Sunday, February 3, 2008

Miss Independent To Rock Kinnick

Those of us who like to complain about the lack of big name performers on campus were given some crow to eat (or maybe a bit of meat to appease the wolves) on Friday when the University of Iowa announced that the original American Idol, Kelly Clarkson, will be playing Kinnick Stadium on April 18. The concert is scheduled to coincide with the annual Hawkeye Football Spring Scrimmage and is part of a larger event called Gridiron Bash.

While I appreciate the presence of a Grammy Award winning multi-platinum selling artist on the UI campus, I can't help but be reminded of past heartbreaks involving U2, Kanye West and the infamous Red Hot Chili Peppers debacle. Each of these deserving acts wanted to play the UI but were denied because of various reasons (many argue the UI Athletic Department was at fault). Hopefully the Clarkson concert ushers in a new era of unity between arts entertainment and athletics here in Iowa City, if that's the case.

But it doesn't seem to be that simple. Tickets to hear classics like "Since U Been Gone" and "Because of You" live are priced at $35-$40. The cost is considerably cheaper than seats for most big-name tours, but this is still a college town. Kelly Clarkson has outlasted all of her "Idol" competitors and is one of the most successful stars to come from the show (in terms of album sales and popularity). But her last album's sales dropped off significantly from those of her previous full-length efforts, and it's fair to say that college students aren't her main audience. She's not exactly Dave Matthews, and it's hard to say that a bunch of twenty-somethings will plunk down their drinking money to hear "A Moment Like This."

The event is also being marketed to Hawkeye alumni and fans of all ages, which makes sense, it's in line with American Idol's demographics. But a family of four may not want to spend $160 for a concert, no matter how inoffensive it may be.

All of this evidence points to the UI being between a rock and a hard place, with Clarkson in the middle. She isn't a "wrong" or "poor" choice by any means, and isn't as out-of-step as Cher or Wayne Newton, but Bono she ain't. It's also easy to forget, in Hawkeye Country, how tough it is to fill Kinnick. It's a big stadium, and at $40 a pop, it won't be easy. It wouldn't be easy for even the biggest of stars. Especially with an act who isn't necessarily in her niche in Iowa City. The event is the first concert at Kinnick, so it's hard to predict just how many people will pack the stadium for something other than football.

If the event is a success, hopefully it will lead to more big names coming to the UI, names that won't be in an awkward spot trying to find an audience here. Maybe there are just enough fourteen-year-old girls willing to come from all around and belt along to "Behind These Hazel Eyes."


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