Who’s next? That seems to be the perpetual question for anyone paying attention to the Strip’s perpetually evolving headliner culture. Within the past decade, Las Vegas has once again become the city to which music performers flock for extended engagements, be they a few nights or a proper, multi-stand residency.
And some recent developments—departing talent at nearly all the residency-centric venues, the forthcoming MSG Sphere at the Venetian, the temporary shuttering of the Joint during the Hard Rock Hotel’s transformation into a Virgin-branded hotel and, most recently, the sudden postponement of Britney Spears’ second show, Domination—raise the aforementioned question once again. Who can promoters such as Live Nation and AEG nab to further expand, enhance and diversify the already large cabal of artists regularly playing Las Vegas?
Here’s a look at some obvious contenders for a Strip residency—and how likely or unlikely they’d be to sign up.
Adele For years, the British pop hitmaker’s name has been thrown out as an obvious candidate for a residency, partly due to sightings of her touring Caesars Palace, and partly due to her obvious, Celine Dion-like appeal. But Adele is no Vegas shoon-in. She’s reportedly concerned about what our dry climate could do to her voice, as well as possible distractions from raising her 6-year-old son. (Dion purposely chose a residency to ensure stability for her family, though that required her to relocate here—a move Adele may not want to make.) And strikingly, she has only played Las Vegas once in her 11-year career. The tell-tale sign will be what performance plans she’ll make upon completion of her fourth album, slated for a year-end release.
Along the same lines: Beyoncé and Taylor Swift are equally able to sell ungodly amounts of albums and concert tickets, but they also infrequently include Vegas on their tour itineraries thanks to their elevation to stadium status—and before you think it, a Raiders Stadium residency/extended engagement is likely a logistical and financial bridge too far.
The Eagles Despite the 2016 death of principal member Glenn Frey, the Southern California band has soldiered on, with Frey’s son, Deacon, and country veteran Vince Gill rounding out the band. The band’s legacy as the biggest band of the 1970s is prime fodder for a Strip residency, though there are two mitigating factors: Its continued success on the road (where it will remain for at least the first half of the year), and its manager, Irving Azoff, who is one of the main players behind MSG Sphere—and likely wouldn't want his talent playing anywhere else before it opens.
Along the same lines: Fellow Azoff clients Bon Jovi and Fleetwood Mac are obvious residency candidates, especially for the Sphere. Ditto Azoff MSG Entertainment touring giant Journey. All three bands, along with The Eagles, could fill those 18,000 seats twice—or more—a year.
Rihanna How has this not happened yet? The R&B/dance titan’s music is ubiquitous; she has 14 No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 singles and was named the top Mainstream Top 40 chart artist of the past 20 years by the same magazine. So why hasn’t a casino venue signed her already?
One answer: RiRi hasn’t regularly performed since 2016, when she appeared in Las Vegas three times. And she’s been busy working on a new album, which she recently said would come out sometime this year. Both of those factors may favor a world tour over something steady in Las Vegas, but as Bruno Mars proved with Park Theater and T-Mobile Arena, a dynamic partnership with a casino operator like MGM could still work even during a world tour.
Along the same lines: Drake and Katy Perry are also chart monsters. But the former may be too big for a theater—he just completed a massive arena tour—and recent unearthed video footage of Drizzy groping a 17-year-old onstage won’t endear him to casino execs. And the latter has said she’s taking time off following 10 years of constant recording and touring. And what about Kanye West? Speaking of controversy: His decreasing favorability with the general public following recent political statements would likely dissuade image-sensitive entities like casinos from anything beyond one-off shows—though a hit album and a muted Twitter presence could change that.
Pink Like Rihanna, a no-brainer for a Vegas residency—especially given her penchant for spectacle-like production and Cirque-like acrobatics she performs herself, as well as a 20-year catalog filled with hits and sellout status in Las Vegas. She’s back on April 12, as part of a lengthy arena tour, so any long-engagement considerations would likely come further down the pipe.
Along the same lines: Justin Timberlake has been around equally long, and heavily rumored as the next big Vegas get. But last year he dismissed Vegas residencies as “scary” and “like you’re planning your retirement.” Janet Jackson has an even bigger catalog that would clearly work in her favor, but her history of show cancellations may be residency kryptonite. As far as legacy R&B acts go, a theater residency or limited engagement might best suit the likes of Mary J. Blige and Usher.
Kylie Minogue The Aussie dance-pop diva is a huge draw around the world, but boasts a more modest following in the States (her most popular U.S. hits: a 1987 cover of “The Locomotion” and 2002’s Pride parade anthem “Can’t Get You Out of My Head”). That’s no dealbreaker for Vegas, thanks to Robbie Williams, the British pop crooner with a very similar popularity dynamic. He stunned many of us with multiple sellouts for his recently announced dates later this year at the Wynn, and it’s no stretch to think Minogue could draw her international fanbase here, too.
Along the same lines: Casino venue bookers have to be looking at Asian pop acts beginning to make splashes—or already charting—in America. K-pop crossover act BTS would be perfect for the higher-energy Zappos Theater, and fellow South Korean boy band EXO—as well as 130-member J-pop girl group AKB48, which performs daily at its own theater in Tokyo and has expanded the concept to other Asian countries—certainly warrant test runs for future engagements.
U2 When it comes to Vegas residencies, there’s not much rock representation. The Hard Rock Hotel all but pioneered the limited engagement through its bookings of 1980s rockers like Guns N’ Roses, Mötley Crüe and Def Leppard, but more of the same in the future may be anathema to the more cosmopolitan Virgin brand. And Blink-182 and Billy Idol are the lone Vegas regulars with any overlap in the punk world.
In a medium where authenticity is the only asset that seems to trump commercial viability, it’s hard to imagine an act like U2, which typically tours only after releasing a new album (its Joshua Tree celebration trek notwithstanding), playing a gig that would remotely smack of a hits revue.
Along the same lines: Count Coldplay, Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters and Metallica in the same company. Bruce Springsteen hasn’t been here since 2003, and just finished a 236-gig residency on Broadway, so that’s even more improbable. Less so: The Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney, assuming they’d forego stadium/arena shows in the area for such an arrangement locally. And it’s unlikely that the Blink residency would nudge the more punk-obsessed Green Day closer in that direction, though this is also the same band with a Broadway show.
However, on the Gen X front, one should not rule out Tool for an extended engagement of some sort, given singer Maynard James Keenan’s inclination toward frequent—and multiple—shows here for his various music acts. Oh, and know who else comes here frequently and often? Iron Maiden. I see it totally working at Park Theater.
Garth Brooks Now that he’s already had a residency here—his Behind the Music-like acoustic solo show at the Wynn, which may or may not have inspired Springsteen’s recent NYC retrospective—maybe it’s time to bring his full-production show to T-Mobile Arena, where George Strait maintains the only non-theater residency in town for a handful of weekends throughout the year.
Along the same lines: Crowdpleaser Dolly Parton is a natural for such a local show, though surely venues like the Colosseum have already tried to wrest her away from her home base in the Smoky Mountains. Perhaps more amenable to a longer-term Vegas contract: the younger, less traditional Carrie Underwood. And might Blake Shelton like some of his own gigs while girlfriend Gwen Stefani conducts hers at Zappos Theater?
Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg During the two West Coast hip-hop pioneers’ headlining set at Coachella in 2012, I thought to myself: This show is meant for Las Vegas. With nearly three decades of material between them, a huge potential for guests from Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment and the two acts residing one state over, this could be the Strip’s first hip-hop residency in a proper concert venue. But that would depend on a) whether Snoop remains exclusive to Drai’s and b) whether the extremely wealthy (and concert-adverse) Dr. Dre would could even be enticed—or whether promoters could even afford such an enticement.
Along the same lines: Jay-Z and Puff Daddy could easily fill a recurring show with nothing but massive hits—beefed up by their extended family of MCs and guest singers, if the budget permitted. But would either rapper-turned-mogul want to leave the East Coast to do so?