Concerts, Covid, and Cancellations


Alexandra Lu

Cheers fill the packed stadium as the members of the popular Korean boy band BTS step on Los Angeles’ SoFi Stadium on Nov. 27. After two years of a cancelled tour and multiple online concerts, the sold out four-day concert series marked the return of something important: finally, in-person concerts have returned. 


Even to non-fans and casual observers, the reemergence of in-person concerts by artists such as BTS marks a return to the days before the COVID pandemic. After a nearly two year industry wide hiatus, many acts are making a return to in person concerts recently. Big artists such as Harry Styles and the Rolling Stones have concluded tours within the last quarter of 2021. Annual music festivals such as Rolling Loud and Lollapalooza have also returned to cities across the US. Both the girl group Twice and Olivia Rodrigo have now sold out nationwide tours slated for 2022. With states lifting mask mandates and vaccination rates increasing steadily, it may seem like the opportune time to bring back in-person concerts, but with lax security measures and the Omicron variant, in-person concerts should be put on hold for the time being. 


While concerts return to being in person, the concert experience will not return to its pre-COVID form. As fans flood arenas, stadiums, and theaters to attend their favorite artists’ concerts, they will be met with a few new restrictions. Vaccination requirements, mask mandates, and socially distanced seating are now standard protocol at concert venues nationwide.


However, enforcement of such policies have been rather careless and lackluster. For example, multiple videos online show sections of fans without masks during Harry Styles’ concerts. During the previously mentioned BTS concert, fans reported that while vaccination cards were stated to be required to enter the stadium, there was no staff tasked with verifying that attendees had their vaccination cards. 


While many music festivals have instead chosen to hold the events on outdoor venues to dodge indoor COVID restrictions, many still call into question the high risk of transmission amidst large, densely packed crowds outdoors. Unseated outdoor venues in conjunction with large dense crowds energized by seeing their favorite artist in person after two years also run the risk of mass crowd crush as bleakly demonstrated by the recent Astroworld tragedy. Overall, would-be concert goers are questioning whether venues and organizers of in person concerts are prioritizing the safety of attendees. 


With the recent introduction of the Omicron Covid-19 variant, many are now questioning whether or not it is safe to continue with in person concerts again. The new variant has a higher transmission rate than the original virus that postponed concerts for two years. Although largely unstudied, recent cases have also shown the new variant to carry more severe symptoms than the original COVID-19 strain. Nevertheless, major artists such as Olivia Rodrigo, Billie Eilish, Justin Bieber, Mitski, The Weeknd, Dua Lipa, and Twice have now announced upcoming 2022 tour plans. Considering the risk of cancellation looming overhead with the spread of the omicron variant, in-person concerts should not return in 2022.