“We've got multiple stages and a really interesting setlist with some incredible musicians and singers," Kennedy says. “What I don't want people to think is that it is just me playing guitar for an hour with one camera angle. We've got a really, really big show planned and it's going to be a lot of musicians and a lot of different arrangements of songs that people know.”
The pandemic hit while Kennedy was on tour, “playing to thousands of people in beautiful venues every night — that's why I make music, it’s my favorite thing doing the world,” he tells Billboard. “After playing shows on my phone and Instagram, the idea for this concert started to take shape and it just felt like a very, very cool way to do something special.”
Tickets to watch the performance, sold through Ticketmaster’s Universe platform, are $17 general admission while a limited number of VIP tickets packaged with a shirt and limited edition vinyl sold for $76. During the initial presales, Kennedy sold more than 7,000 tickets for the show which will air four times in different time zones today including 8 p.m. ET/PT.
“We spent a lot of time talking about how to make the show compelling enough to get people to want to pay. That was our opening quandary,” says Ed Millett, co-chief executive of TaP Music which manages Kennedy.
“It's been an interesting journey — it was asked a few months ago by someone at our company, whether people would donate or pay to see a live stream,” he said. “My response was no because at that point, probably like three months ago, I would have felt that was in bad taste”
But the success of artist Laura Marling’s ticketed livestream changed his mind, although the idea of playing in front of a camera didn’t feel natural either.
“He's gone from clubs to arenas driven by how good he is live and his ability to work with an audience,” Millett says. “The idea of doing something where that audience wasn't there felt like it could dilute his potency as a live performer. If we did it, he insisted it had to be something spectacular.”
Millett asked Kennedy if there was a venue he had always wanted to play and Kennedy said his dream venue was London’s Natural History Museum, which was still closed because of the pandemic.
“I didn't even want to say it out loud at first because I just thought it would be incredibly impossible and that they just wouldn't let us do that,” Kennedy tells Billboard. Earlier in his career, he spent a significant amount of time writing and working in London “and there were so many times I’d have a day off and go to that museum. I just put headphones in and wander through the various exhibitions.”
While much of the details for tonight's gig are under wraps, Kennedy said one famous museum resident will be making a guest appearance — Hope, the 80-foot blue whale who’s skeleton adorns the museum’s Hintze Hall.
“She was found off the coast of Ireland and now she’s called Hope, which to me, is really a central theme of the music,” Kennedy says. “That’s what we want the audience to feel tonight, and we have an incredible guest helping us get there.”
To learn more and to buy tickets, visit dermotkennedy.com.