The largest North American power blackout in history plunged more than 50 million people into darkness in a 9,600-square-mile swath from the East Coast to the Midwest and Southern Canada on Thursday, affecting everything from subways in New York to the water supply in Cleveland. The outage also cut the power to a number of summer tours, knocking Bob Dylan and Tori Amos offline and sending many other bands scurrying for backup plans and places to crash for the night.
An eagerly awaited hometown reunion of punk pioneers the Stooges, scheduled to play their first Detroit show in more than three decades on Thursday, was also shut down by the power failure.
When a still-unexplained event caused the power grid to go down around 4:11 p.m. ET, many bands were just about to soundcheck for the night’s show or were in transit to gigs scheduled for Friday (August 15). Because the outage impacted more than 10 major airports, backing up flights for at least one day or more, according to transportation officials, many more shows could be impacted across the country.
New York was the hardest hit when the show did not go on Thursday night. The 24-hour-a-day neon bazaar around Times Square was eerily quiet, with the curtains failing to go up on Broadway shows such as “The Lion King,” “The Producers,” “42nd Street” and “Aida,” as well as 20 other plays and musicals around town. Bob Dylan’s Thursday night show at the city’s Hammerstein Ballroom was canceled; a spokesperson could not be reached by press time to verify if it will be rescheduled. The show did, however, go on for the Indigo Girls, who played their Summerstage concert in Central Park thanks to generators.
What was to be a landmark concert in Detroit Thursday night by punk godfathers the Stooges was canceled when the city went dark. The band, with original singer Iggy Pop joined by guitarist Ron Asheton and drummer Scott Asheton, was to play the DTE Energy Music Theater along with Sonic Youth and the Von Bondies. According to the Associated Press, the band had finished its soundcheck on Thursday and was on its way back to its hotel when the power went out. The concert has been rescheduled for August 25. Prior to the show, the Detroit Free Press ran an interview with the band in which Pop said of the concert, “I have a real good feeling about this. A lot of very deep feelings.”
Tori Amos’ Friday night concert at the Meadow Brook Festival in Rochester Hills, Michigan, has been postponed until Monday, according to a spokesperson.
The Kiss/ Aerosmith/ Ted Nugent/ Saliva concert scheduled for Comerica Park in Detroit Friday night is canceled, according to Ticketmaster, which also reported that the Rock the Mic tour stop in Holmdel, New Jersey, on Friday was on as of noon. The Evanescence/ Cold show at the Tower City Amphitheater in Cleveland on Friday night was also scheduled to take place, according to a spokesperson for Evanescence. Ozzfest managed to power up for its Boston show Thursday night and will be back again for another go at the Tweeter Center on Friday night, the tour’s spokesperson said.
The Justin Timberlake/ Christina Aguilera tour, derailed earlier this week by a million-dollar mishap involving a lighting rig that crashed to the stage, is still set to relaunch on Monday at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York, and should not be affected by the blackout.
Steely Dan were scheduled to play the Molson Amphitheater in blacked-out Toronto on Thursday night, but that show was canceled, representatives for the band said.
Though terrorist attacks were quickly dismissed as a cause by authorities, the sight of thousands of New Yorkers spilling onto the city’s streets and onto highways was a chilling reminder of the chaos of September 11, 2001. The blackout shut down airports and ATM machines all across the Eastern U.S. and overwhelmed phone networks as most everyone frantically called loved ones to check in and get updates on the situation. Outages were reported in Michigan, Ohio, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, as well as Toronto and other parts of Ontario.
Some out-of-town guests in New York hotels were forced to sleep on blankets on roped-off sidewalks overnight, as their electronic hotel card keys were rendered useless by the power loss. Power was gradually returning to many of the cities by Friday morning, but subway service was not expected to be available in New York for much of the day and a curfew remained in effect for several cities.