By the Way

To play or not to play ... probably depends on ticket sales

By JEFF CLARK

jclark@sunherald.com

Bryan Adams played the Mississippi Coast Coliseum in 1987.
Bryan Adams played the Mississippi Coast Coliseum in 1987. ttisbell@sunherald.com

We all saw Monday’s headline: Bryan Adams cancels show in Mississippi.

But Adams didn’t just cancel a show in Mississippi, he cancelled a show in Biloxi and that’s a something entirely different.

Adams made an announcement on his website claiming he was cancelling his Thursday show at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum due to the recent passing of HB 1523, the “Religious Freedom Act.”

In full disclosure, the show was not selling very well. A Coliseum official was quoted in the Sun Herald as telling one of my colleagues that he didn’t know how many tickets had been sold to the show. That’s like me saying I don’t know how much money is in my wallet right now. I always know how much money I have and my current cash flow, much like Adams’ Biloxi ticket sales, is not a lot.

It was reported in March that about 1,000 tickets had been sold and about 3,000 tickets needed to be sold to break even.

It’s interesting that he would cancel a show in Biloxi because of HB 1523, yet he’s played concerts in India where it is illegal to be gay.

In 2015, the Hindu Times quoted Adams as saying, “I really want to come back to India. I have actually wanted to visit the country since (sic) a long time. If we can get a promoter there to bring us back, it would be great.”

So yeah, HB 1523. It didn't keep Culture Club and Boy George from scheduling a July show at the IP.

Regardless that tickets weren’t selling well, the fact that an entertainer would cancel a show in Biloxi in public opposition to the bill is unfortunate and it could set an unwanted precedent.

Local Mississippians gather in front of the Biloxi Visitor's Center on Friday, April 8, 2016, to protest HB 1523. The "Religious Freedom Act" allows public and private services to be denied to gay individuals and couples based on religious beliefs

I reached out to Belinda Carlisle yesterday to see if she is planning on cancelling her show next weekend at the IP. With a son who is both gay and a gay rights activists and a large LGBT following, as is the case with most performers, I’m curious to see how she feels about this. I’m waiting to hear back from her. I also thought about Chuck Panozzo, the original bassist in Styx who still plays some shows with the band. Chuck is also openly gay and living with HIV. Styx are a mainstay on the Coast and play at one of the casinos about twice a year. My pal Lawrence Gowan, who has been the lead vocalist in the band for about 20 years now, has told me many times how much the band loves playing Biloxi. I wonder how welcome they will feel when they play the Beau in May with the stench of HB 1523 lingering in the air?

You know who else cares? The people who book the shows at the Beau, the Hard Rock, the Golden Nugget, the IP and the Island View, that’s who. I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that the upper management at all of these places are trying to put some pressure on Gov. Phil Bryant and the state Republicans to repeal the bill.

Casino shows are a huge deal on the Coast and are big time money makers. They appeal to tourists, gamblers, locals and music fans from Pensacola and Baton Rouge to North Mississippi and even Memphis.

I’ve never really been a fan of this type of unilateral punishment. It’s a bit like the teacher punishing the whole class when a culprit will not come forth and claim his or her wrongdoings.

But Bryant and associates do not care about Bryan Adams and Styx and the entertainment industry on the Coast. I go to a lot of shows and I have yet to see Bryant rocking out to Toto while wearing a bandanna and a Steve Miller Band T-shirt.

But I have seen him at a lot of Ole Miss football games. And he loves Cruisin' The Coast.

Maybe Ole Miss should look at giving Bryant the cheap seats at the football games and making him walk a long distance to get to his seats? Perhaps the school morally objects to people that don't wear ties with sports coats?

As for what happens to the casino music scene, I guess it all comes down to the classic “WWJD.”

For real -- what would Journey do?

Jeff Clark is a staff writer for the Sun Herald.

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