Up in New York City, one of modern music's most popular artists, Billy Joel, sold out a show at Madison Square Garden every month of the year just passed. The Piano Man's standing "artist in residence" gig has been so successful that tickets are commanding more than $500 apiece on the resale market. Joel recently announced he'd be extending his residency into at least the first couple months of the new year.
The feat is remarkable when one considers the Garden (been there once; it really does smell like old beer and fresh urine) seats 18,000. That means more than 200,000 fans saw him perform there last year.
What artist wouldn't want to play to nearly a quarter-million people over just 12 nights? For about a half-minute, I wondered which Houston-based artist would have the best chance to sell out Toyota Center once a month for a solid year. Without question, it's Beyoncé. She's a bona fide superstar, a cultural icon with local roots.
But as quickly as I answered my own question, I dismissed her chances at selling out a year-long residency here. In my opinion, Beyoncé could not sell out one show a month for a full year at Toyota Center.
To be fair to Bey, Billy Joel is a classic-rock god with a discography that stretches out over a few decades. She's been in the game awhile, but is still a relative upstart by comparison. So, by these observations, wouldn't ZZ Top make a better choice?
No. Houston is not a classic-rock city. How long ago did KLOL sign off? We now have one local station that could play the Top on a regular basis. There are about a half dozen stops on the Houston FM airwaves to find Beyoncé -- including, for at least a brief moment in time, one that featured all Bey, all the time.
Houston is an urban-music haven, a heart that beats with a hip-hop rhythm. If I'm putting my money on anyone matching Joel's run, it's Blue Ivy's mom. But the smart money still bets against her.
You don't get a net worth of a half-billion dollars by not taking chances. I believe she'd step up to the challenge if she thought you would too, Houston. You also don't get where Beyoncé is by making bad decisions. She needs you to buy the tickets and, over the course of a whole year, you just wouldn't.
It's true, you sold out On the Run in a venue twice the size of Toyota Center. I'd even give you the benefit of the doubt and say you'd sell out NRG Stadium for a one-night-only extravaganza. The way you glammed up and paid ridiculous parking fees to sit in a baseball park suggests you're a premier town, Houston. You're not a special-engagement city. You want to be able to say, "I was there for that!" and the specialness of that diminishes over the course of a dozen opportunities.
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Another big problem is geography. Texas is a larger state than New York, so Beyoncé has many more locals to draw from, it would seem. But, that vastness would probably work as a disadvantage here. Joel is able to draw from a multitude of small East Coast states - rock and roll states like New Jersey and Massachusetts. Here, Beyoncé's got Dallas, maybe San Antonio. Austin's too hip to plunk down big dollars for a pop-music act and New Orleans is too far away to cull from regularly. That puts the heavy lifting on Houston. And you're not going to do all the repetitions or sets.
Joel also benefits from the tourism New York City attracts. Madison Square Garden alone is legendary. Ali and Frazier fought there. Too many iconic bands to count have played there. Marilyn Monroe serenaded President John Kennedy on his birthday there, all nasty-like. You've seen the footage.
Toyota Center is cleaner and brighter and best-known for a run of mediocre Rockets seasons. It's not a destination. Our visitors are more business-oriented and less recreational. We can't count on them seeking out Queen Bey on their stops to talk oil or computers.
The Girl Who Runs the World is incredibly savvy when it comes to business. She could do some things to help her chances, like host a true Destiny's Child reunion one of those nights, or bring Hov on as an opener, or issue a to-the-death cage match singing challenge to Keyshia Cole and Rihanna and see if they have the guts to show. Talk about a home court advantage!
She could cause a stir by tapping into an abundance of hometown talent looking to become the next Beyoncé. Vocalists and dancers from Houston, sharing the stage with their idol. Maybe she'd put Jay-Z in charge of finding that talent and possibly he'd find someone who could outshine wifey and,...wait, isn't this the Dreamgirls plotline?
But, even making all the right moves, I'd give her 'til June or July before you'd stop caring enough to buy a $150 ticket. I'm trying not to mention how cheap you are, Houston, but let's face it - you're kinda cheap. Or fiscally responsible. Whatever.
There's also the notion, shared by at least some people, that we're all 'Yonced out.
But the biggest problem with Beyoncé scheduling a Houston residency is maybe she's just not "Houston" enough anymore. We can't identify with her, a Houston girl gone global. No matter how many tracks she releases with Bun B and Slim Thug, she's still riding baby elephants in India with gold paint on her face. Houstonians don't do that kind of thing, do they?
New Yorkers do. If the Garden needs someone to assume Billy Joel's residency once it's done, I'd give Beyoncé great odds to sell out a year's worth of shows there.
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