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Sunday, May 26, 2024

Performers could require vaccine proof, Covid test at local Live Nation-managed amphitheaters

Live Nation has hosted multiple sold-out concerts at Riverfront Park in Wilmington, with approximately 7,200 people and no masking requirement. Now that Covid-19 is back on the rise, it is introducing an optional testing or vaccine policy for its artists. (Port City Daily photo/Alexandria Sands Williams)

Update: Live Nation announced Friday, Aug. 13, it will enforce all performers and fans to prove Covid-19 vaccination or present a negative Covid-19 test, in order to attend shows they’re hosting at their venues or festivals they produce this fall, “where permitted by law.” The policy goes into effect Oct. 4; read more here.

WILMINGTON –– As Covid-19 resurges across the country, Live Nation, the entertainment company managing events at Live Oak Pavilion and Greenfield Lake Amphitheater in Wilmington, announced it is allowing and encouraging performers to require proof of vaccination or negative test results for entry to their shows. At this point, no artists traveling through Wilmington have confirmed whether they will take the precaution.

Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino shared details of the new practice last week in a letter to his staff. In lieu of a negative test, patrons would need to be fully vaccinated.

“Please note artists will decide if they want this option on their show,” a Live Nation spokesperson wrote in an email to Port City Daily. “We are encouraging it and seeing a lot of momentum towards this model.”

RELATED: GRiZ electrifies Riverfront Park Friday, gets rained out Saturday

The news also stated that effective Oct. 4, Live Nation employees in the U.S. would need to be vaccinated to enter the company’s events, venues or offices, with few exceptions. The letter explained Live Nation is reopening offices for flex work in the coming weeks.

These moves from the concert promoter come as the delta variant of Covid-19 has cases back on the rise. Locally, New Hanover County’s weekly case count more than quadrupled in two weeks. Over 500 people tested positive in the first eight days of the month. While most cases are among the unvaccinated, a small fraction of the fully vaccinated population is catching breakthrough infections.

READ MORE: New Hanover County will have employees verify vaccine or take free weekly Covid test

Meanwhile, Live Nation has continued fully booking the Live Oak Pavilion at Riverfront Park, a new outdoor amphitheater. The recently opened venue can hold up to 7,200 people. Five of six shows, excluding one canceled GRiZ performance, have sold out since the first concert, from Widespread Panic in mid-July to Miranda Lambert this past weekend. Rock band Train played the venue this past Tuesday and was the first show not completely booked.

Greenfield Lake Amphitheater, the smaller, open-air sister venue, is also hosting shows with up to 1,200 attendees.

According to the CEO’s letter to staff, Live Nation is experiencing a demand for concerts and festivals that is outpacing expectations. The City of Wilmington told Port City Daily in June the local market for ticket sales was reportedly much stronger than expected; the estimated attendance for the 2021 concert season was 130,000 people –– 50,000 over what Live Nation projected during the design stage of Riverfront Park.

At this time, face coverings are not required at either outdoor venue. However, a growing list of organizations and businesses are beginning to reintroduce mask policies at indoor facilities.

The first weekend in August, Live Nation required either a negative test or a vaccine card at the Lollapalooza music festival in Chicago. On the second day of the festival, organizers announced they would enforce masks in indoor spaces for the remaining two days, based on advice from the state’s department of public health.

“I think what we’re seeing is a shift to increasing requirements for entry of either tested or fully vaccinated. We had that at Lollapalooza over the last weekend very successfully done,” Live Nation President and CFO Joe Berchtold said in an Aug. 3 earnings call. “Over 90% of the people were fully vaccinated, which I think was a great signal in terms of people’s commitment and support of being vaccinated in order to go to these shows.”

(Update: Thursday afternoon, the Chicago Department of Public Health reported in a news conference that 203 recent Covid-19 cases are linked to Lollapalooza. The festival attracted around 385,000 attendees.)

Two headliners coming to Raleigh with Live Nation in September announced they would take the precaution at their shows: Maroon 5 at Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek and The Killers at Red Hat Amphitheater.

As of Wednesday, it does not appear artists touring through Wilmington have responded to Live Nation’s new policy. Port City Daily reached out to almost all upcoming performers and received few responses, none of which shared a firm decision. Yet, over the last few months, a few artists coming to town encouraged vaccines.

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Phish’s founding member Trey Anastasio, who is playing in Wilmington Sept. 24, performed to a vaccinated-only crowd of 2,700 at New York’s Beacon Theatre this past June. Everyone over 16 who entered had to show proof of vaccination. Phish also encouraged people via its website to get vaccinated ahead of their summer shows, noting that social distancing within the venues is impossible.

In April, country singer Brett Eldredge, who is visiting Riverfront Park Oct. 14, shared a photo of him getting his shot on Twitter, writing: “Getting vaccinated is rock and roll….thanks so much to all the health care workers and everyone out there helping us all through this wild ride! One step closer to the . . . staggggge…where should we come play first?”

Live Oak Pavilion has 12 more concerts and two stand-up comedy acts scheduled through the fall.

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Alexandria Sands
Alexandria Sands
Alexandria Sands is a journalist covering New Hanover County and education. Before Port City Daily, she reported for the award-winning State Port Pilot in Southport. She graduated from UNC Charlotte and wrote for several Charlotte publications while there. When not writing, Williams is most likely in the gym, reading or spending time with her Golden Pyrenees. Reach her at or on Twitter @alexsands_

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