“I’ve gotta be a responsible artist,” Luke Bryan tells Billboard days ahead of the Feb. 11 debut of his nine-show Las Vegas residency at the AEG Presents / Concerts West Resorts World Theatre.
But he’s not referring to the occupational hazards of the Strip’s 24-hour party lifestyle, or even COVID-19 safety protocols – Bryan is wary about engaging in too much time on those famous Las Vegas links.
The singer, an avid golfer, was actually wooed to the Resorts World stage by casino president Scott Sibella, with whom he’s been known to play a few rounds. But days spent on the greens might not be so good for his night gig.
“I’ve certainly got some friends who have gotten me golf hookups,” he says with a laugh. “First and foremost, we need to get the show dialed in and make sure it is world class. And then, as we get settled, I’ll play a little golf in the morning. Sometimes being outside — green grass everyday — messes up my singing voice. Everything I do is designed for when I get on stage so I can really put on a great show.”
Prepping for this moment is something Bryan takes seriously, but also in stride, commensurate with this cool, carefree country music persona. He and his team worked virtually for about a month before getting into the theater.
“We talk out scenes and how we want to represent the songs visually. Once we get in the room, and we actually build the show, it’s an exciting moment,” he says. “We will actively work on the [performance] for four to five days — top to bottom. I typically don’t have to rehearse too much. When it comes to music, it’s like riding a bicycle. The main thing for me is making sure the band’s comfortable and everybody’s comfortable with all our transitions.”
But will the artist, whose stage show is not known for bells and whistles, have a few tricks up his sleeve? Don’t expect dancers running around, or a multitude of costume changes, but get ready for a little heat.
“It’s staging, lighting and pyro, and all of that,” Bryan says. “I want my show to feel like a big, energetic stadium rock show, where people are standing up, dancing and having a great time. When I found out that Resorts World had a state-of-the-art theater — audio and lighting and the excitement of a big new casino – I knew that would be fun, and to be asked to be a part of that rollout of artists was flattering also. And anytime you can be part of something with such a high profile, it feels like the right thing. Do some shows, get caught up in the energy of Vegas and make sure the fans have a great experience.”
Announced in May 2021, Bryan is part of the resort’s first pantheon of performers, including Carrie Underwood, who opened the theater in early December; Celine Dion, who postponed her dates to to health issues; and his American Idol costar, Katy Perry, whose “Play” closed out its first set of dates in January.
Perry did offer Bryan some advice leading into his opening. “She was funny. She sent me a text, she’s like, ‘Get ready. It’s a big stage,’” he says, admitting the stage enormity intrigues him. “The main thing is making sure we’re able to fill the stage up with things for me to do. I don’t want to be up there walking around aimlessly.”
Bryan’s will be the first residency to kick off since the controversial cancellation of “Weekends with Adele” at Caesars Palace’s Colosseum in late January. The artist cited COVID and delivery delays as the cause.
“Thankfully, we didn’t run into any problems,” Bryan says. “My crew really did a wonderful job getting vaccinated. We didn’t go 100%, but everybody was a team player in that aspect. Yet we still had some people that got COVID. It certainly poses its set of challenges, but we’ve been lucky and we stand steadfast that the show must go on. We are grateful we have not had to move any dates around.”
It has already been a busy 2022 for the artist. Earlier this month, he announced the “Raised Up Right” summer tour, starting June 9, which he says will be a different experience than Las Vegas.
“I think it’s important for Vegas to stand alone and then, whenever I’m out doing my regular tour dates, give the fans something different,” Bryan says. “This year, I think you’ll see more tours being able to roll out and you’ll see fans getting more and more comfortable coming to shows. Country music will do what it always does — it’ll make sure the fans are happy. It’ll make sure its songs always tell the stories of life. Country music and summertime goes hand in hand. We’re letting the world know we’re working.”