Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Imelda May and the O2′s halo effect

It has been a fine few days for some megastars planning to visit Ireland in the coming months as their agents receive glad tidings from Dublin. Both Paul McCartney and Whitney Houston sold out their upcoming gigs with very little …

Mon, Nov 2, 2009, 11:15

   

It has been a fine few days for some megastars planning to visit Ireland in the coming months as their agents receive glad tidings from Dublin. Both Paul McCartney and Whitney Houston sold out their upcoming gigs with very little effort whatsoever, with Houston shifting a monster 26,000 tix in the process. There’s two gigs the promoter won’t have to worry about unduly until the act arrives at the airport and starts to bitch about finding crisp crumbs in the back seat of the limo.

As has become the norm with the bigger shows heading this way, both of the above acts will play in Dublin’s O2 where the schedule is getting rather busy. Aside from the sell-outs like Beyonce, Muse and Depeche Mode, advance bookings from Chris de Burgh (everyone’s favourite Irish Times letter writer is planning a gig for April 21, 2011 so you have 18 months to get your excuses together) and the We Will Rock You musical which may put some bums on seats in the quiet days of January, there are some gigs booked in which will be a serious test of an act’s pulling power in the biggest venue in town.

Imelda May, for example, will be playing a pre-Christmas hometown hop on December 22. The rockabilly revivalist has had a bumper year by anyone’s standards and seems to have been playing gigs somewhere in the country every other week. She had the benefit of a solid burst of TV advertising from Universal over the summer to help push her “Love Tattoo” album, proving once again that major labels are pretty darn good when the ball is already rolling. Such advertising also helps her live pulling power so you wonder if Universal’s contract with her include a share of that loot.

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While May’s successful year probably comes as a bit of surprise to many – after all, the only pundits who were tipping her at the start of ’09 were Pat Kenny and, er, this blogger – a show at the O2 is a whole different hill of beans. There’s certainly nothing wrong with Team May’s ambitious streak in this regard. A show of this size has plenty going for it on the optics front, which is something a lot of Irish bands seem to forget, and also plays well with the group psychology about how and why certain acts make the great leap forward out of the pack. But you have to wonder if there really are 9,000 mad-for-it May fans out there who want to see her a few days before Christmas? After all, she has just done a six date run around the land over the October bank holiday weekend so that’s a six week gap between an expansive tour and the O2. Is there really that much demand for a May show of this size?

What will be interesting to observe is if the venue’s halo effect will help push this show in any way. Since last December, there has been a steady stream of punters heading down Dublin’s docks as intent on checking out the revamped venue as much as the band onstage. I’ve heard next to no complaints about the gaff, mainly because the people tasked with upgrading the venue did all the right things. Not only is it an ultra-modern space well capable of taking the convoy of trucks and the big productions, but it also seems to pass the various sight and sound tests from the paying audience who sit front of house.

It has also become the comparison point for all other largescale venues in the country. Look at last week’s announcement about the Tipperary Venue where the €460 million development, featuring a huge casino and new all-weather racecourse, will also have “an underground entertainment centre with a retractable roof capable of holding 15,000 people which would be ‘the rural equivalent of Dublin’s 02 complex’.” The promoters of that project will be hoping O2 feel like buying the naming rights for that venue as well.

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