Wednesday, September 12, 2012

What Concerts Might Rock Wrigley Field in 2013?

Still in the afterglow of two sensational shows by Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band over the weekend at Chicago’s Wrigley Field, I couldn’t help but consider who might next—other than the Cubs, of course—make good use of the venerable ballpark, which has become one of my favorite places to see a concert.

Wrigley is unlike any other major league stadium in America—besides Boston’s Fenway Park—in that it has stood for nearly 100 years and is situated in a neighborhood, rather than being surrounded by parking lots on the outskirts of town.

Its unique and famed features include ivy-covered outfield walls, a manual scoreboard, bullpens along the foul lines, rooftops behind the bleachers that allow additional fans to catch the action and a team that has never won a World Series as the park’s primary tenant.

It was the last major league ballpark not to have lights, and thus night games (until 1988), and although additional advertising signage has been added in recent years, marketing messages remain relatively sparse within the “Friendly Confines.”

So although it could use a good bit of rehab, which it should get if the City of Chicago decides to play ball with the Ricketts family that owns the team, Wrigley Field—which I think I first attended in 1975—remains not only my favorite ballpark on Earth (and I’ve been to most other major league stadiums), but truly one of my favorite places. Despite all the bad things that have happened there.

While I vaguely recall a few rather innocuous post-game musical performances over the years, I don’t believe any full-fledged rock concerts were held at Wrigley Field until 2005. Somehow, the Cubs and likely a local promoter got permission from the city to hold 2-4 concerts there each summer; I think initially it was only 2 shows, every 2 years, but it now appears that 4 concerts each year have become permissible.

Roger Waters: The Wall at Wrigley Field
In 2005, Jimmy Buffett played at Wrigley, but I didn’t attend a show there until The Police reunion tour came through town in 2007. I attended an Elton John/Billy Joel double-bill in 2009, two Paul McCartney shows in 2011, Roger Waters performing Pink Floyd’s The Wall in June 2012 and the pair of Springsteen gigs.

Other headline acts to play Wrigley have included the Dave Matthews Band, Rascal Flatts and Brad Paisley.

If every performance has not been a complete sellout, it’s been pretty darn close. Obviously, you have to be pretty popular to book a 40,000 seat stadium, but I think the added allure of Wrigley helps to sell even more tickets than the artists might elsewhere.

And I would imagine that even for the most veteran of performers, being there is just cool. So with the notion that any sizable concert act would want to play there if available dates fit into their tour schedule, I am going to fearlessly prognosticate who might perform at Wrigley Field in 2013. Or at least, who I would want to.

The Rascal Flatts and Brad Paisley shows certainly bespeak the drawing power of top country artists, but not only are most of them not my cup of tea, this summer saw a Kenny Chesney/Tim McGraw double-bill play Soldier Field, so it’s not too likely either or both would hit Wrigley next summer. So unless Garth Brooks opts to hit the road next year, I don’t know what country stars—not counting the now rather crossed-over Taylor Swift—would be apt candidates for the confines, even if I wanted to put them on my list.

So who might show up on Anthony Rizzo’s off days? With the thought that two acts would likely play two nights each, in an order that unscientifically blends prediction and preference, here’s who I see as likely candidates to play centerfield (actually, I wouldn’t mind an encore from Springsteen, and it isn’t hard to imagine many of those who have already played Wrigley being ready to return, but I’ll omit any repeat visitors):

The Rolling Stones – They’ve booked a pair of shows in both New York and London this November, to commemorate their 50th anniversary, but it remains to be seen if the Stones will roll on a full-fledged tour in 2013. A 2012 tour had been rumored, but supposedly there were concerns about Keith Richards’ health. Traditionally, they’ve played Soldier Field, which would allow for 20,000 more fans per show, and their stages are usually gargantuan, but I just like the idea of finally getting some Satisfaction at Wrigley Field.

Pearl Jam – Eddie Vedder made guest appearances at both Springsteen shows, likely due not only to an affinity for Bruce, but a love of Wrigley and the Cubs. Though Pearl Jam has toured a bit this year and played Alpine Valley last year—where the 40,000 on two straight nights suggests PJ can fill Wrigley—they haven’t played Chicago proper since 2009. This would seem a natural fit, with the primary obstacle perhaps being Pearl Jam's proclivity to keep its ticket prices lower than those usually charged for Wrigley Field concerts.

Simon & Garfunkel – Paul and Artie were supposedly going to embark on another reunion tour a few years ago—including a rumored Wrigley gig—until Garfunkel’s voice problems scuttled the tour. Art’s now doing a solo tour, and if his voice holds up, I wouldn’t be surprised if an S&G tour follows. Their audience skews a bit old, but that should be conducive for selling $250 tickets on the field.

Taylor Swift – One of few young performers who could seemingly pack the place, Swift’s soon to release a new album and conceivably will be touring next year. But her young audience wouldn’t be ideal for beer sales.

Fleetwood Mac – They’re supposedly to tour next year and while I’m not sure they would readily sell 45,000 tickets for one night, let alone two, I could imagine them getting quite a boost from the Wrigley setting. The same logic could apply to Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, who skipped Chicago on their brief 2012 U.S. tour.

Metallica – Wrigleyville might cringe at the thought of such a loud band and their legion of black-shirted fans—me among them—but they played Yankee Stadium last year, along with Megadeth, Slayer & Anthrax. I’d actually prefer AC/DC, but haven’t seen signs that they’re ready to tour again in 2013.

Bon Jovi - They’ve filled Soldier Field a few times in recent years and always seem to be touring.

Adele – I’m somewhat surprised that she hasn’t capitalized on becoming the world’s biggest pop star by touring this year; perhaps she will next. Going from the Riviera to Wrigley Field in consecutive Chicago shows would seem quite a leap, and perhaps too dwarfing a venue for her vocal virtuosity, but I actually think it could work.

Phish – I’m not the biggest fan, but appreciate their music and huge, loyal fan base. Wrigley would be a pretty cool place for them to play and beer sales should be pretty strong.

The Eagles - A fairly standard issue possibility.

U2 – I haven’t seen any 2013 tour rumors and a stage like the one they used on the U2 360 tour would hardly fit at Wrigley, but perhaps they’d want to play a few one-off shows, and where better than at the venerable ballpark.

Led Zeppelin – This week the Led Zeppelin Facebook Page has been teasing a major announcement to come Thursday (and today they were named one of this year's Kennedy Center Honorees). It’s supposedly not going to be about a tour, but rather the release of a DVD of their 2007 reunion concert. But I’m holding out hope. And from the upper deck, Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones would look like they did in 1977.

So who would you like to see rock the Friendly Confines in 2013? With the Cubs' 2013 schedule having just been released, I can imagine promoters and band managers are already eagerly looking at the possibilities.

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