person.

As you've mentioned, Baltimore ppl are more than willing to drive to DC, as this isn't news. They've been doing is since they could drive.

This is really a story? Yet another example of how this blog has become unreadable since Sam stopped writing it and why I don't feel like I am missing anything if I only check it once every two weeks.

Between shows at Rams Head Live, Rams Head Onstage, Sonar, the 8x10, the Hippodrome and the Lyric to name only a few, there is plenty of great live music throughout the area, even during the winter. The addition of these venues over the past 5-10 years has actually made Baltimore a solid music town, especially considering what we once had (or rather didn't have.) Anyone with a sliver of historical perspective would know that. You can't expect every act to make stops in every city.

Personally, I'm not offended that Robert Plant passed the city by. There is no shortage of more relevant acts at any of the aforementioned venues.

Common sense should also tell anyone that an outdoor venue like Pier Six is not open in the winter unless you are in South Florida.

Here are my observations on the subject:
First, DC has nicer venues than Baltimore. I love B-more but lets be honest, the verizon center is much nicer than the Arena. And after that the next biggest place is Pier Six which is pretty small. You can say that the lyric or myerhoff have been options but they aren't/weren't looking to book mainstream rock and pop acts.
Second, many people in "Baltimore" live outside the city and so are more willing to drive to DC or Columbia or whereever because they'd already be driving to Baltimore.
Third, we're a city jammed in with a bunch of other cities. Always have been. People often view the Baltimore-DC area as one area. If I was booking a national tour I would view it that way, and given the venues, I'd probably go with DC.
Fourth, big national concert tours aren't doing very well, so why be suprised they aren't stopping in Baltimore. I wouldn't be suprised if they went straight from New York to Atlanta.

"Be pleased that you’re getting a one-off here and there, this is a feat unto itself, and this is all thanks to one person."

This is my general feeling too, as far as "big name" acts are concerned. I don't think there's really much of an issue here other than the false expectation that we should have more major tours stopping here.

"Third, we're a city jammed in with a bunch of other cities. Always have been. People often view the Baltimore-DC area as one area."

Not only that, but shows in DC have a better chance of drawing people from northern VA as well as Baltimore, so sometimes it just makes more sense to play there.

Even when you're not talking about "big name" tours, bands that normally frequent Rams Head Live and the 930 club will only stop at one or the other during a given tour. In that case it has less to do with which city is a "better" venue; if it did matter then bands who played Baltimore first would still go to DC. Since that doesn't usually happen, I'll echo the "non-issue" stance.

BTW, where Baltimore has done very well in the past is at the small venue level. The 8x10 is one of the nicest clubs of its size in the region, maybe in the country. The Ottobar, Sonar, and Rams head live among others consistently draw in some high quality national and regional acts. But once you get to the level of bands that can sell out the 9:30 club, your options are better in DC.

Robert Plant is more than an artist. He’s a print on music and marked his name on the history of music. He’s pyramid and a legend with his soft and charming voice and music. The big is big!

Robert Plant is on tour in 2011! I'm going to see him @ the Hard Rock Live Hollywood FL! Real excited! If anyone is interested in buying tickets this website has great seats...Total Tickets

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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