Panthers book rare stadium show for 2020, promise ‘we’re back in the concert business’

Since the Carolina Panthers were founded in 1995, the organization has made it pretty clear that their stadium is primarily to be used for football, and occasionally for soccer, but very rarely — nearly never, in fact — for concerts.

Well, the team seems to be changing its tune in regards to major standalone music events.

On Tuesday morning, at a press conference in Bank of America Stadium’s team meeting room, the Panthers and behemoth concert promoter Live Nation announced that Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Billy Joel will perform at the uptown venue on Saturday, April 18, 2020.

The show will mark the first concert there in almost eight years. Country stars Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw brought their “Brothers of the Sun Tour” to the stadium in June 2012. (The only other show in Panthers history? The Rolling Stones in October 1997, back when it was Ericsson Stadium.)

But while Joel’s plans to grace the space are hugely significant, this news is even bigger: The team says that, by way of a new ongoing partnership with Live Nation, there will be a lot more where that came from.

“We have been determined over the last several months to add programming to Bank of America Stadium — more events for our city, for our community, and for our region,” Carolina Panthers president Tom Glick said. “Live music has been high on our list. It’s been our priority. And so we’re incredibly excited to announce this morning that we’re back in the concert business at Bank of America Stadium.”

Kenny Chesney performs at Bank of America Stadium on June 24, 2012. Adam Jennings ADAM JENNINGS - adamjennings@cha

Stadium concerts in NC

The Joel announcement and Glick’s promise are in line with second-year owner David Tepper’s past statements that holding more events such as concerts at the stadium is a priority.

And it represents a big shift from the philosophy under previous owner Jerry Richardson; in a 2016 interview with the Observer about the lack of concerts, Panthers vice president of stadium operations Scott Paul cited several reasons why they were extremely selective — including cost-prohibitive production expenses, preservation of the playing field, parking issues and parking-revenue-sharing, and the simple fact that “we’re in the business of football, and that’s what we want to do,” he said then.

At the time, pop star Beyonce had just announced a spring show at Raleigh’s Carter-Finley Stadium. Since then, Columbia’s Williams-Brice Stadium has hosted a Beyonce and Jay-Z double-bill (in 2018) and Winston-Salem’s BB&T Field has hosted Guns N’ Roses (in 2017) and Joel (last October). During the same time span, Bank of America Stadium hosted dozens of football games, five soccer matches, and zero concerts.

But Tuesday’s news from the Panthers opens up intriguing possibilities.

While Charlotte may not be as big a market as Atlanta, and while Bank of America Stadium may not be as shiny and new as Mercedes-Benz Stadium, it’s reasonable to think the Panthers could be in the hunt for the types of megastars Mercedes-Benz Stadium has hosted in recent years — among them Garth Brooks in 2017 and Taylor Swift in 2018. (When Live Nation issued the cryptic press release early Monday morning teasing “a major announcement at Bank of America Stadium,” Swift’s name repeatedly came up in all the conjecture.)

Live Nation certainly believes in Charlotte.

“We’ve waited a long, long time for this,” said Wilson Howard, chief operating officer for Live Nation in the Carolinas and the Baltimore/D.C./Virginia markets. “We will believe Bank of America Stadium will become a must-play venue for major stadium tours.”

Asked to ballpark how many concerts to expect at the stadium, Glick, the Panthers president, said: “We’d love to have as many as possible. ... It really depends in terms of who’s routing and who’s touring at any given time. So we’ll go for as many as we can, but it’s really tough to put a hard number on it.”

The key, of course, will be making the right choices and marketing the shows effectively. For instance, though the 1997 Rolling Stones show was an easy sellout, the Chesney/McGraw show on June 24, 2012 was considered a disappointment, the Panthers have said in the past, with only about 35,000 of about 50,000 available seats filled.

As for how Joel’s Bank of America Stadium concert will sell? We’ll find out soon enough.

Billy Joel Photo by Myrna Suarez _33A8043.jpg
Tickets go on sale beginning Sept. 30 — if you hold an American Express card. Panthers PSL owners also can get in early (starting Oct. 2), while the general public must wait till Oct. 4. Myrna Suarez

How to get Billy Joel tickets

Here’s the schedule for ticket sales: American Express cardmembers can purchase them before the general public, beginning at 10 a.m. Monday, Sept. 30 and ending at 10 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 3. Carolina Panthers PSL owners will have access to purchase pre-sale tickets beginning at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 2 and ending at 10 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 3. Tickets for the general public will go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday, Oct. 4 via livenation.com. (Glick said the stadium has “room for 70-80,000 people.”)

Whatever line you choose, get in it as early as possible.

Because Bank of America Stadium is one of just six U.S. stadiums Joel will play in 2020, according to Live Nation. And because at 70 years old, the native New Yorker continues to be one of the biggest concert draws in the world, selling out both stadiums and arenas with relative ease thanks to a legion of fans who consider hearing him perform “Piano Man” live a bucket-list moment.

In fact, before his last visit to Charlotte — at the former Time Warner Cable Arena on Dec. 5, 2015 — Live Nation and Hornets Sports Entertainment staged a press conference similar to Tuesday’s to announce Joel’s show. (This type of reveal is exceedingly rare in the business.) That show sold out in a matter of minutes.

“What’s incredibly good about this one is it’s on a Saturday night,” Glick said. “I think this is one where we’re gonna have people from up and down the East Coast coming to Charlotte, spending the weekend, staying overnight, eating and drinking, spending time around the marketplace, and especially right here in uptown.”

So, come next April 18, it’s safe to say Bank of America Stadium will host a pretty good crowwwd for a Saturdayyy...

Théoden Janes has spent 12 years covering entertainment and pop culture for the Observer. He also thrives on telling emotive long-form stories about extraordinary Charlotteans and — as a veteran of 20-plus marathons and two Ironman triathlons — occasionally writes about endurance and other sports.
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