Artists Pop Cork On Biggest Music Night In History

From Aerosmith To ZZ Top, musicians plan to rock in the new year.

As the world prepares to party like it's 1999 this New Year's Eve, fans of almost every musical taste will find an act to their liking ringing in the new millennium somewhere in the world.

From as far east as Japan, where Aerosmith will perform, to as far west as Los Angeles, where the Eagles, Jackson Browne and Linda Ronstadt will share a bill — and with such acts as Metallica, Kiss, Alice Cooper, Bush, Blondie, Jay-Z and Phish playing locations in between — Dec. 31 is shaping up to become the biggest night of live music ever.

(For a list of New Year's Eve shows, click here)

But beyond all the Y2K hype, many artists are getting fueled up for their respective gigs for more personal reasons.

"This will be the first time my children will ever see me play live,"

Eagles drummer/vocalist Don Henley said. Henley will perform with his

veteran country-rock band at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, with

singer/songwriter Browne and country-rock/R&B vocalist Ronstadt.

Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea was enthusiastic about ringing in the

New Year at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif., where his basketball hero has

had multiple triumphs. "That's where Magic Johnson won five championships!"

Flea said. "I'm totally psyched!"

While such artists as Boston hard-rockers Aerosmith will usher in Y2K

far from home, the Eagles and the Chili Peppers are among the many New

Year's Eve players celebrating in their hometowns.

Flea said the Chili Peppers — whose latest album, Californication,

features the hit "Scar Tissue" (RealAudio

excerpt) — have a good reason for staying in their native

stomping ground: "Because we're L.A., I'm L.A." The Chili Peppers will be joined by ska-pop band 311 and former Thelonious Monster leader Bob Forrest's pop-rock band, the Bicycle Thief.

Also spending New Year's Eve in his hometown is Alice Cooper, who will play at his restaurant/bar, Cooper'stown, in Phoenix.

The shock rocker has invited several other artists also performing in Phoenix that night to join him for an all-star jam session after their respective gigs. Among them are Sugar Ray, the Judds, Three Dog Night and several of the artists playing Phoenix Celebration 2000, including the Gin Blossoms, who will be reuniting for their first show in three years.

Former Gin Blossoms lead singer Robin Wilson and drummer Philip Rhodes agreed to reunite with their former band, whose hits include "Hey Jealousy" (RealAudio excerpt), if promoters also put their new group, the Gas Giants, on the bill. Phoenix Celebration 2000 additionally features John Kay & Steppenwolf, Pistoleros, the Peacemakers and Waylon Jennings.

"It's the biggest celebration in our home state ever," Wilson said. "All of the bands on the bill have worked and played together for the last decade, so it's really cool that we're all going to be together." Wilson said he wasn't sure if he'd take up Cooper on his offer after playing two sets in different bands; he said he also hoped to spend time with his family that night.

Many acts have paired up for the occasion. They include rock veterans ZZ Top and Lynyrd Skynyrd in Houston, mellow pop stars Celine Dion and Bryan Adams in Montreal and modern-metal acts Primus and Incubus with eclectic rockers Long Beach Dub Allstars and Buckethead in San Francisco.

A supercharged multiband show in Pontiac, Mich., will feature headlining hard-rockers Metallica, rap-rocker Kid Rock, guitar-rock hero Ted Nugent and former Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee's new band, Methods of Mayhem.

"We've got a huge fanbase in Detroit and around the [Great] Lakes area," Metallica frontman/guitarist James Hetfield said. "We're trying not to be too fancy — doing it on some barge in the middle of nowhere, or the North Pole or something crazy. We thought we'd be real with some real fans."

Asked whether Metallica, whose recently released symphonic album, S&M,

includes the new song "No Leaf Clover" (RealAudio excerpt), will jam with their openers, Hetfield said, "I have a feeling you won't be able to keep Ted Nugent off the stage. He's a bit insane."

Meanwhile, an MTV bash in New York's Times Square will feature Bush, rappers Jay-Z and Puff Daddy, pop-rockers Blink-182 and the Goo Goo Dolls, and pop acts Christina Aguilera and 98 Degrees. The show caps MTV's "Fly 2K" promotion, in which 10 contest winners will spend 10 days flying around the world with live in-flight entertainment at times from Goo Goo Dolls and 98 Degrees. They will land back in the U.S. for New Year's Eve. (SonicNet is a division of MTV Interactive).

But when it comes to original ideas for Dec. 31, Phish are among the contenders every year. On New Year's Eves past, the improvisational rock quartet from Vermont has pulled such stunts as hovering over the crowd in a 12-foot-long hot dog and performing on a stage designed to look like a giant fish tank. While their set last year was relatively low-key, this year they plan a two-day concert Dec. 30–31 at an American Indian reservation in the Florida Everglades.

"We are building, literally, a small city," co-producer Dave Werlin said. "Y2K [problems] don't bother us, because we're our own self-sustaining city."

Though music fans clearly aren't low on options this year, several high-profile concerts have fallen by the wayside. Some concert-industry experts have speculated that the cancellations were the result of promoters overestimating the price fans were willing to pay; they also cited inflated tickets prices as the reason many of the night's biggest shows still have plenty of tickets left.

A spokesperson for a nixed New York show scheduled to feature Sting, Enrique Iglesias, Aretha Franklin and Chuck Berry said poor ticket sales led to the cancellation; prices began at $1,000.

Alaskan folk-pop singer Jewel also announced last month that she was

canceling her home-state gig, for which only a small portion of tickets

had been sold. Other scrapped New Year's Eve shows include Michael Jackson's

hopes to ring in the New Year in two time zones, a planned but never

confirmed Puff Daddy show in Miami and Los Lobos' hometown gig in Los

Angeles. That last show was canceled after the disappearance of singer/guitarist

Cesar Rosas' wife; police believe Sandra Rosas was murdered and have

charged her half brother with the crime.

Blues Traveler also pulled out of their Reno, Nev., show after the death of bassist Bobby Sheehan last summer. Frontman John Popper is scheduled to play at the city's Hilton hotel that night with the John Popper Band.

Like some music fans, some artists, such as Ruff Ryders rapper Eve, still haven't decided what they are going to do Dec. 31. Eve, whose solo chart-topping debut, Let There Be ... Eve — Ruff Ryders' First Lady, features the single "Gotta Man" (RealAudio excerpt), said last week she's still considering several options.

"I just wanted to be around people I love, but some offers you just can't turn around," she said. "This is a big thing — 2000 — this is only, like, once, you know what I'm sayin'?"

But for others, playing that night is simply routine.

"It's just another gig for me," said former Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir, whose band, Ratdog, will play San Francisco's Warfield. "I've done so many New Year's gigs, I'm not buying into the millennium stuff so much."

(SonicNet's Will Comerford, Correspondent Rei Nishimoto and Contributing Editor Richard B. Simon contributed to this report.)