U2 rake it in, but not all are pleased

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Gabrielle Monaghan, Times Online

Dublin, according to Bono, is the "the best place to see U2 live". It's also the most lucrative city for the band to play.

The band's three sell-out shows at Croke Park on July 24, 25 and 27, which drew an overall attendance of 243,198, earned €20.2m, making the Dublin leg of the band's tour the fourth-most profitable series of performances ever at a single location.

U2 were narrowly edged out for third place by the 1999 Woodstock festival in upstate New York, while the Spice Girls' 2008 performances at the O2 Arena in London are second with €23.7m in earnings. Bruce Springsteen tops the ranking, for the €27m grossed at Giants Stadium in New York in 2003.

The figures were compiled by Billboard.com from concert venues and promoters such as Live Nation and MCD.

It has been estimated by traders that U2's Dublin shows injected €50m into the city's economy, attracting fans from as far away as Argentina and Australia who were eager to see the band play on home turf.

For some, however, the cash boost did not compensate for the inconvenience of living near the concert venue. Locals protested outside Croke Park when the third concert ended, disrupting riggers who were on a tight schedule to bring parts of the stage to Gothenburg. They were objecting to Dublin city council's decision to allow 44 hours of continuous work to derig U2's massive stage.

Patrick Gates, one of the protesters, said two nights of uninterrupted derigging was "salt in the wound" after the massive disruption caused by hundreds of thousands of people descending on the narrow streets around the stadium.

While the band were conscious of the disruption, referring to it during their concerts, fans will be more interested in the huge numbers being racked up on the tour.

On Friday night U2 created another milestone, breaking the record for the number of people attending Wembley Stadium in London. Organisers said 88,000 fans packed the venue, beating the 83,000 who attended a Rod Stewart concert at the old Wembley in 1995.

U2 have already generated €91.7m in gross earnings from their first 16 European shows, making them the third musical act to gross more than €70m from concerts in 2009. Only Springsteen and Madonna have earned more.

"To take in $131m (€92m) from only 16 shows is quite unusual, but U2 is one of the handful of acts that can fill a stadium on a nightly basis," said Bob Allen, the Nashville-based manager of Billboard's Boxscore charts. "There are plenty of veterans like them on the road, all of whom have been in the business for more than 20 years. The veteran acts are the ones that can pull in the crowds."

The top-earning tours of 2009 also include shows by Tina Turner, Billy Joel and Sir Elton John's joint tour, AC/DC and Dutch classical violinist Andre Rieu, according to Allen's tallies. U2's five concerts in Dublin and Amsterdam in July generated €29m, almost double the €14.6m that Madonna raked in from five in Italy and Spain during her Sticky & Sweet Tour.

The Dublin concerts are part of a European tour that followed the release of U2's 12th studio album, No Line on the Horizon. It began in Barcelona on June 30 and ends in Cardiff on Saturday. The band then move to Chicago, where the US leg starts.

Mass events such as U2's concerts require huge amounts of energy to power stages and lights, and produce landfills of waste. The current tour features three 390-ton stages crisscrossing the globe, along with 120 trucks and 200 staff. Consultants from Carbonfootprint.com, a British company that helps businesses offset unavoidable emissions, calculated the carbon footprint of U2's 44 concerts this year would be equivalent to sending them to Mars and back in a plane.

Once the tour moves to America, U2 may ask fans to volunteer an extra 50c (€0.35) on top of ticket prices to help reduce pollution by offsetting their journey to the shows. They are considering replicating a concert model used by Jack Johnson, the US singer-songwriter.

Johnson, Billboard's green musician of 2008, offered fans the option of offsetting their journeys they undertook while travelling to his concerts. U2 will urge fans in America to reduce their carbon emissions by car-pooling and using public transport, according to MusicMatters, a Minneapolis-based, ecofriendly marketing company hired by Live Nation to act as U2's environmental adviser.

Copyright 2009 Times Newspapers Ltd.

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This page contains a single entry by Jonathan published on August 18, 2009 8:26 AM.

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