He’ll visit the capital cities and a handful of wineries, and places like Mount Cotton, a town of less than 7,000 people in Queensland with chicken farms that’s a koala conservation area.
“We are playing all of the markets, multiple times,” Wilkes told an audience at the All That Matters entertainment conference here on Tuesday. “It is like everybody in Australia is going twice.”
AEG worked with Chugg Entertainment, Elton's longtime promoter in the market, to build out the Australasia portion of the tour. It began with 12 confirmed shows, then grew to 18 dates. Later it swelled to 24 shows, then 36 shows, before beefing up to the current 40 shows, Wilkes said.
As far back as 2015, promoters, including Rocket Music Entertainment Group, began hatching a smaller-town touring strategy for Australia, said Matthew Lazarus-Hall, who was Chugg’s CEO before being named last week as AEG’s Senior VP for Asia. “In the 2017 tour we specifically didn’t go into any capital cities, except Hobart,” he said. “We just kind of did unique things to prove that it could work.”
In one case the promoters booked Elton in Mackay, a sugar mining town, and sold out all 15,000 tickets at the venue there, Lazarus-Hall said. The singer also played in Cairns, even further north in Queensland, for 23,000 people, on a cricket field.
Chugg and Keith Bradley, Elton’s tour director from Rocket for some three decades, outlined the vision. At the outset, Lazarus-Hall recalled Bradley walking into his office and throwing down a map of Australia with red dots on it indicating places he thought the singer should tour.
AEG came into the picture after Michael Chugg and former partner-turned-rival Michael Gudinski, who founded Frontier Touring Company with Chugg in 1979, formed a joint venture in March. A month later, Frontier linked up with AEG Presents, which bought 50% of the Australian company.
Wilkes said that AEG plans to bring Elton through Asia once the Australia-New Zealand leg is done. “What we are looking at now is ‘greater Asia,’ which could include far into India and the Middle East,” he said. “But that is an unknown at this stage.”
As for Australia and New Zealand, Wilkes isn’t ruling out the possibility that the tour could swell yet again, giving Elton a shot at P!nk’s records.
P!nk's Funhouse tour in 2009 did 58 shows and sold 650,000 tickets. Her The Truth About Love tour played 46 dates in Australia in 2013, grossing $72.7 million and selling 593,817 tickets, according to Billboard Boxscore. And her Beautiful Trauma World Tour played 42 shows in Australia and New Zealand in 2018, grossing $80.4 million and selling 559,361 tickets.
“It’s 40 dates so far,” Wilkes said of Elton. “Who knows, maybe there are some other towns we haven’t found yet.”
--Eric Frankenberg added reporting