Bumped Band Is A Good Sport

By Keith Spera, New Orleans Times-Picayune, April 18, 2008

The score of the New Orleans Arena's most unlikely matchup this year: Hornets 1, Rush 0.

The NBA's decision to schedule the Hornets' opening playoff game at the arena Saturday forced the veteran Canadian rock band to move a planned Saturday night concert to Sunday.

"That is certainly an unfortunate situation, but that's a little bit of the cost of doing business," arena spokesman Bill Curl said. "We're not out to cause people problems. We're out to enable them to see as much sports and entertainment as we can."

Concert promoter LiveNation was aware the April 19 date might conflict with a playoff game when the company booked Rush into the arena months ago, Curl said. Such potential scheduling conflicts are common at dozens of venues with professional sports teams.

"When you book that far out, you have to roll the bones," said LiveNation's Brian Birr, playing on the title of a Rush album. "This show was booked before the (Hornets') season started."

LiveNation and arena officials did not know the NBA's playoff schedule until late Wednesday.

"We were in hopes that the Hornets might get the Sunday game," Curl said. "It was 50-50 going into last week. There was no way to make this announcement ahead of time. You have to hold your breath and see what happens and do the best you can."

Tickets for Saturday's concert will be honored Sunday. Refunds are also available from wherever the tickets were purchased.

Despite a full season of Hornets home games, the New Orleans Arena has presented 20 concerts in the previous 12 months, the most of any year since the arena's 1999 opening. Rush has not performed in New Orleans since 1996. Pent-up demand led to advance ticket sales in excess of 10,000, among the highest totals on the current leg of the band's tour.

Rush's manager, Ray Danniels, apologized to fans inconvenienced by the date switch and announced Thursday that the band would donate $100,000 to various Hurricane Katrina relief initiatives.

Rush was initially scheduled to perform Sunday at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion outside Houston. LiveNation swapped that show to Saturday.

Flip-flopping the Houston and New Orleans dates made the most sense logistically, given the tour's route.

"There weren't many other dates that Rush was available to play New Orleans," Birr said. "They probably would have had to cancel New Orleans if they couldn't have done it on Sunday."

Canceling would have not only disappointed fans, but also have resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue for the band, arena and promoter.

Keeping the show on a weekend would better accommodate travelers and facilitate walk-up ticket sales, Birr said. "We were trying to inconvenience the least amount of people."

Some Rush fans, including at least one flying to New Orleans from Canada, were likely to return their tickets for refunds. Others rolled with the changes.

David Domingue of Scott planned to attend both the New Orleans and Houston shows, increasing his lifetime Rush concert total to 28. Domingue simply reversed the direction he planned to drive on Interstate 10.

"It's good that the Hornets are back where they belong," Domingue said. "As big a fan of Rush as I am, I'm glad arrangements were made so fans of both can be justified."