As Rascal Flatts famously announces, “Life is a Highway” —- a highway that doesn’t include any exits for Allentown, Pa. The band’s Friday date at the spanking new PPL Center was quietly cancelled two days before the show was set to take place. According to local newspaper The Morning Call, a couple big-rig trailers filled with the band’s gear even made it to the building. So close – yet so far. And so shady! Why was the show cancelled? I’m not really sure. The rumor mill is in overdrive on this one — so it’s important to separate fact and conjecture. Let’s first examine the facts: fact one, the PPL Center is a brand new building that opened earlier this month with a show by the Eagles followed by a date with Tom Petty. It’s a Global Spectrum building, right down the road from their headquarters in Philadelphia. The PPL Center (despite its awkward acronym name) has been getting a ton of national press as Global Spectrum pushes the narrative that the 10,000-seat arena will revitalize the Lehigh Valley as it shifts from steel manufacturing to finance and health care. Great story, guys, but why suddenly clam up when real actual news happens? Who knows. I do know GM Gunnar Fox was very aggressive about booking acts for his building. I interviewed him Sept. 15 to discuss the building’s opening and his comments about booking the arena are interesting in light of the cancellation. Here’s what he said back then:
We are very aggressive in getting shows and we’re going to do what it takes. It just has to make sense for everybody. If the building makes a bunch of money and the promoter loses money, they’re not going to want to come back. If the promoter makes a bunch of money and the building loses money, then we’re not necessarily going to want them to come back. It has to be a win-win situation for everybody, including the artist, most importantly.
WE DON’T KNOW WHAT WE DON’T KNOW OK, what do we know about Rascal Flatts? They have a new album called “Rewind” which showed decent numbers — debuted at No. 1 on Top Country Albums chart and sold 165,000 copies. By comparison, Eric Church’s 2014 album “The Outsiders” sold 708,000 copies. How were ticket sales? I talked to a few folks who are following the tour and they said ticket sales were lower than expected. No one’s reported grosses for the Rewind Tour so it’s hard to really know. The band did $322,082 at U.S. Cellular Coliseum with a 5,947 attendance in a 7,000-cap building back in October. Weigh that against Carrie Underwood’s attendance of 500 more and another $50,000 in sales at the same building a few months later. Was someone going to lose their shirt on the show in Allentown and decided it would be better to throw in the towel? There’s not enough definitive evidence to state that as fact. At least not yet. What else do we know? Well, we know the Allentown date was the end of a five-month amphitheater tour. And despite the cancellation, the band went on to play the very next night in Richmond, Va., at the Bon Secours Training Center, which opened in 2013. The Rascal Flatts show was also that building’s first concert. Ticket sales were said to be soft but the show went on. Hmmm … that’s weird. WE’RE PREDICTING RASCAL FLATTS WILL PLAY AT IEBA Rascal Flatts has just one more date on their tour. A show at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville on Tuesday night. Interestingly, their agents at WME are hosting the closing showcase for the International Entertainment Buyers Association conference that same night. Will Rascal Flatts show up and play alongside Chris Young? What about the PPL Center – is this a bad sign for the new arena? Probably not. I’ll give building management the benefit of the doubt. October is a busy month with plenty of family show dates at PPL Center, and Cher will play the building in December after missing her first appearance because of illness. And while there are no shows scheduled at the building until Judas Priest on Oct. 15, the building’s tenant development hockey team is a star. The Phantoms are the minor league affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers. The two teams faced off for the Battle on Hamilton, an intra-squad scrimmage on Saturday night that brought in a 8,500-capacity crowd. They got hockey. They’ll be fine. And if you’re at IEBA, you might see Rascal Flatts. Tweet me @realdavebrooks if they play the WME show. Ask them what happened with the PPL Center show. And save the nonsense spin please. This isn’t a place for fairytales. This is The Real.