Gracia Live’s Sam Perl has told IQ the company is determined to press ahead with blockbuster shows in Belgium and France in the next few weeks despite ongoing restrictions in the region.
Last month, Belgium introduced a coronavirus barometer in correlation with the number of Covid-related hospitalisations and ICU cases. It is currently at code red, meaning promoters are only permitted to stage seated concerts at restricted capacities.
However, Antwerp-based promoter Gracia is planning to stage Disney On Ice productions in Brussels at the Forest National next weekend and Antwerp’s Lotto Arena from 23-27 February, before hosting Andrea Bocelli at Paris’ Accor Arena on 3 March and the Sportpaleis in Antwerp two days later.
“During Code Red we are finally allowed to promote seated-only shows up to a certain venue capacity,” explains Perl. “If you can guarantee enough air circulation per m³, you can open up to a bigger capacity. After we determined the capacities with the various venues, we decided together with Andrea Bocelli’s team and Feld Entertainment – producer of Disney On Ice – for the shows to go on and take place.
“We are expecting 55,000 to 60,000 spectators for Disney On Ice in February in Belgium and 22,000 in Antwerp and Paris for Bocelli at the beginning of March. It has been a painful bureaucratic process to try to make these show happen , but thankfully we got a great and motivated team to navigate these ‘fun’ waters with. No other promoter is taking the risk at the moment, but we want to get things moving and get started.”
“It’s great to be able to open up in Belgium and France, but that doesn’t mean anything in terms of international touring if other European countries remain closed”
Belgian ministers say the country is close to moving from red to orange on the barometer introduced a few weeks ago “but people still need to exercise caution”. In orange, the Covid Safe Ticket (CST) is required for both indoor and outdoor events (with the option of requiring an extra rapid antigen test at the entrance for nightclubs). An announcement regarding standing shows is expected to be imminent.
France, meanwhile, began a gradual easing of limits on live events at the start of February.
“The fact that the Andrea Bocelli show is a seated show and only part of a two-show run, and that Disney On Ice is touring France after our Belgium engagement, has been our saviour and allowed us to confirm these shows,” says Perl. “We’re lucky that France is also ‘open’. If we were between the Netherlands and Germany on the routing, we would have had a problem.
“It’s great to be able to open up in Belgium and France, but that doesn’t mean anything in terms of international touring if other European countries remain closed.”
As standing shows are not currently permitted under the current regulations, Grazia has pushed a number of shows, including sold out gigs with Måneskin at the Forest National and Luxembourg’s Rockhal originally slated for this month, to 2023. Upcoming dates by A-ha in May, Olivia Rodrigo, Eric Clapton and John Fogerty in June, and Toto in July are still scheduled to go ahead as planned.
“There is definitely some risk involved with international touring and we are aware we’re going to be a pilot [study] for our colleagues promoters and other venues to learn from, but we have to get started,” adds Perl. “We’re hopeful that by March we’ll be able to start with standing shows again as well.
‘We’re an independent company – we left Live Nation in 2009 and restarted in 2011. But before that, our company was called Make It Happen. That’s still our mantra to this day and I’d like to think it suits us well.”
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