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Venues weather the post-9-11 blues


Peter Conlon points to the moment he felt things had finally turned the corner after the events of Sept. 11. "U2 was a great indicator," says Conlon, president of Concert-Southern Promotions, the city's major concert promoter. "The show here sold out with relative ease. With that, we saw that there was definitely some recovery here."

By the time U2 came to town Nov. 30, more than 2 1/2 months had passed since the attacks. And for Conlon and other Atlanta promoters, Bono and the boys couldn't have shown up soon enough. Nationwide, the 9-11 catastrophe sucked the wind out of an already ailing concert industry in the form of cancellations, postponements and poor turnouts. And while Atlanta wasn't hit as hard as tour hubs on the West Coast and in the Northeast, like every other major U.S. city, it shuddered from the initial impact and braced for the worst. From the Variety Playhouse to EarthLink Live to Smith's Olde Bar, from reggae (Steel Pulse) to rock (Grant-Lee Phillips) to funk (George Clinton) to jazz (Charlie Hunter), many artists either rescheduled or scrapped their Atlanta shows altogether in the days immediately following the disaster.

Though cancellations weren't much of an issue for Concert-Southern Promotions, low turnouts were. "The Rod Stewart show was a good example," Conlon says. "Rod Stewart usually sells out Chastain [Amphitheatre], and he only did about 4,000 people."

Still, most promoters agree that it could've been a lot worse. "Two weeks after Sept. 11, it certainly had a large impact," says Tom Cook, owner of EarthLink Live. "But I really don't think it was a fear issue -- people wanted to be watching TV; they wanted to know what was going on. After those two weeks, I don't think Sept. 11 had an impact one way or another."

And Cook is quick to point out that the concert business was in bad shape before 9-11. "This was the year of cancellations," he says. "I think 2002 is going to be real interesting year. You're still going to have some shows like Creed that are going to do phenomenal, but the end result of all this is that you are going to see musical acts forced to play down a level. People who used to play Philips Arena will play the Fox; people who used to play the Fox will play the Tabernacle ... So fans are going to get a


That is, unless there's another terrorist attack.

"You can't go living your life wondering what's going to happen," says CSP's Conlon. "You can't be Chicken Little about it."

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