Ethan Miller / Getty Images – OFF TO NEVER NEVER LAND:
Metallica’s Kirk Hammett, Lars Ulrich, James Hetfield and Robert Trujillo rock Allegiant Stadium on Feb. 25, 2022, in Las Vegas the night before Billy Joel performed.
More than 80,000 fans and a gross of some $13.8 million over two nights by any measure in this industry is a runaway success. And that’s exactly what happened at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on Feb. 25 and 26 when Metallica and Billy Joel played separately on consecutive evenings. The shows more than lived up to the billing as “Two Epic Shows…One Unforgettable Weekend,” and serve as a model for future stadium touring amidst “The Great Glut of 2022” while being a win-win-win for fans, artists, their teams and venues.
null – CHRIS WRIGHT
Allegiant Stadium | GM
“It was amazing in every category,” says Allegiant Stadium GM Chris Wright, who had his hands full putting on shows by such high-caliber artists on back-to-back nights. “The sales were amazing, the fans had a great time, there were amazing responses from guests, the town was abuzz the entire weekend.”
Having live performances over the course of 24 hours by two giants of live in Metallica and Joel also allowed for a number of cost-saving synergies, including shared production, promotion, marketing, PR, ticketing, and more.
“There’s a huge savings, obviously, at a stadium scale with stadium production, the cost of building your stage – loading in and loading out is an expensive proposition – and that’s why it’s difficult for a lot of shows to scale at that level,” Wright says. “But if you can share the production, it really makes everything that much more successful. So we’re looking to do more of that; it really worked out in this case.”
The genesis of the idea for the “two epic nights” began with Dennis Arfa, chairman and founder of Artist Group International and Metallica’s and Billy Joel’s agent. “We came up with that idea last summer because both groups said they wanted to do one-offs this year,” said Arfa, who credits Metallica’s management at Q Prime for seeing the opportunity for the stadium pairing.
There were also good reasons for choosing Las Vegas. “It was the best choice because it was the city with the least amount of COVID restrictions and limitations and were selling tickets like pre-COVID times,” says Arfa, who may be best known for creating Joel’s record-setting Madison Square Garden residency in New York City. “If you combine that with Metallica and Bily Joel, who are in an elite class of artist, it was pretty clear early on the weekend would be a great success.”
It also doesn’t hurt that Las Vegas is one of the strongest U.S. markets for live events in terms of attendance, grosses and average ticket prices. In recent years, the town has upped its game with larger venues. The 2016 addition of T-Mobile Arena (20,000 capacity) is consistently ranked among the country’s top-grossing arenas, andis proof positive of the depth of the Vegas market.
Six years later, it’s the same phenomenon on a stadium scale with Allegiant, which opened during the pandemic in the summer of 2020 and is just now scaling with the return of live.
For proof of the strength of the Vegas market, look no further than The Rolling Stones, whose “No Filter Tour” was 2021’s highest-grossing tour at $115.5 million, according to Pollstar Boxoffice reports. The legendary group posted its largest single haul at Allegiant on Nov. 6, 2021, where it grossed a massive $14.8 million haul and sold 42,000 tickets.
“We’re all learning what a stadium can do in Las Vegas,” Wright said. “We really didn’t have this channel available, so to speak, for entertainment in the market. Obviously, it’s such a massive entertainment city and there’s just so much that goes on in this town. We have a growing local population that is incredibly supportive of the local entertainment industry, but also folks will come in from the entire country to experience an event here; even if they can see it at home, they want to see it in Vegas.”
Arfa concurs on the strength of the Las Vegas live market while noting its breadth. “Las Vegas has every flavor of music you could ever want,” he says. “From Bruno Mars to Shania Twain to Adele, you can regularly catch a variety of high caliber artists on any given night that sells out.”
Myrna Suarez / [email protected] – LAS VEGAS STATE OF MIND
Billy Joel plays Allegiant Stadium on Feb. 26, 2022, in Las Vegas the day after Metallica performed.
Though the Metallica and Joel dates were initially slated for fall, they were pushed back to February because of the pandemic. That the bands stayed with the concept into Q1 2022 is a credit to the teams’ steadfast commitment to making sure it happened despite the variant setbacks.
“We were delayed a couple of times relative to different issues regarding COVID and scheduling of other events,” Wright says, “but the original discussion with Live Nation and Dennis and the three of us all working together were able to create this big weekend in Vegas. It was a great partnership between all of us trying to work out what the best arrangements would be to make sure it worked and be the best weekend.”
And work it did, with a reported $13,828,686 grossed with 80,056 tickets sold over the two days, which included Greta Van Fleet opening for Metallica on Feb. 25 and Joel performing solo on Feb. 26.
Wright and Arfa credit their partnership with Live Nation, citing Rick Franks, Bob Roux and CEO Michael Rapino, who continued promoting the shows after the dates moved.
While the bands didn’t perform at each other’s concerts, Arfa said their teams did get to see each other. “We were all staying at the same hotel,” he explains. “It was like summer camp in the lobby with the Metallica and Billy camps all knowing each other. It was very exciting and uplifting to see the camps together.”
As for Allegiant, there was no rest following the Metallica-Joel weekend. “We had additional challenges that weekend because we had a lot of production with respect to the Academy of Country Music Awards,” Wright says of the award show the stadium hosted the following week. “We had to load that in before Billy Joel and Metallica [and] it sat in place so we would have enough time to get the ACMs in after we got the Metallica and Billy Joel weekend out.”
All of which bodes well for Allegiant in 2022. “It’s a huge year for us, there’s no question,” Wright says. And there’s no shortage of opinion as what ‘23 and ‘24 will look like. But ‘22 is certainly a hot year for stadiums and from what we can see so far, ‘23 looks like it’s going to be strong as well.”