It was two years ago that I first caught wind of attempts to book the legendary performer by Global Spectrum, the management company that has done so much to make James Brown Arena a viable concert venue. It was all very hush hush, but there was a target date in mind and those in the know assured me that they were very close.
That date came and went and very little was heard of efforts to bring Sir Elton to town – until last week. Last week, word went out that Elton John would be playing at James Brown Arena on March 6. Last week, it was announced that, unlike his Augusta date some 13 years ago, this would be a full band concert. Last week, Global Spectrum and James Brown Arena delivered on promises made when they came to town in 2008.
I talked to Monty Jones Jr. the morning after the announcement was made. He told me the show is indeed the result of those initial talks. Although the first date fell through, he and his talented staff remained in constant contact with John’s people. The patience and perseverance paid off.
While talking to Jones, I offered the theory that this might be the most significant booking Global Spectrum has pulled off since coming to Augusta, the culmination of many of the company’s goals.
While it’s true James Brown Arena has managed to attract some top-tier acts over the past four years, particularly country acts, there always seemed to be an invisible barrier, a line the company and venue just couldn’t cross. Augusta could attract the famous and popular, a real step forward from the pre-Spectrum days, but never the truly iconic. Never a big arena act. Never a legend.
And that’s why the Elton John booking is so important. It’s certainly the reason Global Spectrum put so much effort into making it happen. Jones put it best.
“James Brown is a legend,” he told me. “He’s in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It’s only fitting that we bring in an act of that stature to play the arena named after him.”
What will be interesting is what this booking means moving forward. Global Spectrum has proven particularly adept at building on its successes. Big bookings, historically speaking, have begat bigger bookings.
I have to wonder what the ceiling is. James Brown Arena, after all, does have its limitations. It’s not particularly big, as far as arenas go, and the Augusta area, as far as markets go, lives in the long shadow of Charlotte and Atlanta. Still, five years ago I would have called an Elton John date impossible. Today, I’m hopeful that it’s a sign of things to come.