Despite top hits, The Chainsmokers struggle to sell arena shows


Too much, too soon, for The Chainsmokers? Is the stardom this New York-bred EDM duo achieved last year already on the decline?

Alex Pall and Andrew Taggart had no trouble drawing a capacity crowd of at least 15,000 fans when The Chainsmokers performed here last September at the KAABOO Del Mar festival. But selling out shows on their first arena tour appears to be a more challenging matter for the dance-happy pair, whose “frat-bro” appeal may prove to have a shorter shelf life than they hoped.

Despite having scored three of 2016’s top-selling singles - “Roses,” “Don’t Let Me Down” and “Closer” - ticket sales for The Chainsmokers’ “Memories ... Do Not Open” tour have been lagging.

The tour is named after their debut album, which was released April 7. It entered the national Billboard 200 and Top Dance/Electronic Music charts at No. 1, making The Chainsmokers the first act to simultaneously top both charts since Lady Gaga in 2013.

Why, then, the swaths of empty seats at the first batch of shows on their tour, which opened April 13 in Miami?

High prices are a likely factor. The cheapest seats for The Chainsmokers’ Monday show here at Valley View Casino Center are $71.50 each, plus service charges.

Another factor may be that a handful of hits is not ample reason for music fans with short attention spans - and lots of other options - to fork over big bucks for a relatively unproven live act.

This holds especially true for a duo whose recent shows have found them devoting nearly a third of their repertoire to hits by other artists, from Tove Lo, Daft Punk and Migos to Kiss, Panic! At The Disco and San Diego’s blink-182.

The Chainsmokers, with Kiiara

When: 7 p.m. Monday

Where: Valley View Casino Center, 3500 Sports Arena Blvd., Midway District

Tickets: $71.50-$80.50 (plus service charges)

Phone: (888) 929-7849


Economics and conflicting schedules are the presumable reasons why The Chainsmokers have delegated all female vocal duties on their tour to Emily Warren. She co-wrote their Grammy-winning “Don’t Let Me Down,” but didn’t sing on the recording, which instead featured Daya.

Halsey, who sings on the recording of “Closer” and is a concert draw in her own right, might have helped boost The Chainsmokers’ ticket sales. But she performs her own headlining show here Nov. 5 at SDSU’s Viejas Arena. And Halsey probably wouldn’t have agreed to perform any songs by The Chainsmokers whose recorded versions didn’t feature her in the first place.

Another problem is that - while this duo has undeniably created a successful niche - there is not much to distinguish any of its pensive, piano-driven ballads from each other, even with electronic sweetening and catchy beats.

Moreover, whether teaming with such disparate acts as Coldplay (“Something Just Like This”) or Florida Georgia Line (“Last Day Alive”), The Chainsmokers offer little in the way of surprise, depth or innovation.

Yes, they have a winning commercial formula for creating earworms. But sustaining a career - if that’s what Pall, 31, and Taggert, 27, want - requires more skill and ability for reinvention that this still relatively inexperienced duo may ever be able to achieve.

To their credit, though, they do have energy and enthusiasm to spare.

The Chainsmokers proved as much last year at KAABOO, where Pall’s enthusiasm carried him right over the edge of the duo’s elevated DJ station. He landed with a thud on the stage below, but rebounded quickly from his face-planting fall.

The question now is if The Chainsmokers’ debut album and arena tour will also be their last. In the fickle world of pop music - with or without EDM flavoring - longevity is the exception, not the rule.

Did you know?

When The Chainsmokers did their encore in Pittsburgh on April 22, they misspelled the city’s name on the large “Thank You Pittsburg” backdrop that appeared behind them. In response, one fan tweeted: “You’re welcome, Chainsmockers.”

Twitter @georgevarga;