DAVE Stewart has cancelled his much-hyped homecoming gig – less than a week before he was due to appear.
The rock veteran blamed “film commitments” for the late postponement of the show.
The surprise announcement has shocked fans, who were expecting to see the Sunderland-born singer-songwriter return to the city to take to the stage at the Empire on Monday.
“Great shame that,” said Chris Alexander, head of tourism and culture for Sunderland City Council, on social networking site Twitter, while backing calls for people to buy Split Festival tickets until the Stewart gig is rearranged.
Stewart, who shot to fame with the Eurythmics, had recently increased his profile in Sunderland, getting involved with a group of prominent businessmen over plans to rejuvenate the city centre.
The Empire date, his first in Sunderland for 40 years, was to kick off a mini tour of the UK to celebrate the release of his new album, the Ringmaster General.
Though the gig was hailed by many in the city as a coup, it had not sold out.
An spokesman for the singer said: “Dave Stewart is bitterly disappointed not to be playing his first live shows in the UK for many years, which included a hometown gig at the Sunderland Empire on Monday, September 3.
“But anything less than 110 per cent focus on his show meant he felt he was doing his loyal fans a disservice.
“He assures fans the musical feast he has in store will more than make up for this brief postponement.”
Comments left on the Echo website were not sympathetic, however.
“Ahh, the man with ‘Sunderland in his soul’ can’t be bothered to turn up. What a joke,” wrote missmackem.
Another, by someone calling themself Comment Witheld, said: “It was all just hype anyway.
“I’ve heard much better music than his at the Bunker in Stockton Rd played by proper musicians in their spare time.”
Stewart’s management and promoters said they are now looking for a window of opportunity early in 2013, when both venue and musicians are available.
Ben Phillips, general manager at the Sunderland Empire, said: “We are disappointed not to be welcoming Dave Stewart to the city next week, but look forward to see him back in the venue next year.”
During his planned visit to the city, Dave was due to become honorary member of Wear1 City, a campaign to boost the ailing fortunes of the city centre.
Jeweller Harry Collinson, one of the founders of the group, said: “Dave emailed me and was so apologetic, but he assures me he is still committed to furthering the city, he is still passionate about it.
“When he does come back I’m sure it will be with a blast.”
Existing customers are advised to either hold on to tickets until a new date is finalised or can opt for a refund at the point of sale.