Why did Paul McCartney's "Out There" tour skip Las Cruces?
Follow the money.
New Mexico State University officials had been in talks with the legendary rocker's handlers about a possible May 26 show at Aggie Memorial Stadium on Las Cruces campus. The stadium could have accommodated up to 27,000 fans for the show.
The talks were confirmed — and reported by the Times — last month after rumors of a possible McCartney show spread like wildfire. Normally, the people trying to book a show as significant as that won't discuss negotiations with the press. They wait until they have a contract. They don't want egg all over their faces, not to mention a lot of frustrated fans, in the event it doesn't happen.
But NMSU Special Events Director Scott Breckner took the unusual step of confirming that they were talking to McCartney's people about a possible appearance, his first since a 1993 show at the stadium (which didn't sell out). Breckner said at the time that too many people from too many entities had been involved in the negotiations and rumors were multiplying like Beatles' hits in the '60s.
He sounded pretty confident that Macca would play the stadium. The fact that his retired predecessor, Barbara Hubbard, was involved in the talks added more oomph to his confidence. She said the original proposal was to produce two McCartney shows — at NMSU's 13,000-seat Pan American Center and Lubbock's 15,000-seat United Spirit Arena — for a guaranteed $2 million.
Talk turned to Aggie Memorial Stadium, which could draw about the same number of people in one fell swoop. First they looked at May 24, the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, then May 26.
According to Breckner and Hubbard, McCartney's management discussed possible routing of the tour with Sir Paul around the middle of this week, around the time it was announced that his "Out There" tour would bring take him to Austin's Frank Erwin Center on May 22, the 70-year-old's first performance in the Texas music capitol.
The Cruces date fell through, they said Thursday, when the McCartney people chose to route the tour differently. As of this writing, they've only announced five of what Breckner said would be 10 U.S. dates, none west of Austin. They include two shows announced today — May 29 at Tulsa's BOK Center (on arena on which our proposed new arena may be modeled) and July 12 at Nationals Park, home of baseball's Washington Nationals.
They join three other confirmed U.S. dates — including Austin show, a July 9 return to Boston's Fenway Park and McCartney's participation in this year's Bonnaroo festival, which is June 13-16, in Tennessee (in another cruel twist, fellow Bonnaroo headliners Mumford and Sons passed up an offer to play the Pan Am in June for a festival in Taos).
Why route the tour away from Las Cruces? It's not like McCartney, a millionaire several times over, needs the money, right? Well, no. Paul McCartney the man may be filthy rich, but Paul McCartney the company has a band (a really good one), crew, agents, managers and others on the payroll. They probably don't work for peanuts.
Why settle for a $2 million guarantee when you can make more at a venue, or venues, closer to Austin and Tulsa where the economy is bigger and people will shell out more for a ticket?
That, I suspect, is the big reason McCartney Inc. chose to point the equipment trucks in another direction.
People often ask me why we don't get more high-profile tours here. I usually point to two factors: 1) The arenas we have are too small, too old and don't provide enough versatility and revenue streams for those big acts; 2) This is a relatively poor area, which doesn't have the kind of discretionary income that comparable and smaller markets with bigger economies do.
Update the facilities (and a new arena is in our future, thanks to last November's voter-approved $180 million bond) and improve the economy (maybe that new Triple-A baseball stadium will be a catalyst) and maybe we'll see more of those bigger names everyone says they want.
Until then, I guess we'll have to keep traveling to other cities to see them.