Friday, September 10, 2010

Rock and Roll Promoter Goes Broadway

As I mentioned off-handedly back in May, Bono and the Edge have composed music for the new Spider-Man musical that is set to open on Broadway.

The Times has a story today that describes how Bono called in Michael Cohl, who has helped U2 and the Rolling Stones launch some of their huge concert tours, to take over the production duties when it looked like the show might not come to fruition. (Bono and the Edge and Michael Cohl all have apparently chipped in some cash to what has become the most expensive Broadway musical ever, as well.)

The story of Cohl's ascent from high school dropout to all-star producer is, um, inspiring, maybe:
A Toronto native, Mr. Cohl left high school and took jobs as a taxi driver and parking lot manager before becoming a partner in an Ottawa strip club. He developed an early love for playing banjo and folk music, and fell hard for rock ’n’ roll at his first concert, a Grateful Dead-Jefferson Airplane double bill. (He could not remember the year; his memory of long-ago concerts has, not surprisingly, a haze about it.)

His first outing as a rock promoter in 1970 was a big flop: he booked the 17,000-seat Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto for Buck Owens and the Buckaroos, but sold so few tickets that he didn’t have the money to pay the band. As Mr. Cohl recalled, Mr. Owens sat in protest in his dressing room until Mr. Cohl borrowed $25,000 on the spot from the arena’s owner so the act could go on.

An all-night New Year’s Eve concert during that period netted enough money for Mr. Cohl to repay the debt, but the boom-and-bust cycle continued; he once had to borrow $30,000 from his Uncle Murray to keep going. Over time, Mr. Cohl became the pre-eminent Canadian rock promoter, and his involvement in Rolling Stones shows there led to a career breakthrough when he became the chief promoter on the band’s worldwide “Steel Wheels” tour that began in 1989.
Once again, without risk, there is no reward, I guess...

No comments: