U2 tour tops annual rankings in North America

LOS ANGELES Wed Dec 30, 2009 10:17pm EST

1 of 2. Lead singer Bono of the rock band U2 performs during a concert at Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, in this October 25, 2009 file photo.

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - U2 may have suffered disappointing sales for their new album, but the Irish rockers were easily the most popular draw on the North American concert circuit this year, according to data issued on Wednesday.

The band sold $123 million worth of tickets to its stadium tour, while Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band came in second with $94.5 million, said trade publication Pollstar.

Among all-time tours, the U2 trek ranks at No. 5, Pollstar said. The Rolling Stones hold the record with $162 million from their 2005 outing. U2's 2005 tour is No. 3 on the all-time list with $138.9 million.

Pollstar editor Gary Bongiovanni said the overall concert business bucked the recession, mirroring a similar phenomenon at movie theaters. He said most people go to only one or two shows a year, and are willing to pay a premium for good seats.

U2 hit the road to promote its latest album, "No Line on the Horizon," which failed to generate any hit singles and sold a relatively modest 1.06 million copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Pollstar said the band played to 1.3 million people at 20 shows on the North American leg of its world tour, and charged an average of $93.77. The average price on the band's 2003 tour, when it played 78 shows, was actually higher at $97.

Piano men Elton John and Billy Joel's latest co-headlining stint came in at No. 3 in 2009 with $88 million, followed by rehabbed pop princess Britney Spears at No. 4 with $82.5 million, and hard-rockers AC/DC at No. 5 with $77.9 million.

Country star Kenny Chesney made the top 10 for the sixth consecutive year, landing at No. 6 in 2009 with $71.1 million.

As in years past, veteran rockers dominated the rankings, in part because they are able to charge more than developing acts. But the fresh-faced Jonas Brothers made No. 7 after selling $69.8 million in tickets to their young fans.

Fellow Disney star Miley Cyrus was No. 13 with $45 million, and country-pop starlet Taylor Swift was No. 35 with $25.5 million. Bongiovanni said he expected Swift to make the top 10 next year on the heels of a three-month North American tour that kicks off on March 4.

The top 10 was rounded out by the Dave Matthews Band at No. 8 with $56.9 million, Fleetwood Mac at No. 9 with $54.5 million, and Metallica at No. 10 with $53.4 million.

(Reporting by Dean Goodman; editing by Todd Eastham)

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