When casino properties went dark in March 2020, so did their concert venues.
But when those casinos reopened a few months later, those stages remained dark. That will change in June when virtually all COVID mandates will vanish.
As such, a flurry of concerts have been announced, from big-arena shows to new residencies.
John Katsilometes is an entertainment columnist for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He told KNPR’s State of Nevada that the return of concerts and residencies is vital to the city’s return to normalcy.
“It is very important in terms of our artistic position and our commerce in Las Vegas to keep these headliners and return these headliners to the stage,” he said.
Before the pandemic, he said in a single weekend you could have seen headliners like Bruno Mars, Gwen Stefani and Lionel Richie, which is something you don’t see anywhere else. Katsilometes said top headliners help make the city a worldwide tourist destination.
There was a time when Las Vegas was seen as the place for entertainers to fade away at the end of their careers. But over the past several years, performers still at the top of their game have set up residencies at resorts along the Strip.
Katsilometes said there is more of a chance to see top performers like Lady Gaga in Las Vegas than even a decade ago.
While many of those performers are getting ready to go back on stage, is the audience ready to come back into a crowded theater? In short, yes.
“The most obvious indicator is Bruno Mars shows at Park Theater,” Katsilometes said. “Six of them went on sale and six of them sold out ... quick.”
He also said tickets to Usher’s residency are selling well, as are Dave Chappell’s four shows at MGM Grand Garden Arena.
“People are so tired of being cooped up,” he said. “Even if it’s a risk, they’re ready to accept the risk. That’s the feeling I get when I’m out in public right now. People are like, ‘We’re done, period.’”
Chris Bitonti agreed. He’s the head of marketing for Brooklyn Bowl in the Linq. He said his venue has 10 shows it is selling right now and ticket sales for them are stronger than their previous shows.
He said even niche artists that might not have drawn in people before - such as upcoming Brooklyn Bowl performer Marc Rebillet - are selling well.
“I think more people want to get out to shows,” he said. “They want to take a risk and see an act that they’re maybe not familiar with as much and just get back out.”
Like many businesses during the pandemic, Brooklyn Bowl had to pivot its business model, Bitonti said. It turned from live events to online streaming no-fan live performances. He said those performances helped keep the company afloat.
Brooklyn Bowl is known for left-of-center performers and events, but it also brings in some more well-known acts like Elvis Costello and Robert Plant. Bitonti said getting those acts back on stage will take a little longer.
“I think it’s just a longer on-ramp for artists at that caliber," he said. "You really have to consider the routing of a full tour before we can get them in-house.”
Besides headline performers in Strip theaters and showrooms, Las Vegas has become known for music festivals like Life is Beautiful and the Electric Daisy Carnival. EDC, as it is known, was supposed to happen this month but has been pushed back to October.
The change may benefit the event for a number of reasons. First, the weather is usually cooler in October, and by then, more people will be vaccinated, and people might be more comfortable going to live events by then.
Fall is expected to be busy for festival-goers. Viva Las Vegas and Punk Rock Bowling, like EDC, had to move from spring to fall.
But Psycho Las Vegas and Life is Beautiful are happening around their usual dates.
iHeart Radio, which is less a music festival than a multi-artist concert at T-Mobile, will also happen as it usually does, the same weekend as Life is Beautiful.
Perhaps the biggest concert to come for Las Vegas will be when Garth Brooks becomes the first musical act to play the Allegiant Stadium.
Many acts that can fill a stadium, like Beyonce, Coldplay and U2, have stopped coming to Las Vegas because previously, their only stadium option, Sam Boyd, has become too outdated. Now, they can be booked at the state-of-the-art Allegiant Stadium. Las Vegas locals won’t have to go to Los Angeles to see stadium shows.
“Taylor Swift is another one to look at,” Katsilometes said. “She hasn’t liked playing Las Vegas before, but she might be enticed to play here eventually because of the facility.”
Also on the horizon is the new theater at Resort World Las Vegas. Celine Dion will launch her third Vegas residency there.
“It will be a big comeback effort,” Katsilometes said. “It will be a comeback for her. It will be a comeback for the city. It will be a big revival. It will be a personal show. You can count on that with her.”
John Katsilometes, entertainment columnist, Las Vegas Review-Journal;
Chris Bitonti, director of marketing, Brooklyn Bowl; Mike Prevatt, producer, State of Nevada
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