Patrick Crowley

The Killing-It Season: U2, Gaga, Bieber Are Among Summer's Hottest Tours

Summer is the season that makes or breaks the live business for the year.

Concerts in North America between Memorial Day and Labor Day of 2016 grossed $1.7 billion in ticket sales, a 41 percent increase over the same period a year earlier, according to reports to Billboard Boxscore. Credit the jump to tours last year by acts including Coldplay, Bruce Springsteen and Beyoncé.

What’s more, ticket sales during the 14 weeks of the 2016 summer season also accounted for some 40 percent of the overall North American gross of $4.2 billion for the entire chart year (the 12 months ending Nov. 26, 2016), based on Boxscore reports from promoters, venues, booking agents and artist managers.

There’s a strong chance that this summer will match those results, given 2017’s roster of superstar outings, some of which are also driving sales for the season’s biggest festivals (Lady Gaga at Coachella, U2 at Bonnaroo). Billboard editors chose these 14 tours as the season’s most notable, based on expected Boxscore impact and critical buzz, among the scores of pop, rock, country, hip-hop and Latin bills on the road this summer.

Justin Bieber

Purpose World Tour
Booking agency: Creative Artists Agency

With his 2016-2017 tour, promoted by AEG and touching down in 137 cities and 56 countries, Bieber has hit a new career peak on the road. “The 2017 Purpose World Tour is the first global stadium tour for Justin,” says Marlene Tsuchii, co-head of international at CAA. After playing big-scale buildings in the spring and early summer in such markets as South America, India, South Africa and Europe, Bieber will open his U.S. swing on July 29 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. “The new stadium production works perfectly to showcase the range of Justin’s music,” says Tsuchii.

Blondie and Garbage

The Rage and Rapture Tour
Booking agencies: Agency for the Performing Arts, Creative Artists Agency

“There’s a ton of mutual admiration between both bands,” says Blondie agent Bruce Solar of APA, explaining the origin of this distinctive bill by two groups with dynamic frontwomen, Deborah Harry of Blondie and Shirley Manson of Garbage. Routing the tour, “our goal was to book as many iconic venues as we could,” says Solar, citing July shows set for the Mountain Winery in Saratoga, Calif.; the Hollywood Bowl; and the Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts in Vienna, Va.

Luke Bryan

Huntin’, Fishin’ and Lovin’ Every Day Tour
Booking agency: William Morris Endeavor 

For the first time since becoming a headlining star, Bryan has booked a tour with a deep lineup of support acts. Brett Eldredge, who reached No. 2 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart last year with “Drunk On Your Love,” opens all dates, beginning May 5 in Nashville. Lauren Alaina, Craig Campbell, Adam Craig, Seth Ennis and Granger Smith will play rotating slots. “We are excited to watch these new artists grow and give them a platform that helps with that,” says Kerri Edwards, Bryan’s manager. “Looking back to when we were in those slots, we know the importance of those opportunities.”

Chance the Rapper

Coloring Book Tour
Booking agency: Cara Lewis Group

In the past year, Chance the Rapper has jumped from playing theaters to headlining arenas and summer festivals (14 at last count) while his Coloring Book Tour has broken ground on social media. After announcing his shows on Twitter -- his spring and summer tour opens April 24 in San Diego -- Chance sold more than 250,000 tickets, “an enormous statement about the artist’s reach on social media and rapport with his fans,” says agent Cara Lewis. She adds that all tickets were sold through the artist’s website, chanceraps.com, another pioneering move.  

Future

Nobody Safe Tour
Booking agency: ICM Partners

For Future, performing with a full band on his Nobody Safe Tour is the best thing about his spring and summer outing, which begins May 4 in Memphis. “I haven’t been able to perform with a live band too much, besides when I do TV shows,” says the rapper. “It’s going to be great.” Promoted by Live Nation, the tour will be an all-star affair with Migos, Kodak Black, Tory Lanez, Young Thug and A$AP Ferg opening various dates.

Lady Gaga

Joanne World Tour
Booking agency: Creative Artists Agency

Gaga’s first solo headlining tour since 2014 follows her Super Bowl LI performance in February. The artist topped the Billboard 200 with her latest album, Joanne, and is playing one of the highest-profile gigs of the year, headlining the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival on April 15 and 22 as a substitute for a pregnant Beyoncé. Gaga made the Coachella news official on Feb. 28 by tweeting an updated lineup poster with the caption, “Let’s party in the desert!”

Bruno Mars

24K Magic World Tour
Booking agency
: William Morris Endeavor

“When he gets onstage, he’s going to bust your ass; he believes in being great,” says fan Antonio “L.A.” Reid, chairman/CEO of Epic Records, describing Mars (who records for Atlantic Records). After a European tour that includes four nights at London’s O2 Arena, Mars will open his U.S. summer tour on July 15 at the new T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. He’ll return to Vegas in September for two nights at a smaller venue, the Park Theater of the Monte Carlo Hotel & Casino.

Tim McGraw and Faith Hill

Soul 2 Soul Tour
Booking agency
: Creative Artists Agency

Country music power couple McGraw and Hill have not toured together since their Soul 2 Soul shows a decade ago. “These are two iconic superstars that, for obvious reasons, share an amazing chemistry onstage,” says Jason Owen, Hill’s manager. Promoted by Louis Messina of AEG-affiliated Messina Touring Group (Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, George Strait), this version of Soul 2 Soul will include double dates in such key markets as Toronto, Boston, Los Angeles and, of course, Nashville.

Metallica

WorldWired Tour
Booking agency
: Artist Group International

For every ticket purchased for Metallica’s upcoming U.S. tour, opening May 10 in Baltimore, fans also receive their choice of a physical or digital copy of the veteran metal band’s new album Hardwired…to Self-Destruct, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in December. Metallica’s “huge, clean, open stage is a visual treat,” says Artist Group International agent Adam Kornfeld, adding that the production promises “sonic perfection.” Avenged Sevenfold, Volbeat and Gojira are booked to open on select tour dates.

Muse and Thirty Seconds To Mars
Booking agency
: United Talent Agency

Muse continues to tour behind the success of its Drones album, two years after it reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200, the highest-charting LP of the group’s career. This summer, “the band is headlining eight festivals they haven’t played before,” says UTA agent Ken Fermaglich, including Delaware’s Firefly Festival June 15-18. Promoted by Live Nation, the tour is co-billed with the Jared Leto-fronted Thirty Seconds to Mars, with PVRIS as the opening act.

Tom Petty

40th Anniversary Tour
Booking agency
: William Morris Endeavor

“I may actually be in one of the best two or three rock’n’roll bands there is,” Petty told a MusiCares audience that gathered to honor him in February. In 1977, the Florida-born Petty and his band The Heartbreakers entered the Billboard Hot 100 for the first time with “Breakdown” (peaking at No. 40 the following year), and this summer’s tour celebrates 40 years of uncompromising rock hits. Petty’s tour starts April 20 in Oklahoma City. Joe Walsh and Chris Stapleton are the opening acts.

Prince Royce

Five Tour
Booking agency
: William Morris Endeavor

Royce has been one of the most sought-after support acts in recent years, opening for Ariana Grande in 2016 and Enrique Iglesias and Pitbull in 2015. After reaching No. 1 on the Top Latin Albums chart with Five, Royce tops the bill in arenas and amphitheaters, beginning June 29 in Laredo, Texas. His own support act? Rising regional Mexican star Luis Coronel. The tour is expected to be a must-see for Latin millennials.

U2

The Joshua Tree Tour
Booking agency
: Live Nation

U2 sold 1.1 million tickets in 24 hours in March after announcing it would play The Joshua Tree in its entirety on a tour marking the 30th anniversary of the album that made U2 global superstars. A June 8 headlining show at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival is one highlight of the tour that will include 33 shows in nine countries. “I wish we could go everywhere,” says U2 manager Guy Oseary.

The Weeknd

Starboy: Legend of the Fall World Tour
Booking Agency
: William Morris Endeavor

For Abel Tesfaye, aka The Weeknd, performing onstage nightly once seemed unthinkable. “I used to think about touring, and I would hate the idea,” he told Billboard in December. “I just wanted to be in the studio and crank out music.” But the success of his latest album -- Starboy debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 -- has The Weeknd headlining arenas. After winter dates in Europe, his spring/summer tour of North America begins April 25 in Vancouver. Belly, 6lack and Rae Sremmurd are set as openers. 

Contributors: Cathy Applefeld Olson, Dave Brooks, Leila Cobo, Gail Mitchell, Melinda Newman, Adelle Platon, Bryan Reesman.

This article originally appeared in the April 29 issue of Billboard.