By Alex Beene
What’s it like to see a concert in 2021? More importantly, what’s it like to be in Las Vegas for a concert in 2021?
Just asking those questions would’ve seemed laughable only a few months ago. Even the most optimistic in the touring business claimed we wouldn’t see concerts make a comeback until 2022 at the earliest.
And yet, Las Vegas is flush with shows this summer. My recent venture back into the world of live music found my brother and me attending the Bruno Mars show at the Park MGM on the Strip on July 10. The Saturday night show was one in a string of performances the mega-star scheduled for July.
Any other night, Bruno’s show would’ve been the highlight of the city. This night however, the pop king was just one of a plethora of major events around town. Garth Brooks had sold out the new 72,000-seat Allegiant Stadium two miles away. A UFC match raged next door at the T-Mobile Arena. And virtually every club had reopened with names ranging from Diplo to Zedd as the headlining DJs.
What was my takeaway? The concert experience is pretty similar to what it was pre-pandemic, but there are some notable differences. Here are a few things to look for if you decide to take the live-music plunge in Vegas or any city in the coming months.
1. The concert experience is as good as ever.
I wasn’t sure what the vibe would be at the Park Theater, but thankfully it was virtually the same as pre-pandemic. The 6,400-seat room was completely sold out, the crowd was completely engaged and loud, and the atmosphere was just as upbeat as prior Bruno shows I have attended.
Theater employees wore masks, as did some attendees, but it was mostly a maskless event. Masklessness was recommended for vaccinated guests only, but no proof of vaccination was required. This appears to be the norm at most shows in Vegas. And while Live Nation at one time said they would require vaccination verification for certain shows, it’s looking less likely that requirement will stick for many events.
It is important to note here my brother and I were fully vaccinated prior to this show. If you haven’t been vaccinated, I would strongly advise you not to attend a live event, even if you’re wearing a mask. The risks are too great for other concertgoers and yourself.
2. The post-pandemic price surge is real.
Simply put — Yikes! Bruno Mars has never been an affordable ticket purchase for many people who come to Vegas. If you’re lucky enough to get tickets the first day they go on sale, you’ll find yourself shelling out a few hundred dollars per ticket, and if you miss that, a few thousand may be in order on the secondary market.
Those prices mostly stayed the same, but other parts of the concert experience are slowly getting more expensive. Drinks and other concessions have increased in price, as has merchandise. The red carpet picture you see below is pretty, but the starting rate for physical copies after the performance was over $50.
But perhaps the biggest thing to consider now is transportation costs. Services like Lyft and Uber have become the standard for live events – not only do you save on parking costs, but you can also drink to your heart’s content without worrying about your post-event ride home.
Current prices may cause you to rethink that, though. I was stunned that an Uber to the show was $87 for a 1.7-mile ride. Additionally, the labor shortage has also guaranteed longer wait times. You may need to request your ride 30 minutes to an hour earlier than your normal lead time.
3. Bruno’s show is fantastic – but the same.
Given that most of us have been concertless the last year, the excitement of simply being able to attend a show might be enough to make your night magical. Still, many fans were eager for their return not just to be back in the venue, but to hear songs released during the pandemic performed live for the first time.
Bruno Mars’s show remains largely unchanged from his more recent shows in Vegas, or the 24K Magic Tour he mounted just a few years ago. To be fair, the only new release from Bruno during the pandemic was “Leave the Door Open,” which he and Anderson .Paak performed to close out this show. There wasn’t much shaking up to his recent setlists, so bear that in mind if you’ve seen him before.
Also, keep in mind Bruno’s concerts in Vegas remain phone-free. You must lock your phone in a pouch prior to the performance and get it unlocked when it’s over. This made for a great evening, as simply being able to sing and dance to the songs without worrying if we got a great photo made the show more special for us. Mars reminded the crowd that, over the last year, everyone was on their phones all day, and this concert would be used to celebrate an end to some of the pandemic anxiety.
As for the performance, Bruno is still one of the best in the business. He smoothly danced and sang his way through a setlist of hits for about two hours. He remains sharp and witty on the mic, serenading the crowd with a special song for the show, “I took your phones away,” which triggered laughter from most.
Yes, concerts are still the paradise for music lovers they’ve always been. Bruno’s show was the perfect re-entry point for most, as his phone-free experience dealt more with the sounds and thrills of the moment instead of pageantry and spectacle. Just make sure to “Leave the Wallet Open” because prices for this event and others are definitely at a premium.