Split gigs: How musicians are adapting to the 50% capacity rule

Some acts are performing two concerts on the same date rather than let fans down

Split gigs: Dermot Kennedy had two charity gigs at Dublin’s 3Arena, on December 13th and 14th. Now he has four. Photograph: Stephen J Cohen/Getty

Split gigs: Dermot Kennedy had two charity gigs at Dublin’s 3Arena, on December 13th and 14th. Now he has four. Photograph: Stephen J Cohen/Getty

 

The show must go on, and if a global pandemic continues to suppress culture and entertainment, some will try to find ways to make it work.

New restrictions announced last Friday have reduced the capacity of indoor events – theatre, concerts, indoor gigs and sporting events – to 50 per cent. As these rules came into effect on Tuesday, events that had already sold tickets have been faced with postponing or cancelling performances.

One solution some music acts have come up with involves performing two 50-per-cent-capacity gigs on the same date.

The singer-songwriter Dermot Kennedy had two fully seated You Won’t Go Lonely gigs at Dublin’s 3Arena lined up for Monday, December 13th, and Tuesday, December 14th, raising funds for the charities Pieta House and Focus Ireland, “to aid in their life-changing work”.

Instead of cancelling half the night’s tickets, Kennedy, the venue and promoters opted for a split gig, with two performances on each night: an early show with doors from 5pm, and a late one opening at 9pm.

Fans who’ve bought tickets for the singer best known for the songs Outnumbered and Giants will be able to see him on the date they booked, and the charities won’t lose out by ticket sales being halved, although it will make for hectic logistics and double the workload for crew and production (never mind Kennedy’s voice).

Mick Flannery and Susan O’Neill, who are touring their In the Game show, based on their album of duets, have also opted for split gigs this Saturday and Sunday, performing twice – at 6pm and 9pm – each evening at the Watergate Theatre in Kilkenny, so that tickets can be honoured. All four concerts are sold out, with long waiting lists.

And last night’s sell-out Irish debut of the indie/pop/experimental band Princess Goes to the Butterfly Museum, at the Workmans Club in Dublin, also switched on foot of the new restrictions, from one 8pm gig to two 50-per-cent-capacity seated shows in one evening, at 8-9pm and 9.45-10.45pm. Fans were notified by email about which slot they were assigned.

Double shows are common in theatre – on matinee days, for example, when there are an afternoon and an evening performance on one date. It’s less common in music, though fans of a certain age may recall how, for example, the first time the Clash performed in Ireland they ripped up Trinity College Dublin’s exam hall twice in one evening.

Some performances have a variety of arrangements to comply with the new Covid-19 restrictions.

For National Concert Hall events this week, including its 40th-anniversary concert on Friday, Treaty Songs on Saturday, and others before January 9th, are all going ahead as planned if they are within the 50 per cent capacity limit. For events over the 50 per cent limit (such as This Way to Christmas), ticket holders are being contacted individually (based on time of booking), and offered refunds or alternative dates.

At Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, the sold-out Lion King will open as scheduled on December 23rd, running until February 4th, but for bookings until January 9th the venue is offering refunds to those who no longer want to go, then will reorganise tickets on a first-booked-first-served basis.

Minister for Arts Catherine Martin has announced additional support for the sector yet again hit by restrictions, with a €50 million package for live performance, divided between seasonal musical theatre and pantomimes (€5 million); the live-performance support scheme (€34 million); local authorities’ artist and performance supports (€5 million); adaptation of venues (€5 million); and next year’s St Patrick’s Festival (€1 million).

Some of this funding is specifically to support performances in December and January that may need to be cancelled, curtailed or rescheduled.

“I know audiences are still seeking live-performance experiences after venues were closed for so long, and I do not want to see stages going dark in the coming weeks,” Martin said.

The Minister reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to supporting the live-performance and nightclub sector through “a difficult and unprecedented phase. I know it takes many weeks and months to programme shows and tours. I am very pleased to announce the roll-out of these schemes, which aim to be as flexible and responsive as possible.”

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