The official reason that Kings of Leon abruptly canceled the remaining 29 shows on their U.S. tour is frontman Caleb Followill's "vocal issues and exhaustion." But in the concert business, such benign explanations can hide larger issues, as the band's bassist, Jared Followill, suggested via Twitter shortly afterwards. "There are internal sicknesses & problems that have needed to be addressed," he wrote. "I can't lie, there are problems in our band bigger than not drinking enough Gatorade."
Friday night, during a show at Dallas' Gexa Energy Pavilion, Caleb Followill reportedly was obsessed with the heat and said the following to the audience: "I'm gonna go backstage and I'm gonna vomit. I'm gonna drink a beer and I'm gonna come back out and play three more songs." He did not come back.
"Exhaustion"-type euphemisms were prevalent last summer: Christina Aguilera canceled her tour before it began due to "prior commitments"; Limp Bizkit called off a planned tour because frontman Fred Durst demanded to play in larger venues; Rihanna canceled at least one date due to "production changes." All, according to numerous sources, were due to surprisingly low ticket sales.
Before that, mysterious cancellations have come from Britney Spears, who canceled a 2004 tour due to a bona fide knee injury, but it turned out to be the beginning of her infamous public meltdown; Mariah Carey, who canceled remaining appearances in 2008 for undisclosed reasons, although just about everybody guessed she was actually pregnant; and Billy Joel, who canceled 2009 shows due to exhaustion, then irked Elton John for not participating in a possible 2010 tour.
Although Dennis Arfa – agent for Joel, Metallica and Rod Stewart – has no knowledge of what's happening within the Kings of Leon camp, "exhaustion" raises a red flag. "Well, I mean, it tells me stuff is goin' on. Something's not right, obviously," he says. "Exhaustion is a label. It doesn't tell you the detail – just says 'exhaustion.' Exhaustion usually means you have issues going on beyond just being physically tired. It's a convenient label."
For Kings of Leon and the band's business partners, it's potentially a costly exhaustion. Lloyd's of London could have to pay as much as $15 million to promoters, venues and others who lost money from the tour. And it may be more difficult than ever for the band to procure insurance on future gigs. "There's a lot of rating factors – whatever the contract says, size of the venue, age of the performer, health of the performer, how far they have to travel, plane, train or automobile," says Elizabeth Wightman, chief operating officer for SteelBridge Insurance, in Santa Cruz, California, which regularly insures large music festivals. "It's kind of like a credit report. You have to earn your reputation over time. Insurance companies are going to be looking at that."