It is one of America’s most important theaters, home to Las Vegas’ top grossing residencies, and in 2021 The Colosseum at Caesars Palace adds another name to its marquee—Usher.
The eight-time Grammy Award winner best known for 2004’s Confessions, ranked by Billboard as one of top solo albums of the decade, will perform 12 dates at The Colosseum beginning July 16, 2021 and running until Jan. 1, 2022.
“I cannot wait to perform for an audience,” Usher says in an exclusive interview with Billboard. “In Vegas, I get a chance to create the show that I want, and I get a chance to be with my fans who’ve been cooped up for months and months.”
While the show promoted by Live Nation and Caesars Entertainment is still in creative development, the multi-hyphenate performer whose career spans 20 years promises an immersive experience designed for the Las Vegas audience highlighting early records, recent songs and new music. For Usher’s audience, this represents a special opportunity to see him as the venue is an “intimate” 4,300 seats and he normally plays arenas.
“This is a real treat because it’s the first time I’ve ever done anything quite like this. You have benchmarks, right? You want to have your record played on the radio and then go on to win a Grammy. Vegas was always a benchmark for me that I couldn’t wait to be able to do,” Usher says. “ I can pull from all of the things that I’ve done— a little bit of acting, a little bit of personality, a little bit of music, dance. I can be more intimate than I’ve ever been with my audience, allowing people to come in and feel a different level of connection to the songs. Las Vegas is all about really shining it up.”
He also hopes to shed light on the technical intricacies that go into his performances—exploring meaning through movement, wardrobe, lighting and storytelling.
“If you want to just hear the songs, you can play them. But to take people deeper into the songs and give them a viewpoint they didn’t have, or maybe they might have overlooked and missed—that’s what my focus is. I really want to bring you through the experience of what the music means,” Usher says. “I’ve done a lot of research around immersive experiences all around the world. I traveled to Paris, London, Germany, and New York City, the South and also Los Angeles to really understand the nuances of immersive experiences.”
Conversations for the multidate engagement began in February when Usher flew to Vegas thinking he was going to have some fun and it turned into an offer of a lifetime.
“We get on a plane to slide down to Las Vegas—it’s not unusual to go from L.A. and just have a weekend. First of all, we go to Nobu at Caesars, and we have a really great dinner and it’s a group of friends. Some who are new and some who are known,” Usher says. “Then, we go on this long, winding walk in a tunnel through the entire hotel and we end up in a boardroom. All of a sudden, [executives from Caesars and Live Nation] explain exactly why [they brought me here] and what I’ve been looking at the entire time—I just wanted to get a chance to see the back of the house. They were like, ‘we want you to put together a residency.’ I was over the moon.”
It all sank in when he stepped on the stage of The Colosseum—a dream come true moment for the singer, songwriter, actor and dancer. “I was walking around coming up with ideas. It was amazing,” he says. The theater is also home to residences by Keith Urban, Mariah Carey and Sting.
Right after this highest of highs, came the shutdown of the entertainment industry and like everyone else, he hit pause. The “Caught Up” singer shares that 2020 has given him the opportunity to peel back the layers of his creative process. “When you aren’t able to move around and do shows and interact, it changes the dynamic of how you create music and how you create intellectual property,” he explains. “I would say the one great benefit is that I feel more connected. I feel more empathetic, as far as some of the things that I chose to write about, songs that I chose to offer to the world. I feel I was able to better myself.”
In June, he released “Don’t Waste My Time” with Ella Mai, which hit No. 1 on Billboard’s R&B chart as well as the “I Cry” about social and racial injustice.
This is the first announcement of a new show at The Colosseum since February and the first for Las Vegas in more than six months as live entertainment is still on hold indefinitely due to COVID-19.
Numbers compiled by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Bureau, spotlight that July 2020 visitation was down 70 percent from July 2019. According to an Aug. 6 investor report, Caesars Entertainment had a “78 percent second-quarter drop in net revenue due to coronavirus closures and a net loss of $100 million compared to a net income of $18.9 million recorded during the same period a year earlier.”
The unveiling of a new residency, though, is a beacon of hope for the city’s entertainment industry—where calendars have been cleared until November. As of publication, at Jeff Dunham is scheduled to perform Nov. 15 at The Colosseum and Sting will kick off his postponed shows Jan. 29, 2021.
The Usher announcement comes a few weeks after Electric Daisy Carnival 2021 sold out in 12 hours, according to event producer Insomniac—more positive indicators of the high demand for events to return to the city, where the business model is based on large gatherings.
“I think all of us are just absolutely going stir crazy and have gotten to know ourselves a lot more than we ever wanted to,” Usher says. “It’s great to be able to have this to look forward to. I think this is the platform to show the world richer experiences and to give people something that will be remarkable.”
Live Nation Las Vegas and Caesars Entertainment are donating $1 of every ticket purchased to Usher’s New Look philanthropy, aimed at “transforming the lives of underserved youth through a comprehensive program that develops passion-driven, global leaders.”
Tickets go on sale Sept. 10 and, according to venue representatives, the theater will be sold to full capacity.