Performances Persevere Through the Pandemic


Despite the rise of the Omicron variant, Clairo still sings for her North American tour. (Source: Lorne Thomson)

Concerts have always been a staple in Boston. From the House of Blues to Symphony Hall, they bring in not only business, but also a sense of community and connection. While many eager artists have begun to reschedule previously postponed national and world tours, concert arrangements and procedures are still looking different from those pre-pandemic.

Over the last few months, some of the largest names in music and visual arts — including Olivia Rodrigo, Justin Bieber and Tyler, the Creator — have announced concerts coming to the Boston area this spring. The unprecedented emergence of the Omicron variant, however, has thrown a wrench into many of these plans.

Various artists have enforced stricter vaccination, testing and masking policies, while others have canceled their shows altogether. Singer Omar Apollo was supposed to play Boston in October 2021, but he postponed his tour until this May. Amelia Landry (II), who had tickets to the October show, remarks, “I was disappointed — I was looking forward to it.”

With the new vaccine mandate in Boston, which took effect on January 15, all indoor concert halls now require proof of vaccination for all individuals over the age of 12. Children between the ages of 2 to 11 will be allowed entry with a negative test. Major venues such as TD Garden are one step ahead of the game when it comes to mandates. TD Garden’s website displays a reminder of the vaccine mandate, and it provides a link to TD Garden’s personal requirements. Masks for every individual over the age of 2 are required.

Annual music festivals have also begun to make a comeback after prior cancellations. The surge of the Omicron variant, however, threatens the return of these events. For instance, the iHeart Jingle Ball, an annual music festival, has faced canceled performances. The 2021 lineup for the ten-city tour included big names such as Doja Cat, Megan Thee Stallion and Jonas Brothers. Unfortunately, at stops five and six, which were New York and Boston, a member of Doja Cat’s crew tested positive for COVID-19, and she had to cancel her performances in those cities. “We are following all the appropriate safety measurements and necessary precautions […] I’m extremely disappointed,” writes Doja Cat on Twitter.

Unsurprisingly, Broadway has also taken a hit from the surge of the Omicron variant. Many actors and actresses have had to take a step back in light of infections. But amidst all of the chaos that the Omicron variant has brought to the stage, understudy performers who serve as substitutes for unavailable actors have been stepping up and saving performances. In a 2021 interview with Forbes, Jennifer Blood, an understudy for multiple parts in Girl from the North Country, says, “I think there has never been a better time or a worse time to be an understudy. Better because understudies are not an afterthought. I think the industry came back investing a lot more in their understudies.” Hopefully, this newfound appreciation for Broadway’s secret heroes will give them more credit in the future.

Despite the cancellations, hopes remain high throughout the entertainment industry. Following the surge of the Omicron variant, singer and songwriter Clairo had to postpone her European tour until September 2022, but the North American tour is still on. Parker Hastings (III) has tickets to the upcoming show this February. “Honestly, I think [the concert] will get canceled, but I’m really hoping that it isn’t,” says Hastings. When asked about the new COVID-19 precautions put in place, he says, “I feel like it’s enough; I really want it to be enough.”