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Reunited Kiss Licks Its Concert Competition Tour Was Year’s Top Moneymaker; Other Acts Failed To Pull In Big Bucks

Thu., Dec. 26, 1996

It wasn’t a particularly good year for people in the concert industry - unless you happened to breathe fire, spit blood and wear a lot of greasepaint.

Kiss’ reunion tour was the top money-earner in 1996, taking in $43.6 million and beating acts such as Garth Brooks, Neil Diamond and Rod Stewart, the concert industry trade publication Pollstar reported Wednesday.

Consumers spent an estimated $1.05 billion on concerts during 1996, Pollstar said. That’s up slightly from $950 million in 1995 but doesn’t approach the record $1.4 billion in 1994.

The increased dollar volume this year was due largely to higher ticket prices and masks a particularly weak showing for many veteran artists out on the road, said Gary Bongiovanni, Pollstar editor.

Kiss was the spectacular exception.

The band reunited its original members, donned cumbersome costumes and used truckloads of special effects for 92 dates - leaving sellouts in its wake.

“Probably everybody except (Kiss member) Gene Simmons was surprised by how strong that was,” Bongiovanni said.

The summer’s other high-profile rock reunion - of the Sex Pistols - didn’t even register in Pollstar’s top 50 concert draws.

The concert circuit was flooded this summer with stars of the 1970s - Styx, Kansas, Steely Dan, Steve Miller, Chicago and Crosby, Stills and Nash. Many played to a lot of empty seats.

“The ‘70s acts didn’t work except for the Eagles and Kiss,” said Jim Koplik of Metropolitan Entertainment, one of the Northeast’s top promoters. “The ‘70s, I think … are over.”

It’s been a down year in general for the music industry. Compact disc sales are flat, and many in the business wonder if any artists will emerge to lift them out of the doldrums.

On the plus side, a number of acts were solid concert draws: Alanis Morissette, Oasis, Bush, Smashing Pumpkins, Phish and Tori Amos in particular, Bongiovanni said.

Phish made a bigger and bigger splash in 1996: The rock quartet’s “Clifford Ball,” for which 70,000 fans overran an abandoned Air Force base in upstate New York, was the summer’s biggest event.

The H.O.R.D.E. festival, led by acts such as Blues Traveler and Natalie Merchant, supplanted Lollapalooza as the summer’s biggest traveling festival. H.O.R.D.E. took in $18.1 million to Lollapalooza’s $15.9 million, Pollstar said.

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