Toyota Center Preps for a December to Remember

For a venue celebrating its tenth year of operation, Toyota Center may have never experienced such high-caliber occupancy as it will this month.

In late autumn, the murmurs from inside the venue's marketing department could be heard all the way across the street at the George R. Brown Convention Center. While the Rockets were finalizing the smiling "H-TOWN" visage of center Dwight Howard and guard James Harden that now greets fans, two more names were added to the arena's winter concert schedule.

Jay Z. Kanye West.

Those two names together aren't a new occurrence. Both men performed at Toyota Center in December 2011 on their rather gross and extravagant "Watch the Throne" tour. But this time around, the two are promoting completely separate ideas and albums: West a flamboyant middle finger towards conventionalism called Yeezus; Jay Z a rather polished nod to commercialism and inventive "new rules" under the name Magna Carta Holy Grail.

The Toyota Center staff plugged in the respective dates and realized both shows would land in a December stretch that already included pop royalty Justin Timberlake and Beyoncé. Combined with the mid-November appearances of superstars Rihanna and Drake, soon the arena can say it will have seen six of music's biggest names enter its doors within a month's time.

"We've had many sections of the year where we've seen plenty of traffic," says Toyota Center associate general manager Amanda Mann. "But definitely nothing of this variety in the urban market."

Attending all four concerts, beginning with Timberlake tomorrow night through Jay Z December 19 (two weeks later), would rack up a minimum bill of $166. For premium seating levels for all four shows, tickets could easily set you back at least $725. Of course that's not factoring in tour merchandise, concessions and whatever else you may happen to run into. Plan to entertain the company of someone else and your escapade could vault into the $1,450 range, again with premium seating in mind.

But what those figures mean to the common fan is nothing. What they mean to the venue itself is quite astonishing.

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This past March, high Rodeo season still towed in plenty of crowds to Toyota Center for concerts including Muse, Eric Clapton, Maroon 5, Elton John and Alicia Keys. Normally that would rank as the venue's busy season, a box-office windfall of some $3 million. This month, its urban swing promises to match that figure and maybe then some.

Story continues on the next page.

Outside possibly Lady Gaga -- who announced her own Toyota Center appearance Tuesday, a July 16, 2014, "artRAVE" -- and Katy Perry, no one in pop moves the barometer any more than Beyoncé and Timberlake. Next Tuesday Jay Z's wife will make her second appearance in Houston this year, following a July date that quickly sold out. This adventure is also sold out, with some fans thankful to even get a chance to snag a few nosebleed seats. But her selling out a second show in five months, in her hometown, seems relatively easy.

Same for Timberlake, whose "comeback" album The 20/20 Experience debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts in March with a staggering 968,000 copies sold. His appearance may go back to an old business deal he signed with Live Nation following his 2007 world tour behind the FutureSex/LoveSounds album, but you'd be hard-pressed to find fans who want to relive the *NSYNC glory days, either.

In terms of rap acts, one member of The Throne has seen his tickets going faster than the other.

"Tickets to Jay Z's show were flying," reveals Mann. "We sold the second-most presale tickets only to Los Angeles."

This news isn't much of a shock, given Jay Z's near-universal praise and past Houston connections. Every show here since he opened the neighboring House of Blues in 2008 has carried its own weight and cachet, almost as momentous as any of his hometown New York shows.

The wild card, as he often seems to be these days, is West, who at press time still had a few tickets available for Saturday's show with Kendrick Lamar. Much of the word surrounding his tour has not been on his actual performance but his antics, such as stopping a recent Tampa show due to lighting. And who could forget his last solo tour stop in Houston in 2008, which he called to a halt due to a side monitor going out?

Curiosity should always lead you to a West show far faster than, say, Timberlake and Jay Z. Those men not only shared a stadium tour this past summer but seem so straitlaced onstage that anything out of a normal set list would be a shock. Meanwhile Beyoncé is queen, with no bar she cannot topple - even a highest-single-ticket price of $250.

But either way, economically December could rate as the biggest concert month in Toyota Center's history. It may go down as the most talked-about month as well.


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