As concerts return, here is what fans can expect at area venues

Infinite Energy Arena is planning to host full-scale concerts this year. The Smashing Pumpkins performed at the venue in 2018. Courtesy of Ryan Fleisher
Infinite Energy Arena is planning to host full-scale concerts this year. The Smashing Pumpkins performed at the venue in 2018. Courtesy of Ryan Fleisher

Credit: Ryan Fleisher

Credit: Ryan Fleisher

Doors open, but safety protocols and social distancing continue.

Nearly 13 months after the Infinite Energy Arena dimmed the lights for entertainment events, the Duluth venue welcomed about 33,000 fans over a spate of “Disney on Ice” shows in April.

Typically, the 13,000-capacity building would host about seven performances of the family-friendly ice capade. But in this still-battling-a-pandemic mode, more than double the number of shows was staged to accommodate limited and spaced pod seating.

On May 21, Mexican music stars Banda MS will perform the first concert at Infinite Energy Arena since it shuttered for shows last spring. Because tickets went on sale while Georgia’s (since-lifted) capacity regulations were still in place, seating for that concert is limited as well, and a second date has been added for June 12.

But as for the Aug. 17 James Taylor and Jackson Browne show at the venue — as well as other newly announced performances from MercyMe (Oct. 10) and Evanescence with Halestorm (Dec. 2) — it will be back to business as usual, as much as possible.

“We’ll have to see how many people want to come back,” said Stan Hall, chief operating officer of Explore Gwinnett, the umbrella organization that includes Infinite Energy Arena. “The vaccine has provided a level of comfort, but I do think there are a good number of people who are still not ready.”

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Frank Schieber of Woodstock is one of those fans who is balancing his desire to experience live music with the inherent risks.

An avid concertgoer in pre-pandemic life, Schieber, who is fully vaccinated, is comfortable attending an outdoor show — and is adamant about wearing a mask when not seated — but apprehensive about experiencing music in an enclosed setting.

“Arena shows are a no-go for me until next year,” he said.

But Schieber is holding tickets to the Motley Crue/Def Leppard/Poison/Joan Jett concert scheduled for Truist Park Aug. 15 — one of many concerts yet to be officially confirmed as actually happening this year — and would be reasonably comfortable outside.

“I’d bring my mask with me and once I was seated, I’d feel OK. I would probably gauge the lay of the land,” he said. “The people I’m going with are vaccinated, but if it turns out I’m surrounded by mouth-breathers, the mask is going on at my seat.”

ExploreMusic Notes: summer breeds a return to concerts

Aaron Payne of Vinings is still hanging on to his tickets for postponed shows by The Rolling Stones (no new date yet) and Barenaked Ladies with Toad the Wet Sprocket and Gin Blossoms (moved to 2022) and is pondering attending the Dave Matthews Band show July 27 at Ameris Bank Amphitheatre.

Also fully vaccinated so he could attend concerts and travel outside of the country, Payne wants to support area venues and is willing to comply with any safety conditions, although he’s an advocate for smaller capacity crowds for the rest of 2021.

“I think half-capacity is a good middle ground for everybody. I think it’s important to start getting music venues opened up, and I think if they said, we’ll flat-out open, come one, come all, the shows would probably sell out,” Payne said. “But what’s the backlash for that? COVID is dangerous. It’s killed a lot of people. It’s not a fake virus, and it’s something to take seriously. It’s not gone yet, and if you get it at a show, then you’re taking the risk to enter.”

James Taylor will visit Atlanta with Jackson Browne Aug. 17. Courtesy of Norman Seefe
James Taylor will visit Atlanta with Jackson Browne Aug. 17. Courtesy of Norman Seefe

Both Payne and Schieber would welcome a requirement to show proof of vaccination or a separate vaccinated section, but no metro Atlanta venues — with the exception of City Winery, which asks for a vaccination card — have established either so far.

Many venues are, however, touting contactless ticketing and concession payments, enhanced cleaning and social distancing requirements in common areas.

The Fox Theatre has its Broadway season slated to begin in late August. Courtesy of Michael West
The Fox Theatre has its Broadway season slated to begin in late August. Courtesy of Michael West

Credit: Michael West

Credit: Michael West

Infinite Energy Arena, as well as the Fox Theatre, has been certified by the Global Biorisk Advisory Council STAR, which means it employs stringent protocols for cleaning and disinfection. Additionally, Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation systems have been installed in the buildings for heating and air ventilation.

The Fox will embrace the return of entertainment fans this summer, first with a reduced-capacity concert (details coming soon) in late July, followed by the Broadway in Atlanta series opener of “Hamilton” on Aug. 24. The month-long engagement will be ticketed to capacity at the 4,600-capacity venue.

Allan C. Vella, CEO and president of the Fox Theatre, said the preparation for audiences and live events, especially “Hamilton” as the first full event, “has been a real labor of love for the entire staff.”

Masks at the Fox will be determined on a show-by-show basis, but the current policy for Broadway in Atlanta shows, such as “Hamilton,” is a requirement that “masks are to be worn by everyone at all times in the venue.”

Miguel Cervantes and the cast of "Hamilton" take a curtain call after the final production of the show in Chicago on Jan. 5, 2020, at the CIBC Theatre. Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/TNS
Miguel Cervantes and the cast of "Hamilton" take a curtain call after the final production of the show in Chicago on Jan. 5, 2020, at the CIBC Theatre. Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/TNS

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Live Nation’s area amphitheaters — Ameris Bank in Alpharetta, Cellairis at Lakewood and Cadence Bank at Chastain Park — carry advisements for fans to wear masks when entering and exiting the building, ordering food, or leaving seats. As well, the venue staffs will wear masks and signage will denote physical distancing.

Considering the uncharted territory that the live entertainment industry has been forced to navigate the past 14 months, a continued inching — not stampeding —toward normalcy is to be expected.

“I do think we’re stepping out of that dark place,” said Hall. “But we have more steps to make.”

A SAMPLING OF

SCHEDULED SHOWS

Infinite Energy Arena

May 21 and June 12: Banda MS

Aug. 17: James Taylor and Jackson Browne

Oct. 10: MercyMe

Dec. 2: Evanescence with Halestorm

Truist Park

Aug. 15: Motley Crue, Def Leppard, Poison, Joan Jett

Ameris Bank Amphitheatre

July 27: Dave Matthews Band

Fox Theatre

Aug. 24-Sept. 26: “Hamilton”

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