'80s Nostalgia Goes on Tour

Summer's almost here and the time is right for … catching your favorite musician on the road.

With the continuing uncertainty in the music business brought upon by illegal file-sharing and sales declines, recording artists are focusing their efforts on the one revenue source they can count on — touring.

Even though the record business is in trouble, the business of music is experiencing an explosive growth, thanks in part to the concert business. Concert ticket sales revenues in North America have been on the upswing for the past four years, with 2003 revenues jumping 20 percent to $2.5 billion, according to industry watchers, and there are signs that 2004 could be an even bigger year.

Last year, veteran rockers and country acts were the "hot tickets." Figures from Billboard and Pollstar show the Rolling Stones grossed $299,520,230 from 113 shows, Bruce Springsteen's tour netted $221 million from 121 shows, and the Dixie Chicks set a record for first-day sales with 790,000 tickets sold on March 1, 2003.

The list of acts hitting the road this summer is extensive and it includes artists as diverse as Fleetwood Mac, Dave Matthews, Rush, Jessica Simpson, Bette Midler, Jimmy Buffett, No Doubt/Blink-182 and Linkin Park. Perennial favorites Lollapalooza, Ozzy Osbourne's Ozzfest and the Warped Tour promise to give the fans a real "bang for the buck" with strong artist lineups.

Undoubtedly, the hottest tickets are for those 1980s favorites who are now hitting the tour circuit to reassert their importance in the pantheon of pop culture.

Call it nostalgia for the decade of excess, or a yearning for a time when MTV's programming consisted of nonstop videos by artists such as Haircut 100, Adam Ant, Duran Duran and a young lass from Detroit who desired to "conquer the world."

Fast-forward 20 years and Madonna — the Material Girl-turned-mom — is embarking on what will certainly become the year's top-grossing tour, while fellow '80s mega-superstar Prince has rewritten the book on what constitutes the perfect comeback with his critically acclaimed, sold-out U.S. tour.

Yes, 2004 is already being dubbed the "Totally '80s — The Retro's So Bright I Have to Wear Shades" year. Are you surprised? Didn't you see the signs? VH1 scoring huge ratings with its I Love the '80s series, a Broadway musical based on Boy George's life, and Jennifer Lopez channeling Jennifer Beals' Flashdance splash in a video — all were dead giveaways that we are headed back to the future.

If you came of age during the awesome '80s or merely wish to experience an era when greed was good, you're in luck this summer.

Madonna's "Reinvention" tour kicked off May 24 in Los Angeles and will run through Aug. 2 before she heads on to Europe. The tour will focus on her classic material with the set list consisting of her older repertoire — something that the fans were left craving for during 2001's "Drowned World Tour."

With top-tier tickets priced at $300, the "Reinvention" tour will easily surpass the $74 million that her last tour grossed. Meanwhile, Prince's "Musicology" tour is the "must-see" concert with everyone from the critics to the fans hailing it as a true religious experience.

If you long to hear "Purple Rain" live and in the round, His Purple Majesty will be crisscrossing the United States through September. As an added bonus, all ticket holders receive a copy of his new CD Musicology as a take-home souvenir.

MTV pioneers the Cure, the Pixies, Morrissey and Skinny Puppy are also coming out of retirement for long-awaited jaunts.

Robert Smith's the Cure recently returned to the stage at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and gave the fans a taste of what they can expect to see when the "Curiosa" Tour kicks off in West Palm Beach, Fla., on July 24.

After playing low-key shows in L.A. and New York earlier this spring, post-punker, eternal brooder and ex-Smiths vocalist Morrissey returns as a headliner on the Lollapalooza Festival, kicking off on July 14 in Auburn, Wash. Meanwhile, Frank Black, or rather Black Francis' reunion with the Pixies, will play a few dates on Lollapalooza before embarking on their own tour.

Not to be outdone, Skinny Puppy, who pioneered the fusion of industrial-Goth and electronic rock in the late '80s and influenced Marilyn Manson, returns after an absence of 12 years beginning June 11 in Portland, Ore.

Hard rock fans will get their dose of loud, wailing guitars as Van Halen, the biggest American supergroup of the '80s, returns after an absence of six years for one of the summer's most-anticipated tours.

The long-rumored reunion tour will feature vocalist/guitarist Sammy Hagar, the Van Halen brothers (Eddie and Alex) and bassist Michael Anthony. It kicks off in Greensboro, N.C., on June 11.

Glam-rockers and Van Halen apprentices Poison will be touring with KISS throughout the summer while the gods of Hard Rock, Metallica, will hit the road on Aug. 16 in St. Paul, Minn. Femme rocker Pat Benatar will hit us with her best shots starting June 26 in Missoula, Mont.

If you long to shake your body and do the conga this summer, don't fret because the original '80s Latin crossover queen, Gloria Estefan, returns in her first major tour since 1996.

Long before Ricky Martin, Shakira and Marc Anthony, Estefan's Miami Sound Machine introduced Latin sounds to middle America. The world record for the longest conga line was set during one of her concerts — 119,000 people in 1988 — and rumor has it that she'll try to break the record once again.

The '80s would not be complete without Dr. Noah Drake, a.k.a. Rick Springfield, who has just released an album of new material and will be on the road all summer and well into the fall playing "Jessie's Girl" every night as well as the new songs.

Somehow Springfield is living up to the "Working Class Dog" title that was bestowed upon him when he juggled a TV and music career 20+ years ago. Clay Aiken, who coincidentally is touring this summer, would be wise to study Rick's survival skills.