Chris Stapleton, Reba McEntire Axe Tours as Others Are Announced

This story has been updated.

Over the last couple of weeks we’ve seen a lot of activity on the live music front, as the continued expansion of the vaccinated population appears to make music gatherings both large and small possible in the coming weeks and months.

Along with Eric Church making a big to do about getting his vaccination shot and announcing a crowded arena tour for this fall, Kane Brown announced an arena tour last week as well. Then this week it was Brothers Osborne announcing a massive 46-date tour starting in July. Then Thomas Rhett released 24 tour dates commencing in August. Luke Bryan is moving forward with his 2021 tour, and has big dates scheduled starting in May and June.

All of this is on top of numerous club and theater acts filling up their calendars, and festivals all across the country confirming summer, fall, and even some late spring dates. Live music even in large capacity venues is coming back. The Brothers Osborne tour even includes five dates in California in October, as well as dates in Oregon and Washington State, which have been slower than other states in giving the “all-clear” signal when it comes to restrictions.

But this week, two big country names also let it be known they’re continuing to postpone tour plans for 2021. Chris Stapleton originally pushed the start date back for his All-American Roadshow tour from April to June. Then on Wednesday (4-14), announced he was pushing more of his 2021 dates to 2022, rescheduling 18 shows including his long-awaited “A Concert for Kentucky,” and canceling an appearance in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Stapleton still does have numerous others dates scheduled for 2021 (see calendar).

Reba McEntire has chosen to do the same thing. “We’ve waited as long as we possibly could to make a decision, but unfortunately we’re not going to be able to play our 2021
Reba: Live In Concert dates. As much as I wish we could get back out on the road, it’s just not possible yet,”
Reba said.

Kenny Chesney also officially postponed his 2021 “Chillaxification” tour to 2022 in March, and Maren Morris did the same with her 2021 tour dates in December of 2020.

This is all leaving music fans with mixed messages about what to expect from live music moving forward, with many ticketholders for tours that were supposed to occur in 2020 still having to endure their money being tied up in events that continue to be delayed, while others might be reluctant to purchase a ticket to some of the recently-announced tours due to concerns the concert might eventually be delayed or canceled as well.

What also makes it confusing is some of the tour dates delayed to 2022 are in locations other acts have announced upcoming 2021 dates at. The tours also don’t appear to be promoter dependent. LiveNation is a part of both tours that have been delayed to 2022, and ones that are moving forward in 2021.

There may be numerous factors behind-the-scenes playing into some of these decisions, including the ability to hire road crews, lighting and sound guys, and other support staff as companies go from complete lockdown to a glut of work upon reopening. Some acts may just still see it as a health risk to hold a big show, even later in 2021 when everyone who wants a vaccine will have the opportunity to receive one. Others may not want to play events if they don’t sell through well, which may be a concern as a leery public is still waiting to see where the pandemic goes.

Meanwhile some acts such as Eric Church and Brothers Osborne are probably just hungry for the live experience, and are ready to get out there on the road regardless how well events sell through.

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic will not have a hard and fast end date to make it easy for the live music industry and fans to pin their expectations upon. With new cases holding steady and a continued leeriness from some in the public, it’s making how and when to open up some live music spaces a fluid situation.

It’s not just the risk to the public, but the potential concern for a public relations issue surrounding the polarizing subject of COVID-19 that has the prospects for live music later in 2021 still looking like a mixed bag.

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Editor’s Note: This story original alluded to Chris Stapleton moving all of his tour dates to 2022, and has been updated to reflect that he still has numerous tour dates scheduled for 2021.

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