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September 21, 2014

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It’s Jackson’s game to lose; McCartney seven-second claim “overzealous”

Image

Associated Press

Paul McCartney, shown performing “Helter Skelter” during the 2006 Grammys show.

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Michael Jackson.

Click to enlarge photo

John Nelson.

We need to gear down here, gang. Gear down on Jacko to The Colosseum at Caesars Palace. And really gear down on this notion that Paul McCartney moved 4,000 tickets for his April 19 show at the new Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel in seven seconds.

I called the most reasoned man I know (discounting the Dalai Lama and PBS talk show host Charlie Rose), John Nelson, to walk through simultaneously percolating news breaks involving the artists who once sang, “The Girl is Mine.” Nelson is vice president of AEG Live, which books and promotes shows at The Colosseum and the new Joint. AEG is also the company staging the Michael Jackson shows at the 02 Arena in London, where the onetime Scarecrow from “The Wiz” has reportedly sold out all of his 50 concerts through February.

But those shows are not truly “sold out,” in the manner that there are no tickets available. AEG Live has dealt a small percentage of seats to ticket distribution company Viagogo, which in turn is selling the ducats at a price often more than triple the top face-value ticket price of $105 (low end is $70). Tonight, I checked Viagogo's Jackson ticket link, and there are tickets listed for the July 8 O2 Arena opener, costing $373 apiece, the highest ticket price of any show. The low end is $169 for Jan. 18. But no matter the actual statistics, Jackson’s ticket sales are remarkable for an artist who peaked creatively more than 20 years ago and who hasn’t put on any performance in public, outside of court appearances, in about a decade.

Given Jackson’s surge in sales, Nelson said a regular gig at The Colosseum as early as 2010 would be “a little bit like an outside shot, but if he does well (in London) with all those dates – What is it now? Fifty? Amazing – it would absolutely enhance his chances here. It’s more plausible now than if you asked me about it a year ago, no question.”

In sports terms, the game is Jackson’s to lose. But that number, 50 concerts, is simply daunting. Check the dates on the AEG Live Web site – at least a day separates each show, and there are some five-day gaps. Never does Jackson perform shows on consecutive nights. So, yeah, I question his pixie-like fragility. I keep recalling the image of Jackson limping late into court a few years ago in his jammie-pants, looking wrecked 10 ways to Sunday, no more ready to stage a concert than if he were Andrew Jackson. But if he can pull off this run of shows in London - an Elvis-sized “if” – it would have to be considered one of the great entertainment comebacks, ever. He would be able to call his shots in Vegas or anywhere else, but there is so much territory to cover between now and then. I have to see this to believe it, expecting a whole lot of production magic and technical flights of fancy (and not so much Jacko) to make it work.

The doggone girl is mine ...

As for the McCartney ticket sales, a week ago McCartney’s PR agency Nasty Little Man put out a news release with the claim that 4,000 tickets were sold in seven seconds for the show at the new Joint. We get that Paul McCartney has been a hot ticket draw since the days The Beatles performed nightly at the Cavern in Liverpool and Pete Best played drums. No problem understanding that Macca tickets go fast; years ago, I languished in line for eight hours in Chico, Calif., for tickets to a McCartney concert at University Stadium in Berkeley, only to be shut out of a show for which 80,000 seats sold in a day (I did weasel my way into the second show, another quick sellout of 80,000). But this claim of 4,000 tickets in seven seconds requires some number-crunching – or not, as the PR release does the math for us. That’s 600 seats a second, we read. Even Jackson’s frenetic pace didn’t approach that; AEG’s own release of his sellouts quotes his sales as “an astonishing 11 per second!” Not 1,100. Eleven.

“I have no idea where that number came from,” Nelson said of the seven-second conundrum. “I don’t know how they arrived at that. I called the guy, Steve Martin (not the legendary comic actor, author and banjoist, but the head of Nasty Little Man), and he couldn’t come up with how they arrived at that number, either. In my opinion, they were trying to get attention. I mean, we know Paul McCartney sells tickets, and I’m sure this show sold out in a day. But I think it was some overzealous marketing.” (E-mails to Nasty Little Man asking how ticket sales were monitored have not been returned.) An AEG rep is also quoted anonymously that the show will be the largest Valentine’s Day party ever, as the tickets for the concert went on sale Feb. 14. As Nelson said, “I was offended that they gave a quote to our company, but again, they were trying to get attention.”

My own attempt to create a groundswell of public support in Las Vegas to bring McCartney to the new Joint as its first resident performer seems to have failed. I say that because, earlier today, a spokeswoman for the Joint told me, “That has failed.” So it won’t be McCartney, but an announcement is coming April 1, I’m told, for a rock act to play the new Joint for two- to three-week runs, two to four times a year. It won’t be Jackson, either. You can count on that, and it won’t take seven seconds.

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