Asia News: Scorpions, Whitesnake Rock Singapore; Osaka On Coronavirus Watch

Photo by Aloysius Lim | LAMC Productions
– Scorpions
Scorpions and Whitesnake both went ahead with Rockfest II shows in Singapore despite coronavirus fears.

Amid all the cancellations of concerts and other events throughout Asia due to the coronavirus emergency, one big show went ahead as planned. 

Singapore Rockfest II featuring Scorpions and Whitesnake on March 5 at the Star Theatre “pushed and powered through with necessary and improved safety measures,” according to a press release from the event’s organizer, LAMC Productions. “We wanted to shed some positive light,” the message continued, “uplifting everyone’s spirits and promoting unity and fortitude instead of fear surrounding NCOV-19 concerns.”
The main thrust of the safety precautions was moving the concert from the original venue, Fort Canning Park, to the Star Theatre, which is equipped with thermal scanners at the entrances, thus “allowing for a smooth entry.” Hand sanitizers were also provided at key locations throughout the venue. Since both bands where scheduled to play full sets, timing was of the essence, and Fort Canning has only one entrance. 
The concert was “a full house,” according to LAMC, and was also attended by Amrin Amin, senior parliamentary secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Health, who said, “It’s important to send a message that COVID virus or no, in Singapore life still goes on. Nothing changes, and we’ll take the necessary precautions, but we’ll continue to rock on…rock and roll never dies.”
Unfortunately, Singapore Rockfest II’s presentation of Slipknot and Trivium slated for March 24 was canceled after both groups called off their Asian tours, though Stiff Little Fingers’s Singapore show in early March, also presented by LAMC, went ahead as planned. 

Japan Hit During Busy Concert Period
The Northern Ireland punk band also made it to their show in Japan earlier in the week, but though Whitesnake performed in Singapore, they canceled their extensive Japan tour in mid-March, perhaps a casualty of Japan’s more serious public policy regarding the epidemic. The Slipknot Knotfest, slated for Tokyo on March 20-21 was also postponed, of course. 
Other international acts that canceled or postponed scheduled Japan tours in early March included Yungblud, A-Ha, Rick Astley, Pig Destroyer, Brujeria, Jonas Blue, Bruno Major, Bright Eyes, Whitney, Booker T. Jones, Eric Benet, Morgan James, Becca Stevens, Level 42, Stereolab and Mike Stern & Jeff Lorber. Also, the two currently operating Billboard Live nightclubs in Japan decided to cancel all performances from Feb. 28 to March 15. A new Billboard Live venue in Yokohama is set to open next month with a full lineup for April and May that’s already been announced.
April, in fact, is one of the busiest months of the year for concerts in Japan, so ticketholders are waiting anxiously to see what transpires. At one point, several music websites were saying that Bob Dylan’s 14-date stand in Tokyo and Osaka for late April had been cancelled, but as of March 11 tickets remain on sale and the promoter Udo Artists has not announced any changes, so it still seems to be on.
The Spring Festival in Tokyo, one of the year’s biggest classical music events in Japan, is still on, but it will not be open to the public. Instead, the festival, which features peformances by the Berlin Philharmonic, will take place in empty halls and streamed live for free.
Osaka On Watch
On March 9, the city of Kobe in western Japan released a notice asking anyone who had attended concerts at four separate “live houses” in neighboring Osaka on seven designated days contact city health officials immediately, even if they were showing no symptoms of the flu. 
At least 15 people who had attended concerts at two of the clubs were confirmed to have contracted the virus. As of March 8, 49 cases had been linked to the clubs or people who had attended concerts there. It was later learned that several of these people had attended other concerts at two other clubs during a period when they may have already had the virus, though no one has manifested any serious symptoms. Altogether, some 200 people may have attended the various shows. Though Kobe and Osaka have been explicit about dates and venues in their notices, the media has shied away from naming the venues involved, since it might be seen as “interference with business activities,” which is a crime in Japan. Essentially, all the press can do is publicize a general alarm and point concerned people to public health facilities. One of the live houses, Arc, has cancelled all events for the rest of the month.
K-pop artists are suffering a double whammy due to the virus. Many concerts were called off or postponed in South Korea, but due to a travel ban targeting visitors from South Korea, some K-pop acts who were schedule to perform in Japan in March had to cancel. Starting March 9, Japan suspended its visa waiver program with Korea, and in retaliation, South Korea did the same for visitors from Japan. In addition, Japan implemented quarantine procedures for any visitors from South Korea and China, and while quarantines are not enforced with legally binding punitive measures—visitors are simply asked to not use public transportation and remain indoors wherever they are staying for two weeks—they effectively make it impossible for K-pop artists to perform in public. JYP Entertainment has cancelled concerts by Stray Kids, who were set to perform at the Maruzen Intec Arena in Osaka March 21 and 22 as the opening salvo in their world tour. 
In addition, Super Junior has indefinitely postponed its Saitama Super Arena shows for March 25-26. Another Korean entertainment agency, CJ ENM postponed the Japanese leg of KCON, a major Korean culture festival that is held at various locations overseas. KCON was to take place at Makuhari Messe Convention Center, east of Tokyo, from April 3 to 5, featuring best-selling acts such as Twice and Iz*One. The time period is currently outside the visa waiver cancellation window, but CJ says it is cancelling the convention for “safety reasons.” Twice is also scheduled to perform two shows at the Tokyo Dome in mid-April, and JYP told the Korea Herald it is “watching the situation closely.” The concerts have already been postponed once due to the emergency.
Despite frayed diplomatic relations between the two countries, Japan remains K-pop’s biggest and most important overseas market, accounting for 60 percent of South Korea’s music exports. 
China Sees $143M Loss From Canceled Events
China Daily reports that 8,000 performances were cancelled or postponed in China in March, according to the China Association of Performing Arts, resulting in 1 billion yuan ($143 million) in losses. The association’s report, released March 9, said that 2020 was set to be the biggest year ever for the performing arts market in China, “but because of the viral outbreak, performances have been cancelled or postponed in January and February. The performing arts market will continue to be affected by the outbreak until the virus is contained.”
In what is seen as a hopeful sign, 93 percent of the ticket holders for Andy Lau’s region-wide spring tour, which has been postponed indefenitely, have not asked for refunds yet. The same goes for Liu Yuning’s China concerts. About 94 percent of the people who bought tickets have said they will wait until the shows are rescheduled, though they are guaranteed refunds. In fact, according to ticketing fim Damai, some 66 percent of tickets sold for pop concerts that have been called off have yet to demand refunds.