The Stones, ‘Hella Mega Tour,’ Coldplay And More Reopen The Stadiums

Rolling Stones
Will Lester / MediaNews Group / Inland Valley Daily Bulletin / Getty Images

CALM BEFORE THE STONES: Fans await the entrance of The Rolling Stones at a sold-out SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif., Oct. 14. The “No Filter Tour” is the latest stadium blowout for the reliable Stones, but there’s plenty of others moving into the space where only superstars dare to tread.

The Rolling Stones, after two COVID-forced postponements of their “No Filter” tour, are chugging through their stadium itinerary like a well-oiled machine, having launched Sept. 26 at The Dome at America’s Center in St. Louis, Mo. 

The Green Day / Weezer / Fall Out Boy-led “Hella Mega Tour” did the same after pushing its stadium run back a year. The pop-punk extravaganza launched on July 24 at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, in front of 37,519 fans, and went gangbusters, grossing $67 million, on its North American leg that wrapped Sept. 6 at T-Mobile Park in Seattle.  
As the stadium season winds down for the winter, one could look at those outings as the changing of the guard on the stadium tour landscape. 
Time may not be on the side of the Stones, in the midst of what, as is always speculated when they tour, could be a final stadium rodeo. For Hella Mega, it marks a tour that is greater than the sum of its parts and possibly a harbinger of things to come as the baton is passed to the next generation of stadium-level stars. 
With stadiums of all sizes recognizing the income streams that concerts can produce, the need for content – more tours – is rising in that changing landscape as 2021 rolls into ‘22. And the industry is rising to meet the challenge.
Guns N’ Roses embarked on a mix of stadiums and arena shows in late July. The South Korean juggernaut known as BTS recently announced it will play four shows at the 70,000-cap SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif., Nov. 27-28 and Dec.1-2.
And there’ve been one-offs in 2021 by the reliable likes of George Strait and Billy Joel,  as well as electronic superstars like Kaskade and Illenium, who played to massive crowds at SoFi Stadium and Allegiant Stadium in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, respectively. 
Few are ready to make instant predictions about the state of the stadiums, however, as the not-quite-post-COVID era remains fraught with landmines. But there’s plenty of indicators and optimism going into 2022 and beyond, not only for the tried and true but the next generation of stadium headliners.  
Veteran talent buyer and frequent stadium show promoter Louis Messina of Messina Touring Group tells Pollstar, “How I start off every day is a winding road because whatever I’ve done in the past, really, I can’t now. I’ll make rules for the future, because there’s so many factors now.”
Messina says that, for the most part, his artists, including Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran, will take 2022 off from massive North American stadium tours (Sheeran has a leg of European stadiums already on the books) and are looking forward to 2023. 
Kenny Chesney will launch his twice-postponed tour April 23 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. That tour will run through 18 cities and wind down with a two-night stand Aug. 26-27 at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. 
Coldplay, another dependable stadium draw, just announced its “Music of the Spheres World Tour” that begins March 18 at Estádio Nacionalqueen in San Jose, Costa Rica, with H.E.R. in support. 
Wasserman Music’s Marty Diamond, U.S. agent for Coldplay and Sheeran, says the key to mounting a successful stadium tour at this time is to give fans value for their ticket and an experience that will help them feel secure in attending large events. 
“There’s price sensitivity and there’s audience sensitivity,” he says. “We have to get people comfortable and acclimated again. The tour is priced respectfully. We decided that H.E.R. was good support for Coldplay because people need a good value proposition.”
Diamond says Coldplay’s team has stayed in “lockstep” to put together an exceptional tour. 
“As part of the team, I could not look at this group and say a single stone was left unturned,” Diamond says. “Challenge after challenge, Coldplay management never does anything in half measures. And Chris [Martin] and the guys give every ounce of it.”
But Diamond says the team has made some accommodations for the “Music of the Spheres Word Tour” in recognition of the fans.
“Especially in this time, there’s no room for assumptions,” Diamond says. “Tickets are priced at 2016 levels. There is no presale. At the Seattle [Climate Change Arena debut concert Oct. 22] show, they did a handful of new songs, but still played hit after hit after hit. You ask someone to come out, you’d better give them value.”
Dennis Arfa, founder and chairman of Artist Group International – the company behind Billy Joel, Metallica and other stadium-level  artists – says that despite the perceived risk, stadium shows have their advantages.
“In some ways it’s easier to play in an outdoor stadium than it is any venue indoors, because people at the moment are generally  more comfortable being outdoors,” Arfa says.
Stadium shows have notoriously high overhead and day-of-show expenses, but venues and artists can collaborate to lower costs. An example of this are the recently announced, back-to-back Allegiant Stadium shows headlined by Metallica (Feb. 25) and Billy Joel (Feb. 26). It’s being marketed as an “epic” weekend in Las Vegas and, coming just two weekends after the NFL Super Bowl in Los Angeles, that might not be hyperbole.
And even though, for the most part, their audiences couldn’t be more different, booking the shows this way cuts costs for both.
“It’s a significant savings,” Arfa explains. “Whether it’s Billy Joel or Metallica, whenever we’re doing shows, we’re always looking for partners. Billy does one-offs. Metallica doesn’t normally do one-offs. For us to play the new stadium in Las Vegas, it made a lot of sense to share costs. The Super Bowl of football is two weeks prior to ours, and we look at this as kind of like the Super Bowl of music.”
Metallica is on board with the “epic weekend” concept. It’s also doing one at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium Nov. 6 – the day after George Strait and Eric Church commandeer the 80,000-capacity venue for a show of their own. 
“I’ve got a show next weekend in Atlanta at Mercedes-Benz Stadium,” Messina says. “Friday is The King and The Chief, George Strait and Eric Church. Saturday night I have Metallica, Cage The Elephant, and Greta Van Fleet. George and Eric already sold out, and we’re going to have at least 50,000 people at Metallica.”
Messina agrees with Arfa about the cost savings of back-to-back weekend dates, given that much of the production is shared.
“It cuts your costs almost in half,” Messina says. “And it’s a cool concept. It’s expensive to do a show, so some stadiums, like in Chicago (Wrigley Field), always try to book back-to-back shows. Whenever we can share a stage with someone, we always say, ‘Yeah, absolutely.’” 
Stadiums are also playing a larger role in tour routing than they traditionally have. Baseball stadiums like Wrigley and Fenway Park in Boston have penciled in calendars that Arfa says are comparable to amphitheater schedules. Despite COVID, 2022 is shaping up to be one of the busiest stadium seasons ever. 
“For some of the stadiums, it’s another form of income where they’ve lost attendance over the last few years. So for a lot of the stadiums, it’s a windfall,” Arfa explains. “Fenway Park just had five shows in a row in August.”
For those stadiums dipping their collective toes in the concert waters, there’s content to be had.
Red Hot Chili Peppers headlines its first-ever stadium tour in ‘22 with Thundercat opening nearly all gigs and additional support from A$AP Rocky, Anderson .Paak, The Strokes, HAIM, Beck and St. Vincent on select dates. The trek launches in Seville, Spain, June 4 before moving stateside July 23 at Mile High Stadium in Denver.
AGI is also behind the long-awaited Mötley Crüe / Def Leppard “The Stadium Tour” featuring Poison and Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, kicking off June 16 at Sun Trust Stadium in Atlanta and running through 30 North American cities before winding down at Oracle Park in San Francisco Sept. 7.
And there’s another entry going on stadium itineraries: The Weeknd’s 2022 tour, a 104-date arena trek that added 39 dates to his postponed 2020 run, would have started on Jan. 14. But, much to reported dismay of arena managers, the artist announced he’s canceled those shows and will book stadiums in the summer instead.
“It’s an interesting move, and it’ll be very interesting if he can pull it off,” Arfa says of The Weeknd’s plans. “But will he be able to fill [stadiums] under these circumstances? I’m going to be a student of their game and see if he can pull this off.” 
Besides the artists that have already announced 2022 stadium plans, or hinted at 2023, there’s a bevy of artists that Arfa believes are ready to fill the void should The Rolling Stones relinquish their crown.
“There’s already a generation of artists that are stadium equipped, have already played stadiums, and will continue to play. I’m sure Bruno Mars can do stadiums. There’s U2, of course. You have Beyoncé, P!nk, Adele. I’ve just named a few off the top of my head that are all younger and will be playing stadiums for years to come.”
As for what the future for stadiums holds, Diamond is sanguine. “Out of confusion comes enlightenment. We all have to read the tea leaves and put out the best show and respect the fans.”