Illini Insider | Why State Farm Center has so many ‘tribute’ acts

By Chicago 3 Min Read

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Welcome to “Illini Insider,” your regular dose of University of Illinois news from beat writer Luke Taylor. Fresh out of college himself, he’s always looking for story tips, photo ideas and social media mentions. Email him at [email protected] and he’ll give chase.

If you’ve got an eye on State Farm Center’s events schedule, you may have noticed multiple “tribute”-style shows popping up.

They’re not all exactly the same thing, but the recent One Night of Queen show and next year’s Hotel California and Floyd Nation: Experience Pink Floyd shows all aim to give audiences an experience akin to seeing their favorite bands live.

(“The Cher Show” looks like it should be on this list, but no: that’s a jukebox musical using the music of Cher to tell her life story. Think “Mamma Mia!” if it were about ABBA’s history.)

Brad Swanson, assistant director for marketing at State Farm Center, said that it’s really just a coincidence these shows are all happening around the same time, but that tribute acts like these do a good job of hitting C-U’s market size.

“We would book the Eagles in a heartbeat, but that’s not always possible,” Swanson said. “We’re certainly interested in bringing in the ‘real thing,’ but we don’t let that be a limit on what we bring in.”

The audience seemed pleased with that Queen night, Swanson said, and these other acts have done well in nearby markets.

Just like any other show, a lot goes into predicting ticket sales and expenses for these events, but the arena was never expecting them to draw in gigantic crowds.

“There are certainly different levels of financial commitment for different shows and different goals for success,” Swanson said.

Both Floyd Nation and Hotel California put on a whole concert with music and lights, but they aren’t trying to pretend to be the bands — they aren’t impersonators.

It’s more about getting to enjoy a concert experience when you wouldn’t be able to see the “real” band live.

That makes Hotel California a bit of an odd case, since the Eagles are on tour right now, too.

Swanson said it’s all about the State Farm Center choosing shows it can actually bring in.

“They’ve been touring for quite some time and have carved out a market for themselves because the Eagles are only playing the biggest shows,” Swanson said.

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