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John Langford sees “clear light at the end of the tunnel in the U.K.,” and “acceptance of what the final few steps on the journey will look like. Mitigating infection risks through the application of COVID health certifications will be the backbone of our recovery.”
He remains cautious, though, as the past year and a half have taught him to “expect the unexpected. Until we’re out of the tunnel, we’re not out! If that means that we need to pivot, swerve, duck and adapt once again, we will do just that.” Overlooking Europe, Langford’s biggest concern is the “incredibly wide spectrum of government responses to the pandemic,” which “makes tour routing difficult and risky.”
The live sector has been notoriously independent, weathering many storms in the past without outside help. That’s changed.
“As individual entities and as a collective, we were wholly unprepared for dialogue with policymakers when COVID hit. But true to form, we quickly figured out what was needed, and we organized ourselves into an efficient lobbying association to engage with the slow turning wheels of government,” Langford said. The association’s name is LIVE, and Langford’s responsibilities extend to his official role of chairing its sustainability arm, LIVE Green.
AEG’s flagship in London, the iconic O2, hosted its first two full-capacity concerts post-pandemic Aug. 10-11, both by Gorillaz. “We weren’t nearly as rusty as I anticipated that we would be,” said Langford, “and I think that is down to the fact that we’ve been planning to reopen since we closed. More thought, preparation and planning went into our ‘Welcome Back Shows’ than we probably put into the opening of the venue 12 years ago. We have an incredibly experienced venue team, probably the best in the world, and we’re not starting from scratch. It’s just like riding a bicycle, just a whole lot more fun!”
The shows have been an appetizer for what’s to come. According to Langford, “once the wider European region opens up safely, we’re going to experience an incredibly busy couple of years — a combination of rescheduled and new touring activity. The bounce back is going to be phenomenal.”
“As individual entities and as a collective, we were wholly unprepared for dialogue with policymakers when COVID hit.”