While the World Health Organization said that it believes the worst of severe acute respiratory syndrome is over in Canada, Singapore, Hong Kong and Vietnam — which got a clean bill of health on Monday for being the first nation to contain the virus — SARS is still affecting tour and promotional plans for many artists who were set to visit those regions.
The Rolling Stones were the first to pull out of Asian concerts — their first-ever concerts in China — when news of the disease broke in March, though they did play two shows in Singapore. They also postponed two Hong Kong concerts on the Asian leg of their Licks World Tour and promised to reschedule the concerts “as soon as possible,” according to a statement.
Subsequently, Moby called off dates in Singapore and Hong Kong, apologizing to fans on his Web site and promising to reschedule the dates at a later point as well. Carlos Santana pulled out of an April 11 show in Hong Kong, where the virus crossed from China. He played his concert that night in Osaka, Japan, instead.
Now, the latest Asian concert cancellation comes from Mariah Carey, who has postponed her forthcoming Singapore concert, to take place June 11. She expects it to be staged instead sometime in July, following her Japanese tour, or in November, following her European tour dates.
Not every artist has been scared away from Asia by SARS, however. While every other major musical event in China was canceled, Paul Oakenfold took stages in Shanghai and Beijing, as well as Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, in early to mid April as part of the Thirst Tour, a joint venture between the DJ and Heineken to discover new DJs around the world.
Travel warnings for Asia, however, only affect a handful of touring artists. For most, it’s the recent Toronto cases that cause the most concern. On Thursday the WHO advised against travel to Toronto, the only epicenter outside of Asia to list fatalities, despite assurances from the Canadian government that there is nothing to worry about. "We all believe that the World Health Organization came to the wrong conclusion," Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien told reporters on Friday. "We believe Toronto is a good place to visit, and it is a safe city.”
Toronto, which is set to host auditions for “Canadian Idol” next month, saw American Idol's Kelly Clarkson canceling her promotional visit on Monday, where she was scheduled to appear on "Canada AM" and MuchMusic's "On Demand" and to perform at a Cineplex Odeon theater. Lisa Marie Presley had canceled her Toronto promotional visit earlier this month.
Billy Joel and Elton John were due to perform to a sold-out crowd at the city’s Air Canada Center on Monday, but canceled the show. Ticket refunds are available, but promoters said plans are under way to reschedule the engagement. And Styx canceled a concert scheduled for Tuesday (April 29) at the city’s Hard Rock Café, since the band was told that if it came into contact with SARS, it would be quarantined in America upon their return, and decided not to take the risk, according to a statement. And Ravi Shankar postponed his Toronto concert — scheduled for Friday (April 25) — until October.
Other acts scheduled to perform in Toronto in the near future include Matchbox Twenty (Air Canada Center, May 7), Red Hot Chili Peppers (Air Canada Center, May 13), Poison (Molson Amphitheater, June 3), Boston (Molson Amphitheater, June 10), Coldplay (Molson Amphitheater, June 11), and Dixie Chicks (Air Canada Center, June 12). There's no word yet if any of those shows will be affected or not.
At last count, Toronto had 140 confirmed cases and 19 deaths. In contrast, Hong Kong has been one of the epicenters of the viral outbreak, with 1,510 cases and 115 deaths. Probable cases have also been recorded in Brazil, Israel, Russia and the United States — New York City has twenty probable and suspected cases alone. Since first reports of the death of an infected U.S. businessman in a Hong Kong hospital in mid-March, SARS has killed over 265 and infected about 4,800 people worldwide. It has a mortality rate of about six percent.
For more information about SARS, log on to www.cdc.gov or call the Centers for Disease Control’s public response hotline at (888) 246-2675.