It’s been about 18 months since venues around the world went dark at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. But as summer turns to fall, the lights are back on. Or half-dimmed. And not everywhere.
Still, the return of live concerts in North America (as well as pockets of Europe) is a big first step. And while arena calendars are not yet pre-pandemic full, the attendance and revenue figures for some of the season’s biggest shows are not just promising, they look mostly back to normal.
Before Billboard’s monthly Boxscore charts resume next month, we are taking a look at some of the biggest tours, venues and promoters from the summer, covering June, July and August based on early reports of the concerts kicking off the live music industry’s return.
It’s appropriate that the biggest touring act of the pandemic era so far is playing in theaters, maximizing revenue with relatively small crowds and robust ticket prices. Bruno Mars leads the Top Tours chart with a gross of nearly $19.3 million according to figures reported to Billboard Boxscore.
The Bruno Mars at Park MGM Residency played 12 shows in July and August — 10 at the Park Theater in Las Vegas plus two on Aug. 6-7 at The Theater at MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md. The 12 shows played to more than 59,000 fans, making it the sixth-best attended tour of the summer. But the ability to super-serve a narrow audience allowed the average ticket price to soar to $325.
Mars’ return to Vegas makes his the highest grossing residency in the MGM franchise at $56.2 million, passing Lady Gaga Enigma’s $53.9 million (new Gaga shows were recently announced beginning Oct. 14). That pushes his total career gross to $604.4 million, making him one of fewer than 30 acts to hit the $600 million milestone in Boxscore history.
Mars isn’t the only 21st century pop/R&B star lighting up the Top Tours chart with a slew of theater shows in Nevada. At No. 3, Usher kicked off Usher: The Las Vegas Residency with 14 shows at The Colosseum at Caesar’s Palace from July 16 through Aug. 14. The opening leg earned $13 million and sold 59,000 tickets. While Usher and Mars sold virtually the same number of tickets, the former’s average ticket was more than $100 cheaper.
In between the two Vegas residencies is Dead & Company’s hybrid amphitheater-stadium tour at No. 2 with a $16.4 million gross from 185,000 tickets sold. The band will play through the end of October, but their tour’s first group of concerts puts them on track to match or perhaps beat their previous high – Summer 2019’s $40.9 million haul from 19 shows. So far, Dead & Co. are averaging $2.1 million and 23,000 tickets per night in 2021.
The tour’s biggest shows so far are, unsurprisingly, its stadium dates. The band’s Aug. 20 Citi Field show in New York played to 36,642 fans and earned $4.1 million. The next night, they sold more tickets (39,271), but averaged a slightly smaller ticket price, grossing $3.3 million at Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park.
Dead & Co. are joined by other stadium highlights from Zac Brown Band and Billy Joel. ZBB played mostly in amphitheaters but also hit Boston’s Fenway Park and Hersheypark Stadium in Pennsylvania, combining to an $11.1 million and 166,000 tickets sold. It’s the summer’s fourth-highest grossing tour and the top country run of the season, joined by George Strait further down the top 10.