Business As Usual

Although the July 7th terrorist attacks on London caused West End theatres to cancel or postpone performances – as did a clutch of international acts including Blue, Queens of the Stone Age and Sum 41 – it only took a couple of days before the English capital’s nightlife was back to doing business as usual.

Queen + Paul Rodgers (July 8th) and R.E.M. (9th) both postponed their dates in the city’s Hyde Park, which had hosted the Live 8 extravaganza only five days before the bombs went off, but they were only put back a week as both the acts and the music industry seemed determined that the shows must go on.

As the death toll from the four explosions passed 50, Live 8 international producer Harvey Goldsmith told Pollstar, “The bombs should have no effect on business. Obviously, all promoters will have to be more diligent with security arrangements.”

He said the shows that didn’t happen were canceled or postponed because, due to the bombs, there wasn’t sufficient police or first aid cover.

Stuart Galbraith of Clear Channel Entertainment, which runs the summer season in Hyde Park, took a similar view: “I think there’ll be a short-term effect, but only for a few days, and that will be the end of it and everything will be O.K.”

Having had staff and contractors on the Hyde Park site throughout the first half of the summer, and then having the season extended by a week due to the postponement of the R.E.M. and Queen/Rodgers shows, Galbraith said they’d all gone home for a couple of days’ rest to avoid becoming “stir crazy.”

He also echoed Goldsmith’s views on the need for all promoters to be even more vigilant on security matters.

Steve Forster, ops director for Academy Music Group – which owns London’s Brixton Academy and Shepherds Bush Empire and several provincial venues – said, “It doesn’t matter what precautions you take – and ours are constantly under review – you can’t totally eliminate the possibility of someone bringing something into a concert.

“So we set out to make it as difficult as we possibly can and try to make ourselves as hard a target as we possibly can.

“Every single bag is searched and then put in the cloakroom because that’s the only way to guard against the idiot who has too much lager, leaves his bag unattended and then can’t remember where he put it.

“There’s a very small percentage who’ll argue that the searches are a fundamental infringement of their civil liberties, blah, blah, blah, but at least 99 percent are fine about it. They understand it’s for their benefit and safety and we’re doing it because we don’t want people to get blown up.”

Forster’s point about the difficulties of eliminating all threats was reinforced by the July 12th news that the explosions five days earlier were the work of young suicide bombers who’d been raised in the U.K.

Mark Harding, managing director of ShowSec International security company – which was due to handle the backstage area at both the R.E.M. and Queen/Rodgers shows – agreed.

“You can bring in sniffer dogs and do a close search on everyone, but (the terrorists) will just stay sleeping and wait for another day,” Harding said.

“Israel must be the most security-conscious country in the world, but they can’t stop it either because a determined and extremist suicide bomber will find a target sooner or later.

“All we can really do is continually review our risk assessments, and find a balance between being diligent and being oppressive. The aim is to give the audience the confidence to keep coming to the venues.”

Unless or until there are more bombs, London shows every sign of carrying on business as usual.

John Gammon