Tom Moffatt has made a
career of going to concerts

The Moffatt show

Hawaii will never rival Los Angeles in hosting high-profile concerts. The key factor, of course, is the expense involved in bringing productions here.

Nevertheless, Tom Moffatt has made a career promoting concerts by artists like Frank Sinatra, the Rolling Stones and Kenny Loggins, boxing and wrestling and theatrical shows.

The shows Tom Moffatt Productions brings to Hawaii land here because of who he knows, who knows him and who he tracks down. It also helps if the act is starting or winding up a tour or wanting to get some sun, surf and sand between gigs.

"Forever Tango," a dance production at Hawaii Theatre later this month, is an example of the latter two reasons.

During a run of "Forever Tango" in San Francisco Moffatt, got a phone call from someone who'd seen it. The caller encouraged Moffatt to go see it, certain the promoter would want to bring it home.

Eventually Moffatt did go to San Francisco, was impressed, and hooked up with creator and producer Luis Bravo and the show first came to Hawaii in 1999.

"It's a remarkable show, unlike anything I'd ever seen," he said.

Ever the promoter, Tom Moffatt's cluttered office was decorated with posters for his latest production, "Forever Tango," before a photo shoot Friday. Moffatt's hat also bears the show's logo.

Due to its success, Moffatt asked Bravo to consider a return engagement to the islands, should it coincide with the performing company's travel schedule. As it happens, "Forever Tango" will stop here en route to Southeast Asia.

The show runs Dec. 26-29 with six performances, including two matinees.

Dance events have always done well in Hawaii, Moffatt said, having brought in both the Bolshoi and Joffrey ballet companies.

Despite the size of the 35-member "Forever Tango" company, Moffatt said, "it's nothing like what it would cost for a major rock show."

Hawaii is at a disadvantage when it comes to the more high-profile shows because of shipping expenses, its isolation, limited venues and a relatively small population.

"The technical end has become so expensive that it's overwhelming now," he said. "They talk about three-truck shows and six-truck shows and eight-truck shows. You know, the big semis," he said.

"You talk about putting all that on an airplane, it's very costly."

Overseas shipping takes more time than many tours have between dates.

Longtime Hawaii concert promoter Tom Moffatt began his career in the islands as a disk jockey, before starting a production company.

Even if the act is going to a foreign country, "just to stop here is expensive. That's why it's way more difficult to get major attractions stopping here. If they're playing in L.A. it's easier to truck to San Bernardino where there are many more people and bigger arenas," he said.

Superstars like Michael Jackson have their own planes, but many acts don't even have their own stage.

"Just to bring in a stage is $100,000," Moffatt said, a figure that does not include set-up and break-down labor costs.

The biggest show Moffatt ever promoted here in terms of the scope of the project, was a concert featuring Tube, a band from Japan. The nine-story-high stage was the largest ever constructed for Aloha Stadium and the band brought 15,000 fans with them from Japan. State economists told Moffatt the event, televised in Japan, contributed $20 million to the economy in June 2000.

"It cost them a lot to come here," Moffatt said, "so we got them some of the best production people from all over the world and it was a very successful concert for them. It was also an easy night for the stadium clean-up crew.

Tube fans "picked up everything and put it in the receptacles. There was nothing to clean up," Moffatt said.

The Tube show was a case of who knew Moffatt, rather than who he knew. People associated with the band wanted the same promoter who had been involved with Rolling Stones concerts in 1998.

In recent years, Moffatt has seen big-gun competition from SFX Entertainment and its successor, Clear Channel Entertainment.

"It's rough competing with them because they buy the whole country out," he said, meaning the company will make deals with performers' managers for shows in several cities.

However, being the local boy and knowing how to promote events to his home market gives Moffatt an edge.

When he promoted a Janet Jackson concert at Aloha Stadium four years ago he worked commercial and promotional deals with all the major radio stations in addition to other media. He sold 38,000 tickets.

When Clear Channel Entertainment brought her back earlier this year its only radio promotion was through Clear Channel's seven island stations. "There were no posters," Moffatt said. The show sold 18,000 tickets.

Unlike Jackson and her brother, "a lot of acts don't want to play a big stadium," Moffatt said.

Blaisdell Arena seats approximately 8,700 for a stage show, according to its Web site. Its size almost necessitates that a larger-scale concert act do two shows in order to make a Hawaii-stop worth the cost.

"If we had a 14,000-seat or 16,000-seat building we'd have a lot more shows here."

That the University of Hawaii's Stan Sheriff Center was built with only 10,000 seats was a big disappointment, Moffatt said.

"When you look at what the Fabulous Five was doing in the 1970s," he said referring to a famous UH basketball squad, "they sold out the whole season at 8,000 seats for basketball, and then they build a building about the same size 25 years later?"

When artists do decide to perform in Hawaii, companies other than Tom Moffatt Productions can reap a bountiful harvest.

Local sound, stage and lighting companies and the stagehands union, transportation companies, hotels, restaurants, catering companies and others get a piece of the fiscal pie. If the act is big enough to draw neighbor islanders, local airlines and car rental companies are also likely to benefit.


The Moffatt show


>> Moffatt arrives from Michigan
>> First gained notoriety in Hawaii at KGU-AM 760; became part of the popular "Poi Boys" crew of DJs at KPOI-AM 1040.


>> Gained experience in concert promotion and production with the "Show of Stars" series in his radio days.

>> Joined with fellow Poi Boys Ron Jacobs and Tom Rounds to form Arena Associates; staged shows at the civic auditorium and the Honolulu International Center (now known as Blaisdell Center). The company put together concerts on the mainland as well.

>> 1966 Moffatt and others first brought the Rolling Stones to Hawaii.


>> Tom Moffatt Productions and Paradise Records were founded. The record label signed acts such as the Beamer Brothers and Country Comfort. It is still active with new artists such as singer Anela.

On and off over the years Moffatt has returned to radio part-time, maintaining the promotion business and record label.

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin.
Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle,
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210,
Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached

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