Businesses are buying tickets in batches for employees and giving them away in Facebook trivia contests, such is the availability only a couple of days before the first of two concerts this week by Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant. Pleas to “run and buy tickets” are coming from locals dismayed a rock legend still capable of capacity crowds at major auditoriums and festivals can’t fill a room of a few hundred in Longyearbyen.
Which raises a couple of questions: 1) who’s actually here and willing to pay 1,500 kroner a ticket during a time when many families have departed on holidays and those remaining are younger tourism employees working long hours (very possibly during the gigs) for wages that don’t inspire splurges. And 2) is it worth the price of admission to hear a 70-year-old guy known foremost for being a god of rock two generations ago?
The answer to the first question is simple on a couple of levels, since A) ticket sales have been slow to lots of cultural events lately due largely to the population shift that’s actually a year-round thing now and B) the ticket price is rather high both for a local concert and compared to his shows during the same tour on the mainland (800 kroner in Bodø, for example).
There’s only two days remaining before doors open for the first gig at 8 p.m. Thursday at Kulturhuset, with the second at 6 p.m. Saturday (tickets are available online and in person at Rabalder cafe). But optimists might note brisk last-minute sales have “saved” some local events and, of course, a gig by an international rock icon of Plant’s caliber – way past his glory days or not – is an almost unheard rarity in Svalbard.
Among those hoping for a last-minute rush – and giving it a boost – is Tommy Anderssen as his painting company, Maler Anderssen AS, bought 14 tickets this week, and is giving some to employees and offering an unspecified number (“a secret because I want as many as possible to buy their own tickets”) to people answering trivia questions on a local Facebook page where notices of other giveaways are also being posted.
“I think a lot of people will buy last minutes tickets, both locals and tourist coming to the island,” he wrote in a text message Tuesday afternoon. “We are talking about one of rock`n roll’s most famous characters through the last 40-50 years. Of course the tickets are quite expensive, buy hey, you’re willing to pay a 30 kroner for milk every day and this is a once in a lifetime experience.”
Plant, currently touring with the Sensational Space Shifters band he formed in 2012, still regularly plays for audiences of 5,000 to 20,000 (although not always, as seen below -ed) “and here it will be kind of an intim-concert way up in The Artic,” Anderssen noted. “This can also lead to similar big names visiting us if people are willing to fill up the concerts.”
Among other businesses doing giveaways are Karlsberger Pub (playing songs from his current tour and giving away two tickets in drawings before each concert on Thursday and Saturday), and Arctic Autorent during the reopening of its car wash between 2-8 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday (drawing for two tickets to Saturday night’s show).
To answer the second question on whether Plant still has it, based on reviews from the past year in mainstream and music publications (we’re skipping the inevitably glowing fanboy/girl writeups on social media) suggest he’ll go well beyond just mailing in a clichéd set of well-worn hits to please fans who’ve already heard them hundreds of times.
“Despite the familiar tone, Plant is a boy of bigger, global visions, as tonight’s ambitious gig reminds us,” notes a Guardian review from October 2018 whose headline includes the phrase “rock god reconnects with Celtic roots,” referring to a “down-home” gig before about 2,000 folks the night before “he’s in roaring-lion mode at London’s O2 Arena with Van Morrison.” “He’s introduced by tribal chants, Berber drums and a fantastic light show – all reflective of the deep, dusty musical atmospheres of this 13-song set.”
The Austin Chronicle, an alternative weekly in Texas reviewing three sold-out shows with three different set lists in the state’s capital last fall, opined “the deity brought it” and noted the “the most Zeppelin-esque moment” didn’t come during the last concert until the last song of the pre-encore tunes (whether that’s refreshing or a letdown is in the ears of the listener).
Jim Johansen, who arranged and has been marketing the concerts since last year, wrote in a message that “as a promotor I would have loved it if the shows already had good sales, but apparently that is not how it works ‘up here.’ But at least it is exiting. My only goal is to break-even. As of now there is still some distance to go.”
“If this goes well, there is no limit to what I can make happen up here,” he added.