18 of the Hottest Tours In the Summer of 2018

With JAY-Z and Beyoncé, Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift playing the country’s largest venues in the months to come, 2018 is shaping up to be a strong year for stadium shows -- particularly during the summer, a crucial season for the live-music business. Using last year’s Billboard Boxscore results as a yardstick, concert promoters and bookers are looking at a potential 10-figure market, just for the warm-weather months. In 2017, concerts held in North American stadiums between Memorial Day and Labor Day grossed $421 million in ticket sales, while all North American concerts during that same period generated a total gross of $1.8 billion, which is about an 8 percent increase over the same period in 2016.

The slight rise can be attributed to mainstream acts including Lady Gaga, Metallica and Justin Bieber that toured in 2017. Ticket sales during the last summer season also accounted for around 42 percent of the overall North American gross of $4.3 billion for the entire chart year, according to Boxscore. With summer approaching, Billboard editors chose these 18 tours as the season’s most anticipated, based on expected box-office grosses and media buzz, which span pop, rock, country, hip-hop and Latin bills on the road this summer.

KENNY CHESNEY
Trip Around The Sun Tour
Booked by: Messina Touring Group

Chesney is counting on his No Shoes Nation fan army to be loud, proud and eager to buy tickets for his 40-date tour of stadiums and amphitheaters, which will culminate with back-to-back shows at Gillette Stadium outside of Boston (Aug. 24-25). “We’re killing it,” says promoter Louis Messina, adding that stadium ticket sales for the tour are “ahead of any year” that Chesney has been playing them. As he always does prior to a tour, Chesney completed two warm-up shows in March at The Joint at the Hard Rock in Las Vegas. The country superstar begins rehearsals with his stage setup in early April, which comes after the announcement that he signed with Warner Music Nashville, leaving his longtime home of Sony Music Nashville.

DAVE MATTHEWS BAND
Booked by: Paradigm -Talent Agency

This is what democracy looks like -- on a rock tour. Dave Matthews Band, which has announced 40-plus U.S. dates this summer and the release of a currently untitled new album, will host volunteers at its shows from the nonpartisan voter-registration group HeadCount as it has done on each of its tours since 2004. Matthews has backed the organization’s work with public service announcements, social media posts and support from his Bama Works foundation. “We’ve registered more voters at DMB shows than any other band by a fairly wide margin,” says Andy Bernstein, executive director of HeadCount, which has ramped up its voter registration efforts in the wake of the Parkland, Fla., shooting.

DEAD & COMPANY
Booked by: WME

“Summer touring is a big part of the [Grateful] Dead legacy, and [Dead & Company] has risen to the occasion musically,” says promoter Peter Shapiro, whose LOCKN’ festival will serve as terminus of Dead & Company’s third annual summer run. Instead of a greatest-jams show, core members Bob Weir, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann will continue to improvise and expand their repertoire with guitarist John Mayer.

EMINEM
Revival Tour

Booked by: Cara Lewis Group

Eminem’s sweep of festival-headlining gigs comes four years after his last string of North American shows, and will see him at Coachella (for the first time), Boston Calling, Bonnaroo and Firefly. At 45, his continued relevance -- last year, Revival became his eighth album to top the Billboard 200, and he recently became the second artist ever to have three singles be certified diamond -- and his sharp critiques of President Donald Trump and the National Rifle Association have not slowed his momentum in red states. “The anticipation for Eminem is far greater than for any other artist, not only because of his extraordinary performance and catalog, but also because of how rarely he tours and performs,” says Cara Lewis, noting that when the rapper plays Boston Calling on May 27, it will be his first Beantown performance in 14 years.

G-EAZY
The Endless Summer Tour

Booked by: United Talent Agency

Less than 24 hours after wrapping up The Beautiful & Damned Tour at New York’s Radio City Music Hall in March, G-Eazy made a surprise announcement to his fans: He was going out on the road once more. The second edition of The Endless Summer Tour -- the first rolled in 2016 -- will begin July 20 in Seattle. Also along for the 32-city road trip: Lil Uzi Vert, Ty Dolla $ign, YBN Nahmir, Murda Beatz and P-Lo. “This is the second Endless Summer Tour, and I’m hella excited about the lineup,” says G-Eazy. “It’s going to be an eclectic experience for the fans. It’s going to feel like a traveling festival all summer.”

HAIM
Sister Sister Sister Tour
Booked by: Creative Artists Agency

For its second headlining tour behind sophomore album Something to Tell You, HAIM booked U.S. venues that double the capacity of its first tour in 2014. In New York, for instance, the trio of sisters have graduated from a single show at Terminal 5, with a capacity of around 3,000, to two nights at Radio City Music Hall, which seats just over 6,000. “We envisioned this tour to be a celebration of girl power, which is why we named it the Sister Sister Sister Tour,” the siblings said in a statement. “With our special guest Lizzo in tow [as the opener], we can promise you that your face will be melted by the end of the night.”

JAY-Z AND BEYONCÉ
On the Run II Tour
Booked by: Creative Artists Agency, Live Nation

Ticketmaster can’t keep a secret. News of the superstar tour leaked twice before the official announcement in March for the 45-date megatour. Knowing that On the Run II will be among the highest-grossing tours of 2018 with top-shelf ticket prices (the Runway VIP Experience Package runs $1,995 at New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium), many are emptying their wallets for the pair. Comedian Travon Free from HBO’s Him or Her joked on Twitter that fans trying to come up with ways to pay for tickets are going to need to ask themselves, “Do I really need two lungs and [a] heart?”

KENDRICK LAMAR, SZA AND MORE
The Championship Tour
Booked by: WME

In 2017, Top Dawg Entertainment reigned supreme after Kendrick Lamar and SZA’s masterful albums DAMN. and Ctrl, respectively, garnered critical acclaim and a combined 12 Grammy nominations. In May, the “All the Stars” duo alongside ScHoolboy Q, Jay Rock and the rest of their TDE cohort will team up for Top Dawg’s first full-label tour. “We’ve been building our roster for years to showcase the TDE standard of quality; to give the fans an experience like no other: Championship!” says label president Dave Free.

BRUNO MARS WITH SPECIAL GUEST CARDI B
24K Magic Tour
Booked by: WME

After sweeping the Grammy Awards in February, Bruno Mars is heading back onto the road for his 24K Magic Tour with a Memorial Day weekend show at Bottlerock Napa Valley in Napa, Calif.; a swing through Europe; then Lollapalooza in Chicago in August and a full North American run with “Finesse” remix collaborator Cardi B as a special guest. Mars’ tour -- which has already grossed $200 million, according to Boxscore -- will find the superstar performing multiple dates in a number of cities, including a four-night stand at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

PEARL JAM
The Home Shows/The Away Shows
Booked by: WME

On the heels of the 2017 concert film/album Let’s Play Two, documenting its 2016 dates at Chicago’s Wrigley Field, Pearl Jam is again hitting ballparks. First up, The Home Shows at Seattle’s Safeco Field on Aug. 8 and 10. The “away” dates follow at Washington-Grizzly Stadium in Missoula, Mont.; Wrigley Field; and Fenway Park in Boston. Wrigley restoration and expansion vp Carl Rice says that Pearl Jam is among a very exclusive group of acts that can play “doubles” (two shows) at the famed ballpark, which seats over 41,000. “This is a special relationship [in part] because of Eddie Vedder’s love for Wrigley Field,” says Rice. “He has been a Cubs fan for his entire life.”

SHAKIRA
El Dorado World Tour
Booked by: Live Nation

El Dorado, named after Shakira’s chart-topping 2017 album, kicks off June 3 at the Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg, her first tour in seven years following the birth of her two sons and a vocal-cord injury that forced her to postpone the original kickoff slated for last fall. In an online missive to fans, the Colombian star promised her “best” show yet. “Shakira has been a force in the music industry for decades with a loyal and diverse fan base,” says Live Nation senior vp North American touring Omar Al-joulani. “We’ve really focused on marketing the El Dorado World Tour to a Spanish-speaking audience, an effective strategy that has sold over 170,000 tickets across her North American dates thus far.”

ED SHEERAN
Booked by: Paradigm Talent Agency

The “Perfect” singer will embark on his first all-stadium tour at the end of the summer. Performances will begin Sept. 18 at the Rose Bowl in Los Angeles and continue through the fall with Southeastern shows at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. (Nov. 7) and Atlanta’s new Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Nov. 10). While promoter Louis Messina prefers football stadiums over baseball parks, he’s opting for AT&T Park in San Francisco over the larger Levi’s Stadium in nearby Santa Clara, Calif. “The curfew is just too early on weeknights,” says Messina of Santa Clara’s 10 p.m. cutoff. “They’re going to kill their concert business if they don’t go later.”

CHRIS STAPLETON
All-American Road Show
Booked by: WME

Compared with last year, Stapleton will play fewer 2018 dates as he and wife Morgane await the birth of twins. “His tour isn't getting started until May,” says his WME agent, Jay Williams, who adds that his run will include “arenas, amphitheaters and a few other special events” with top touring acts. “Last year it was [opening for Tom] Petty, and this year it’s the Eagles,” says Williams, “as well as several multigenre festivals, including Forecastle and Innings.” Despite the dip in dates, sales are up following Stapleton’s Saturday Night Live and Grammy performances as well as his continued collaboration with Justin Timberlake. Stapleton also made history when he became the first artist in over 25 years to hold Nos. 1-3 on the Top Country Albums chart.

HARRY STYLES
Harry Styles Live on Tour
Booked by: Creative Artists Agency

After proving he can work a stage on his own during a run of small theaters last fall, Styles is adapting his show to arenas around the globe. Adding two previously unreleased tracks to his set -- the rocking “Anna” and “Medicine,” which fans have interpreted as a nod to bisexuality -- Styles will be joined by Kacey Musgraves, Warpaint, Leon Bridges, The Preatures and Mabel in select cities. Since the tour’s start on March 11, he has already teased fans on Instagram with shots from his performances and a handwritten note that reads, “I can’t wait to see you...”

TAYLOR SWIFT
Reputation Tour
Booked by: Messina Touring Group

Don’t believe the haters. Despite rumors about slow ticket sales, Taylor Swift’s Reputation Tour is shaping up to be a $300 million stadium outing, according to promoter Louis Messina. “We’re selling more tickets than we’ve ever sold,” says Messina. “The production is going to be off the hook -- the renderings I’ve seen keep getting bigger and bigger.” Camila Cabello and Charli XCX have been tapped as Swift’s opening acts, after Vance Joy and Shawn Mendes joined her 1989 Tour. The tour opens May 8 at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.

JAMES TAYLOR WITH SPECIAL GUEST BONNIE RAITT
Booked by: Creative Artists Agency

After playing to sold-out audiences on a 17-date run last summer, friends and living legends James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt are back for a repeat performance. “We’re a good 30 percent ahead of where we were last time,” says Taylor’s manager, Sam Feldman, of ticket sales for the upcoming arena road trip. It will begin May 8 in Jacksonville, Fla., and covers 30-plus markets between the United States and Europe, where the pair will join fellow legend Paul Simon’s farewell tour for two shows in Dublin and London.

SHANIA TWAIN
NOW Tour
Booked by: Creative Artists Agency

Three years after what was billed as her “farewell tour,” Twain has returned to the road behind her 2017 comeback record, Now, which topped the Billboard 200 following its Sept. 29 release. “We’ve been working on the visuals, stage production and props, and let me just say, it’s going to be a lot of fun,” said Twain in a tour promo video. If her high-energy, firework-filled Grey Cup halftime show last November was any indication, fans will get their money’s worth.

JACK WHITE
Booked by: WME

After a two-year break from touring, White is back, beginning April 19 in Detroit. He will perform at arenas, amphitheaters and festivals, including Arroyo Seco Weekend in Pasadena, Calif. At his hard-ticket dates, White will employ a no-phone policy with help from Yondr, a company that makes pouches for mobile devices. “It may take fans a minute to get accustomed to not having immediate access to their phones,” says White’s manager, Ian Montone, “but we’re hopeful that they will discover a greater connection to the music.”

Contributors: Dave Brooks, Dean Budnick, Leila Cobo, Thom Duffy, Adrienne Gaffney, Bianca Gracie, Lyndsey Havens, Carl Lamarre, Gail Mitchell, Craig Rosen, Taylor Weatherby.

This article originally appeared in the April 14 issue of Billboard.