The Beatles played Toronto three times (1964, 1965, and 1966), all at Maple Leaf Gardens. Demand for tickets was high and the band was on a tight touring schedule. They need to get in and out while performing for as many people as possible. Adding a second night isn’t on the cards so the only thing they can do is play two shows on the same day: the usual evening gig preceded by a matinee performance. In between, they grabbed a bite to eat and held a press conference.
Matinees (often as part of a doubleheader) were common back then. All the early pioneers of rock — Elvis, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, The Rolling Stones, The Who et al — made them. It’s tiring for action but the effort makes good business sense. Not only does scheduling a matinee double a fan’s chance of seeing a show, but if you’re too young to go out at night, there’s a chance your parents will let you attend an afternoon show.
Matinee concerts continued for many years. I remember in the 1990s when some bands insisted on playing an early all-ages show followed by a licensed evening event. Punk bands are especially good at serving their younger demos with early sets. This is a great way to satisfy both the adults (who can avail themselves of the bar) and the children (and the venue does not have to worry about minor drinking because the bar is closed to the sale of alcohol).
But with the growth of the rock business, afternoon performances slowly disappeared. Now, they are all gone. Unless you’re at a festival, it’s very rare to find an artist willing to play an afternoon slot.
It’s sad because these days, it’s not just minor kids who like shows at that time but a growing number of adults as well.
Look, just because you’re on the lee side of 30 doesn’t mean you’ve given up on the live music experience. You want to see more shows but life always seems to get in the way. There are the kids, getting up for work the next morning, and the massive scheduling conflict.
And let’s be honest: After a certain age, you get a little tired of waiting until 10:30 pm on a Tuesday night for a band to take the stage. Heck, I was up almost every night before that.
By not catering to demos that don’t want/can’t afford to be late, artists and promoters are leaving a lot of money on the table. And let’s not forget that the older demos are the ones with more money to spend on shows.
There are two solutions. First, gigs can start earlier. Instead of going home or hanging out before a show, people can go straight from work. If the lights are turned off at, say, 7 pm, everything will be done by 9:30. Everyone who has to get up in the morning can go to bed at a reasonable hour while those who want to continue at night still have hours ahead of them. I know I would have seen more club shows if they started and ended earlier.
The second solution is to reintroduce matinees. Obviously, this isn’t practical on weekdays, but what about weekends? Hey, theater productions have been offering matinee performances for decades. A huge, huge chunk of professional sports is held in the afternoon. Casinos offer matinee performances. So why not big name concerts? I’d rather see acts like Bruce Springsteen. Does the Boss want to play a five-hour show? Fantastic! Just start at 3 pm so I can get home to freshen up before bed.
Jamie Lee Curtis recently complained about the lack of matinees. Appearing on NBC’s Today out recently, he discharged “Why are there no matinees? For example, I love Coldplay. I want to watch Coldplay. The problem is, I won’t go to Coldplay if they start their show at nine and have an opening act. I want to hear Coldplay at 1 pm I think if we can fill a stadium with people who want to see a Coldplay matinee, I think we’ll start a trend.”
Love it. Instead of dinner and a show, it’s a show and dinner. Then it’s back home to dismiss the babysitter, play with the kids, deal with the dog, and go to bed at a reasonable hour. Not quite rock’n’roll in a traditional sense, but I’m OK with that.
Sure, load-in/load-out processes and tour schedules need to be adjusted, but that’s not an insurmountable obstacle. Where there’s money, there’s a way. And I’m sure many heritage acts — and their number is growing — would love to end their day earlier.
I repeat: This has nothing to do with being old, weak, crotchety, and not into live music. It has to do with being practical and inclusive. The population is aging and society needs to adjust.
Who will come with me?
Alan Cross is a broadcaster with Q107 and 102.1 the Edge and a commentator for Global News.
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