KISS Off Serbia

Serbian promoter Vlado Ivankovic is angry with the press for reporting that the cancellation of his KISS show in Belgrade was due to poor ticket sales more than political unrest.

The head of Croatia-based Lupe Promotions says local rumours and stories in papers including the widely read Vecernje Novosti have come about only because the truth isn’t a good enough story.

"They don’t want to listen to me," he said, after the leading daily reported that sales were well short of what it would take to fill the 10,000-capacity Dasmajdan.

"They said the same when Tokio Hotel canceled, even though the whole tour was put back," Ivankovic explained, claiming that the blame partly belongs to Croatian promoters.

"We always pay the money back as soon as a show is canceled," he said, readily admitting that he was referring to the times when his former boss and fellow Croatian promoter Marijan Crnaric had Metallica and Rolling Stones fans chasing him for refunds.

Ivankovic said it’s true that only 3,000 tickets had been sold but that was largely because the band’s agent, Rod MacSween of ITB, had told him not to spend too much on the early promotion in case the show had to be called off.

He also said the KISS show was canceled solely because the band didn’t want to play Belgrade four days after the May 11 elections.

KISS released a statement announcing the cancellation, saying, "The members of the band regret to inform you that the concert has to be canceled, but the situation in Serbia does not leave them much choice. However, they hope they will perform in Serbia on some other occasion."

He said the cancellation, along with two others he was forced into – Whitesnake in Bosnia and Judas Priest in Serbia – doesn’t mean the market is shaking the way his local Croatian market did in 2004 and 2007.

Last summer, Ivankovic had to move a June 5 Zucchero show at the 7,000-capacity Zagreb Salata to the coastal city of Zadar, where it became a free-entry event sponsored by the local council. He also had to downsize a June 7 Dream Theatre show from the 15,000-capacity open-air site at Jarun to the 4,000-capacity room at Dom Sportova.

In the same time frame, the state-funded Koncertna Direkcija only half-filled the 9,000-capacity Dom Sportova for a May 31 Gipsy Kings show and Hrvoje Hum of Nota had to drop his June 3 INXS show from Dom Sportova to the 1,200-capacity Club Boogaloo. A May 21 show for Vanessa Mae and a May 30 show for Juliette & The Licks were also scrapped.

That echoed the summer of 2004, when Lenny Kravitz, Santana, Pink and Metallica all had their Zagreb shows downsized or scrapped. It was the Metallica cancellation that forced the police to protect box office staff from ticket-buyers being stalled over getting their refunds.

KISS is believed to have been monitoring the political situation in Serbia since the February elections, which were followed by Kosovo unilaterally declaring independence February 17.

On March 8 the Serbian government chucked in the towel because, in the words of its leader, it can’t "function" anymore.