THUNDER BAY – Live music is on the Thunder Bay horizon.
The Thunder Bay Community Auditorium announced July Talk will stage an indoor, full-capacity show on Dec. 13, the first of several shows facility management is hoping to stage as pandemic restrictions begin to lift.
Other acts confirmed to play include Glorious Sons, Alice Cooper, The Tenors and Dallas Smith.
Auditorium general manager Bob Halvorsen on Tuesday said it feels great to get back to doing what they do best, hosting some of the best touring acts on the road, something they haven’t done since March 2020 when COVID-19 halted all tours in their tracks.
“We haven’t had any shows happen and we’ve had nothing booked until now. This is the first time we’ve actually got a confirmed show on Dec. 13, with July Talk. Tickets go on sale to the general public on Friday, June 25, and there’s a few pre-sales before that,” Halvorsen said.
“We are extremely happy to be back in the business again of doing what we love to do.”
Judging by how fast shows are selling out south of the border, where things have started to reopen and tours and music festivals are being announced, the appetite is definitely there for live music.
“The reaction we’re seeing in the press from people who just can’t wait to go, I’ve got to think that we’re not isolated from that. It’s bound to have the same kind of reaction here in town, I would think,” Halvorsen said.
He added they’re using the first few shows, which have been booked by concert giants Live Nation and AEG, as tests, to see just how strong the Thunder Bay appetite for in-person live music is, and then plan to work on shows they book themselves, including potential rescheduled dates for ZZ Top and comedian Jeff Dunham, whose sold out shows were cancelled because of the pandemic.
“I think people just have pent-up energy to do a lot of things, probably a lot more things than just the Auditorium, but the Auditorium is definitely on the list of things to get out and start doing again,” Halvorsen said.
Until now, the facility has been reluctant to book shows, despite interest from promoters, not wanting to have to refund tickets if another COVID-19 wave comes along. With adult vaccination rates in Thunder Bay topping the two-thirds mark and the ramping up of second doses, Halvorsen said he’s reached the point where he’s confident indoor live music will be given the go-ahead by public health officials by December.
The province is entering Step 1 of its reopening plan on Friday and could reach Step 3 six weeks beyond that.
That said, precaution will still be at the forefront six months from now.
“We’re going to do whatever is necessary in this building, that’s mandated by the province, to ensure that we do everything safely for the public. How that all pans out, it’s going to be up to a lot of things that we don’t have any control over,” Halvorsen said.
Seeing crowds at hockey and baseball games, with no COVID-19 outbreaks as a result, is encouraging, he added, noting the Auditorium needs to have full capacity crowds in order to make shows work.
“We can’t operate financially here with half-house, third-house, quarter-house – anything. We need all 1,500 seats sellable in order to make these things work. It looks like fans are coming back in full capacity and it doesn’t appear there are any blips in infection rates following these events, so I guess we’re hopeful. Let’s all hope this is behind us.”