Summer stadium-fillers 'N Sync and Dave Matthews Band mean hot times for the music biz

By Chris Willman
Updated May 18, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

It’s the roar of the flash pot, the smell of the loud. The summer concert season is at hand, which means lots of warm nights wishing the guy in the row behind you would bogart that joint instead of blowing smoke into your hair, and lots of days spent wondering just how many extraneous service, facilities, groundskeeping, historic preservation, and postage charges one ticket can possibly have added on. Oh, and lots of music.

”We as an industry throw way too much at the public between Memorial Day and Labor Day,” says Gary Bongiovanni, editor of the trade magazine Pollstar. (Sounds like a certain movie industry we know.) ”But acts don’t like to tour in the snow.” So much for EW putting out that big Winter Tour Preview issue. For now we can choose between a tireless succession of boys — and bulls — of summer. Bongiovanni picks U2, Aerosmith, and Madonna to draw some of the strongest business at the arena level, even if the Material Girl’s ducats do top out at $250. ”The strange thing is, those will be the first tickets sold,” he marvels. ”If you’re hot, the public may grumble, but they’ll pay.”

And who’s hottest of all? It’d have to be the only two acts brave enough to commandeer the nation’s stadiums on away-game days this summer: ‘N Sync and Dave Matthews Band, two seemingly polar opposites united by a common workhorse attitude and limitless reserves of uncommon likability. EW caught up with both acts on the eve of their summer swings. Batter up!

‘N SYNC

‘N Sync have been spotted.

A roller-coaster car is easing back into the station at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure in Orlando. It’s full of screaming girls. ”It was that scary?” Chris Kirkpatrick calls out to the shriekers. As a matter of fact, it is: The Dueling Dragons coaster dispenses with the usual slow buildup, immediately thrusting the rider into a terrifying…but never mind. The passengers are screaming at ‘N Sync, of course, whom they’ve spied sneaking onto the ride. Even from a queasy distance, camouflaged by some new coifs (no more bandannas — Justin has a buzz cut!) and facial hair mutations (that’s no caterpillar on JC’s chin!), they’re still ‘n-mistakable to their fans.

Now it’s ‘N Sync’s turn. Having the base camp for their 2001 PopOdyssey tour rehearsals set up on a nearby Universal soundstage has its privileges; one is having a tour guide who’ll not only cut you in line but point out which seats offer the most stomach-churning sensation. Lest anyone suspect that 30 million in worldwide album sales later, the fivesome have become jaded, we’re pleased to report that like any young loop-the-loop thrill seekers, they still throw their arms in the air and wave ’em like they just don’t care. ”My balls are in my stomach!” yells Kirkpatrick from his back-row spot during one particularly emasculating descent, anatomically incorrect and elated about it.

This would be the time to segue into the inevitable cliche about ‘N Sync’s roller-coaster career, except that that would imply some valleys as well as peaks. So much for the introductory anecdote as metaphor, then, because despite fears — or, in some cases, hopes — that the teen-pop boom might be entering a recessionary phase, there are few, if any, signs of a downturn for ‘N Sync. If they don’t set a record for first-week album sales with the upcoming Celebrity, it’ll be only because they come up short of their own all-time high-water mark: last year’s 2.4 million opening frame for No Strings Attached. And they’re the only act venturing an all-stadiums tour this year, doing 43 dates in 35 cities, beginning May 23 in Jacksonville, Fla. Only a handful have been instant sellouts, but they’re still topping last year’s business, when they played mostly arenas with a few ballparks thrown in.

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