Surging Covid wreaks havoc on concert tours

Just a few weeks ago, it seemed like live music was finally back on track more than a year after the COVID-19 outbreak caused hundreds of artists around the world to be pulled off the road. Now, it’s starting to look like the celebration of live music returning may have been a bit premature as artists are postponing and cancelling dates and entire tours across the board.

“These are challenging times with challenging decisions that have to be made,” Stevie Nicks tweeted this week as she revealed her scheduled tour would be cancelled. “I want everyone to be safe and healthy and the rising COVID cases should be of concern to all of us.”

Following a triumphant return to the masses at Lollapalooza two weekends ago, nu metal whipping boys Limp Bizkit scuttled their tour as well, “out of an abundance of caution and concern for the safety of the band, crew and most of all the fans.”

“In short, the system is still very flawed,” Bizkit frontman Fred Durst told Billboard. “Even if the performers, crews, staff, and promoters do their best to ensure safety on and behind the stage, that doesn’t ensure the safety of the audience as a whole. We are all in this together, and we all – individually and as a whole – have to make our best efforts to be as responsible and proactive as possible moving forward to combat and stop spreading COVID.”

Instead of aborting a full tour, some acts are being forced to postpone dates here and there. Counting Crows, the day after a successful kick-off gig at the Hard Rock in Atlantic City, scrapped a Boston show just three hours before it was supposed to begin last Saturday as someone in the band’s touring party tested positive for COVID. At press time, the trek was supposed to pick back up Thursday night in Nashville.

Boston seems to be getting the short end of the stick when it comes to that sort of thing. Part of the Hella Mega Tour package with Green Day and Weezer, Fall Out Boy were forced to miss the show at Fenway Park along with stops in New York City and Washington D.C. with the same reason as Counting Crows given. They returned Wednesday in Detroit and plan to play regional stops at Hersheypark Stadium Friday and a week later at Citizens Bank Park.

Lynyrd Skynyrd were forced to cancel three shows and reschedule one this week when guitarist Rickey Medlocke tested positive for COVID. Next weekend, the group are billed on the Barefoot Country Music Fest in Wildwood. Meanwhile Tesla, joining Skynyrd’s tour as openers beginning at the end of this month, postponed three gigs just two dates in after it was revealed guitarist Frank Hannon had Covid. They look to get back onstage Saturday in Dubuque, Iowa.

The fresh wave of the pandemic isn’t just affecting tours in the States either; Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson recently postponed the remaining dates of his spoken word tour in England due to a member of his “immediate household” contracting Covid.

Upcoming festivals are casting a weary eye toward the surge too. Organizers of New Orleans Jazz Fest, initially scheduled for mid-October, said they would be cancelling this year’s edition. The Philadelphia Folk Festival has done the same – but just with the in-person portion of the event that will take place next weekend in the Spring Mountain area.

It’s unclear what the coming weeks and fall holds for so many shows and festivals. Bonnaroo is typically a high point of the fest season, and organizers are requiring proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test for entry. Only so many precautions can be taken though, and at the very least it looks to be a bumpy, hit and miss period for live music going forward.

A version of this article appears in this week’s print and online editions of my syndicated Rock Music Menu column under the title “Surging Covid wreaks havoc on concert tours.”

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