Like some 40,000 other fans of The Weeknd, Christine Turcot was expecting to witness the pop star’s tour-opening concert at Rogers Centre last Friday. She had purchased a business-class train seat for the trip from Quebec City and reserved a downtown Toronto hotel room for two nights. Describing herself as a “hardcore Weeknd fan,” the music buff had shelled out nearly $3,000 for a pair of front-row tickets with VIP lounge access.
“When I have a band or an artist I really love, I go all out,” Ms. Turcot told The Globe and Mail. Now she wants her ticket money back.
Unfortunately, the Weeknd’s hometown concert – the first on his highly anticipated After Hours Til Dawn tour – was called off at the last minute because of the widespread Rogers network outage that day. The tour is set to open in Philadelphia on Thursday.
“I don’t blame the Weeknd for the postponement,” Ms. Turcot says. “I blame Rogers.”
She’s not alone, of course. The disruption of the telecom giant’s internet and cellular service created outrage and chaos for businesses and individuals around the country. At Rogers Centre – the domed stadium that bears the company’s name and colours – the network failure had an impact on critical venue operations, including security, point-of-sale functions and ticket processing.
The concert’s promoter, Live Nation, said it was impossible to even open the doors to the venue.
Because concert venues have different network infrastructure, other shows that night were able to go ahead as scheduled. Country music artist Keith Urban and rock legend Roger Waters performed at Budweiser Stage and Scotiabank Arena, respectively. Both concerts were promoted by Live Nation.
According to a spokesperson with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which owns and operates Scotiabank Arena, the Rogers network outage mostly affected the fans’ ability to access their mobile tickets. The venue provided free WiFi on site as a solution, and the performance was delayed to accommodate ticket holders who were late getting through the gates.
The postponed Weeknd concert is another in a long line of problems that have plagued the recent touring ambitions of the artist born Abel Tesfaye. After the release of his album After Hours in the spring of 2020, an arena tour was postponed twice because of restrictions on large gatherings during the early stages of the COVID-19.
Then, last fall, the Blinding Lights singer scrapped the After Hours tour altogether in favour of “something bigger.” In March of this year he announced a stadium tour in support of After Hours and his new conceptual album Dawn FM.
In May, the American rapper-singer Doja Cat said she would not be able to perform as the opening act for the North American leg of the tour because of tonsil surgery. Some Doja Cat fans took to social media, demanding ticket refunds because she would no longer be on the bill.
They were out of luck. And while Rogers said this week that its customers would be credited for five days’ worth of service as a result of the network outage, it remains to be seen whether ticket holders to the postponed Weeknd concert will be entitled to a refund.
Tickets to the called-off concert will be valid for the make-up show once a new date is announced. A refund procedure has not been made public, nor did Live Nation or Ticketmaster supply The Globe with details when asked about their refund policy. Typically refunds are given for cancelled concerts, but not for those postponed.
David Fleischer, of Thornhill, Ont., is not looking to get his money back. He and his 17-year-old daughter Noa were on route to the concert when they heard the news on the radio that the show had been postponed. “There was a sinking feeling,” Mr. Fleischer said. “But we won’t request a refund yet.”
Because his daughter has a neuromuscular condition, Mr. Fleischer had purchased wheelchair-accessible seating (at $250 a ticket) in the stadium’s 100-level. “The Weeknd was on her bucket list of concerts to see,” he explained.
Fulfilling that wish has been something of an odyssey, because the Weeknd hasn’t toured since 2018. Father and daughter had tickets to the Weeknd’s cancelled Scotiabank Arena concerts and were unsure up to the last minute on Friday whether they wanted to attend the Rogers Centre show. They were concerned about transportation and, because Noa is susceptible to infection, COVID-19.
They ultimately decided to go, but 10 minutes out the door they heard the bad news and turned around and drove home. “We’re not upset,” Mr. Fleischer said. “In fact, we were laughing at the absurdity of it all. It’s like a black comedy.”
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