A hugely popular band, canceling a highly-anticipated sold-out arena show due to a positive COVID test within their team. Seems like a tumultuous scene out of 2020… except it happened in 2021.
Foo Fighters pulled the plug on their July 17 concert at the Forum in Los Angeles, “Despite having made every effort to follow CDC COVID protocols and local laws.” The story made national news, partly due to the headlining act involved, but also because the band had seemingly been so careful about their safety precautions. Foo Fighters had required proof of vaccination at their two previous 2021 shows, including their triumphant stadium show return at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Sadly, postponements and cancellations such as these are once again becoming commonplace as the COVID-19 pandemic continues dragging on.
“It is with regret Bachman Cummings announce the cancellation of the U.S. leg of their highly anticipated tour ‘Together Again – Live In Concert,’” declared a message from Canadian classic rockers Randy Bachman and Burton Cummings. The former Guess Who members noted they hoped to reschedule performances “when things are more predictable in terms of travel in and out of Canada.”
Likewise, James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt canceled their co-headlining tour of Canada due to “COVID-19 challenges and restrictions.” “This is the second time Bonnie and I have had to postpone our Canadian tour, the first time in April ‘20 at the beginning of Covid and now again for the rescheduling of that tour this September,” noted Taylor in a message to fans.
A positive test within the REO Speedwagon camp led to the band’s cancellation of two August shows. “Fortunately, everyone was vaccinated, and all are feeling fine despite the positive tests,” the group noted via statement. “Once everyone affected observes the recommended quarantine and tests negative, we’ll be back on the road again!”
“People are just so excited to have live music back,” frontman Kevin Cronin noted to UCR less than a week before his band announced their cancellations. “It’s been great for us so far. Hopefully, the rest of the country starts to wake up and get vaccinated so this virus doesn’t take over and shut everything down again.”
COVID’s latest effect on live performances hasn’t been limited to indoor concerts. Despite overwhelming evidence suggesting outdoor events are safer, those shows are feeling the hit as well.
Famed music festival Lollapalooza packed more than 100,000 people per day into Chicago’s Grant Park the first weekend of August. The event enforced strict COVID rules requiring proof of vaccination or a negative test within three days. Festival founder and Jane’s Addiction frontman Perry Farrell even defended the protocol via Twitter. “We required our patrons be vaccinated or show proof of negative test. The first destination in the world to require such stringent access. We had 95% of 100,000 ppl in Grant Park vaccinated,” the rocker declared in response to a fan’s critical comment. Yet experts are seemingly waiting for the other shoe to drop, wondering if Lollapalooza may end up being a super-spreader event.
In a conversation with USA Today, Tina Tan, a Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine professor, called the festival “a recipe for disaster.” “Yeah it was an outdoor event, but it was an outdoor event with over 100,000 people (a day) in a small space,” Tan explained. “You’re less able to transmit COVID in an outdoor space, but that doesn’t mean that you can pack 100,000 people into a small, enclosed space where they’re on top of each other and expect nobody’s going to transmit. That’s not how it works.”
Similarly, the Hella Mega Tour, an outdoor stadium trek featuring Green Day, Weezer and Fall Out Boy, lost the latter group for a pair of performances following a positive coronavirus test. “It’s important to note that everyone on the entire tour, both band and crew, are fully vaccinated,” Fall Out Boy explained, detailing the seriousness with which they and their bandmates take COVID safety. “Each band and their crew have operated in a bubble independently to safeguard everyone as much as possible at each show and in between shows.”
And therein lies the most troubling part for fans and artists alike: despite precautions, heightened safety standards and strict enforcement of rules, no preventative measures are 100% guaranteed to work against COVID-19.
To their credit, artists who’ve avoided postponements and cancellations have remained flexible with their touring plans in an effort to protect themselves and fans. For example, Sammy Hagar’s annual birthday bash has been moved from Mexico to Catalina Island, Calif. in response to the pandemic, the Red Rocker declaring, “The bash can survive anything, we’ll make it the best one ever!!”
Bands are also doing what they can to navigate the various new COVID laws in effect. New York City has already mandated vaccinations to attend indoor concerts, with Los Angeles and San Francisco among the other locations mulling similar rules. Elsewhere, states such as Florida and Alabama have gone the opposite direction, making it illegal for a venue to ask for proof of inoculation.
All of this — changing rules, cancellations, unavoidable risks — have left musicians, venue owners and fans alike exhausted. Beyond the obvious financial and emotional byproducts, the uncertainty surrounding concerts now has an eerie deja vu feeling in the wake of 2020.
Some of the biggest acts on Earth, including Guns N’ Roses, Journey and Billy Joel, have already returned to performing. Treks from Dead and Company, Eagles, Kiss and Elton John are launching soon. Ultimately, it appears artists themselves will be left with the responsibility of determining whether or not it is safe to tour.
“It breaks my heart to see city after city go on sale and then have to ask those sweet people and the venues to reschedule,” country superstar Garth Brooks admitted after halting the sale of tickets to his upcoming September performance in Seattle. “It’s humbling to see people put this much faith in you as an artist, and it kills me to think I am letting them down.”
A similar sentiment was echoed by rocker Sebastian Bach. “Being on the front lines of this I cannot tell you how confusing and anxiety ridden every single day is for a guy like me,” the former Skid Row frontman confessed on Twitter. “Stand by for more info all I can tell you is that this s*** ain’t over yet.”
Top 100 Classic Rock Artists
Click through to find out how they stack up, as we count down the Top 100 classic rock artists.