Concerts roll farther into Virginia, following the money and numbers

September 28, 1997|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,SUN POP MUSIC CRITIC

These days, the concert business is going south -- literally. As more and more shows bypass Baltimore for Virginia-area venues, local music fans are having to drive farther and farther to see shows.

Over the summer, the Nissan Pavilion at Stone Ridge, just outside Manassas, wound up booking most of the season's biggest bills, from No Doubt and Fleetwood Mac to festivals like H.O.R.D.E. and Lollapalooza. But even after the Nissan Pavilion shuts down (Tim McGraw closes out the season this evening), shows will continue to migrate south of the Potomac.

Look for a lot of them to end up at George Mason University's Patriot Center. Some of that has to do with the fact that the D.C. suburbs are richer and more populous than those around Baltimore. But it also helps that the Patriot Center, with a capacity of 10,000, is just the right size for such stars as Sarah McLachlan, k.d. lang and Jamiroquai -- each of whom would have a hard time filling a basketball arena.

There are still acts that can pack an 18,000-seat hall like the U.S. Airways Arena. But even that venerable venue will face tough competition in December, when the new MCI Center opens in downtown D.C. with a Barry Manilow concert December 10th.

To top it off, the Virginia suburbs will gain two new club-sized venues this fall. The first is an expanded version of the Birchmere, Alexandria's legendary folk club, which will open with 150 additional seats in a new location Oct. 2.

Later in the season, Cellar Door Productions will take over the 800-seat State Theater in Falls Church. Expect that hall to increase competition with Washington's 9: 30 Club, while pulling more mid-level shows away from Baltimore.

Fortunately, we Northerners aren't at a total geographic disadvantage. The Stones bring their Bridges to Babylon tour to Jack Kent Cooke Stadium in Raljon Oct. 23. Dress warm, and don't count on buying tickets at the door -- the show sold out the same day tickets went on sale.

At the moment, the Stones show is definitely the season's hottest ticket, though that has more to do with the band's brand name than any sense of how well the aging quintet will perform this time out. On the plus side, the Cooke Stadium date is almost a month into the tour, meaning the band should have all the production kinks worked out by the time they get here. On the other hand, word is that the band has spent considerably less time playing together than before the Voodoo Lounge tour, so there's a good chance the band won't be as sharp as it was in 1994.

Beyond that, things are thin on the mega-star front. Genesis is likely to make its first local appearance with new frontman Ray Wilson at some point this fall, and the Brooks & Dunn/Reba McEntire package -- easily the biggest country show of the season -- will probably arrive at the U.S. Airways Arena in November.

But many of the season's biggest acts are touring elsewhere. Mariah Carey won't hit the road until next year, starting in Japan in January, while Eric Clapton (whose new album is also delayed) is in Asia through the end of October, and Oasis is still playing Europe.

Some of the stars who are touring the U.S. won't be passing our way. Elton John will get no closer than Richmond, Va. (Nov. 7 at Richmond Coliseum), while Alan Jackson plays both Roanoke (Oct. 3 at the Roanoke Civic Center) and Hampton Roads (Oct. 9 at Hampton Coliseum).

Others aren't even touring at all -- or not just yet. Despite having big albums on the way, there are no imminent road plans for Janet Jackson, Metallica or Shania Twain.

What dates should live music fans mark on their calendars? Try not to miss the following:

Jamiroquai: OK, so all those MTV Video Music Award trophies had more to do with the moving floor gimmick than the song itself. Fact is, Jamiroquai is funky enough to stand on its own -- and get a good chunk of the crowd on its feet, as well. Patriot Center, Oct. 2.

David Bowie: In a recent interview, Bowie called his current outfit -- guitarist Reeves Gabrels, keyboardist Mike Garson, bassist Gail Ann Dorsey and drummer Zachary Alford -- the best "great band" he's had since the group that recorded the 1977 live album "Stage." If that's not reason enough to check them out, consider that this is one of the few bands around that does drum 'n' bass grooves live. D.C. Ballroom, Oct. 12.

David Byrne: With rock guitars as much a part of his new material as worldbeat rhythms, Byrne's current live show is said to be his best in years. All the more reason to catch the former Arbutus resident when he hits town. Bohager's, Oct. 13.

In Concert

Baltimore Arena, 201 W. Baltimore St. 410-347-2010

Nov. 29: Tim McGraw (tickets go on sale in October)

Bohager's, 515 S. Eden St. 410-563-7220

Sept. 30: Third Eye Blind

Oct. 5: Local H

Oct. 12: Son Volt

Oct. 13: David Byrne

Oct. 30: moe.

Concerts at Mays Chapel, 11911 Jennifer Road, Timonium. 410-922-5210

Oct. 3: Bill Morrissey

Oct. 17: June Tabor

Oct. 24: Chris Smither

Oct. 31: Big Blow and the Bushwackers

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