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Glory Days for Springsteen at Concert Box Office

Bruce Springsteen was the top concert draw across North America in 2003 as more than 1.6 million fans paid to take in his marathon shows and musings on the struggles of the working man.

According to preliminary data published on Tuesday by concert trade publication Pollstar, the 54-year-old New Jersey rocker grossed $115.9 million from 47 shows to lead the annual rankings. His tour ranks as the second-biggest of all time, behind the Rolling Stones’ 1994 outing, which grossed $121.2 million.

While Pollstar is still calculating final figures, it expects sales for all acts to rise for the fifth consecutive year to about $2.4 billion, said Pollstar editor Gary Bongiovanni. Last year’s total was $2.1 billion.

Higher ticket prices padded the total, but Bongiovanni said concertgoers appeared to be less resistant to forking out for pricey shows. He rated all the tours in the top 20 to be successes, although most acts did suffer one or two disappointing shows, such as the half-full stadium that Springsteen played in Denver.

Far behind Springsteen in second spot this year was Canadian pop singer Celine Dion with $80.5 million from 145 shows – all of them from her new custom-built theater at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

As usual, veteran acts dominated the list. The Eagles took the No. 3 spot with $69.3 million from 55 shows, just ahead of Fleetwood Mac with $69 million from 71 shows, and indefatigable pop diva Cher with $68.2 million from 102 shows.

Rival trade publication Billboard recently reported that the Rolling Stones were the top act for 2003 followed by Springsteen and Cher, but its tally was based on worldwide sales, and included dates from the last six weeks of 2002.

By Pollstar’s reckoning, the Rolling Stones ranked at No. 14 with $38.5 million from just 14 shows since they spent most of the year criss-crossing Europe and Asia.

Rounding out the top-10 money earners were reunited folk duo Simon & Garfunkel at No. 6 with $64.5 million; the Aerosmith/Kiss double-bill with $64 million; the Dixie Chicks with $60.5 million; piano men Billy Joel and Elton John with $50.9 million; and the Metallica-led “Summer Sanitarium” hard-rock package with $48.8 million.

Springsteen, Cher, Aerosmith and the Joel-John combo all appeared in Pollstar’s top 10 for 2002. Indeed, Springsteen also made the grade in 2000 and 1999.

In terms of attendance, Springsteen easily led the list with 1.6 million tickets sold. Next was country rocker Toby Keith with 1.2 million tickets and his nemesis the Dixie Chicks with 1.1 million. Ranked by revenue, Keith came in at No. 12 with $44.2 million.

Keith, whose unabashed patriotism drew criticism from the Dixie Chicks and triggered a feud between the two acts, was the busiest act in Pollstar’s top 20, playing 104 shows in 104 cities this year, ahead of Cher with 102 shows in 98 cities.

The lowest average ticket price was $35.76, charged by country singer Kenney Chesney (No. 16 on the overall list), with Keith charging a little over $2 more. The Rolling Stones were the priciest, averaging $158 per ticket for their high-tech extravaganza, followed by Simon & Garfunkel at $138. Springsteen was near the upper end with an average ticket price of $71.

Major tours on the horizon for 2004 include outings by pop princess Britney Spears, Irish rock band U2 and Canadian power-rock trio Rush.

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