Inside Kane Brown’s Historic NBA-Driven Arena Concert Tour
The country star played Toronto's ScotiaBank Arena on Dec. 4, making him the first artist ever to play all 29 NBA arenas during a single tour.
Earlier this month, breakthrough country superstar Kane Brown became the first touring artist to play all 29 National Basketball Association (NBA) arenas during a single tour, fulfilling a lifelong dream around his passion for pro hoops.
“Kane’s a huge basketball fan,” says his manager Martha Earls with Neon Coast. “He’s athletic, loves sports and first got the idea back in 2019 when he was invited to headline a 20th-anniversary show for what was then the Staples Center in LA (and now is known as Crypto.com Arena).”
The January 2020 show — postponed from October 18, 2019, due to the tragic death of Kane’s longtime friend and drummer Kenny Dixon days earlier — and a Lakers game attended the night before by Kane, Earls and promoter Rich Schaefer with AEG Global Touring became the genesis for Brown’s first arena tour.
Originally scheduled to be announced in March 2020, publicity for Brown’s tour was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with a plan to “be ready the minute we can get back on the road,” Schaefer recalls. “That opening came in April of 2021 and we ended up being one of the first sales in the year following COVID-19.”
Schaefer said he wanted Brown to get back on the road after releasing his EP Mixtape, Vol 1 in Aug. 2020 on RCA Records Nashville, which hit No. 2 on Billboard‘s Country Albums chart and No. 15 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. Mixtape, Vol. 1 included the crossover track “Be Like That” featuring Swae Lee and Khalid, as well as “Cool Again” featuring Nelly and “Last Time I Say Sorry” featuring John Legend.
“Sales for the tour were massive and the tour kicked off six months later,” Schaefer said of the Blessed & Free Tour, which officially launched on Oct. 1, 2021, at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento and hit 28 of 29 NBA arenas and college facilities in Nampa, Idaho and College Station, Pennsylvania. The tour also made three stops at hockey arenas in Pittsburgh, Seattle and Las Vegas, wrapping its first leg at Sin City’s T-Mobile Arena on Feb. 4.
The final show took place 10 months later on Dec. 4 at the final NBA arena on the tour, ScotiaBank Arena in Toronto — marking the 29th of 29 NBA arena concerts. “We couldn’t get into Canada during the initial run of the tour because of the restrictions and the lockdown in the country,” Schaefer says.
In Jan. 2022, the Blessed & Free Tour was the most well-attended concert tour of the month, averaging 11,000 fans per show. “When we did announce the tour in April, I got some calls from people thinking we were maybe being a little bit bullish,” Earls recalls, “but we just felt there was such a desire from the fan base and an excitement from fans for live music coming back that we knew we were ready.”
Helping boost sales was the chart success of Chris Young’s track “Famous Friends” featuring Brown, which hit No. 1 on the Billboard Country Airplay in July, two months after the Blessed & Free Tour went on sale.
“At almost every show, we had NBA players come out on stage for ‘Famous Friends,’ often with the mascots from each team,” Schaefer said. In Milwaukee, player Khris Middleton appeared on stage for the song months after leading the Bucks to their first NBA Finals victory.
During the downtime between the February date in Vegas and the Canada show, Brown performed the first concert ever held at Finley Stadium in his hometown of Chattanooga, Tennessee, on May 7.
“It was a heavy lift and we all learned a lot together including the stadium staff,” Schaefer recalls. “We don’t really say no to a lot of things. If it’s Kane’s dream to do it, we’re gonna help make that happen. That’s what we do for a living here.”
“Kane’s path to success has been atypical since day one, so as we discuss his touring strategy, it should be atypical as well,” says Brown’s agent Braeden Rountree at WME. “Rolling into 2023 and beyond, we have to keep asking ourselves “what can we do to keep busting through the glass ceiling to continue to set him apart? The short answer is we must continually look for great opportunities where he might be the “first Country Artist” (or any Artist for that matter) to perform at. His sold-out performance at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s football stadium this past May is another great example of that.”
In 2023, Brown is preparing for another milestone – headlining a stadium show at Fenway Park in Boston on June 23. The venue concert deal became available to Brown thanks to a quick sellout at the city’s TD Garden arena five months earlier on the Blessed & Free Tour.
“That was the great thing about this tour — each success lead to a new opportunity and a chance for Kane to hit a bunch of venues he has always wanted to play,” Earls said. “We learned more than we ever thought possible and watched Kane continue to grow and strengthen his relationship with fans who have grown with him. We are all so proud of what he has achieved.”