A pair of Atlanta concerts featuring Keith Urban, Blake Shelton and Eric Church over the weekend brought more than 90,000 fans to the Mercedes-Benz Stadium and raised more than $200,00 for military support organizations.
Friday’s show featured Urban, Shelton, Sam Hunt, Sugarland, Judah & the Lion and Cale Dodds rounded; Sunday’s lineup was Church, Luke Combs, Brothers Osborne and Caylee Hammack. The concerts were the first self-promoted series by AMB Sports and Entertainment, which booked the shows in partnership with MAC Presents; the series was produced by AMBSE with Messina Group overseeing production.
“This is pretty wild,” Combs told the arena crowd Sunday night. “In my freshman year at Appalachian State [University] in Boone, North Carolina, a guy walked into my dorm room with a CD in his hand and said, ‘You gotta hear this guy. His name is Eric Church.’ Tonight, I’m onstage in Atlanta opening for that same Eric Church. I’m just very grateful to be standing here tonight in front of all of you guys.”
“We’ve hosted the biggest sporting events in the world and have now brought the very best in country music to our city, thrilling over 90,000 fans this weekend,” said Arthur M. Blank, AMB owner and chairman, who also owns football’s Atlanta Falcons and the city’s soccer team, Atlanta United. “I’m proud that our team and our stadium continue to reset the bar with incredible events that bring so many people together.”
“We’re blessed with an amazing city where a large chunk of the country can get here within a two-hour flight and we have an owner who allows us to take risks and pushes us to bring the best from around the world to Atlanta,” said Tim Zulawski, AMB senior VP and chief revenue officer. “There are 365 days in a year and we’re constantly asking ourselves ‘What does the marketplace want?’ Whether it’s Garth Brooks, Eric Church or the Super Bowl, if the marketplace wants it, we want it. We’re just excited to put on a show that galvanizes society and gives back to society as well.”
“From the beginning, our goal was to create a concert series that would be the must-see event for Atlanta while allowing us the opportunity to give back to our communities and those in need. We are thrilled to say that ATLive exceeded our expectations,” says AMB chief revenue officer Tim Zulawski. “It’s important for our organization to provide fans the best possible experience and for our first self-produced music series, we couldn’t be prouder of its success both for us as well as the organizations that will benefit. We look forward to bringing ATLive back for year two in 2020.”
ATLive sold more than 90,000 tickets in 90 days, allowing AMBSE in partnership with the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation to donate more than $100,000 each to the Johnny Mac Soldier’s Fund, which honors military service by providing scholarships to veterans and military family members, and the Quest Community Development Organization, whose mission is to develop affordable housing and provide needs-based community services for veterans and other underserved individuals and families.
Two fans, Kathy Sutherby and Jonathan Reynolds, drove down from Franklin, N.C. to see native son Luke Combs perform in his biggest stadium show to date. “He lives most of the songs he’s written — especially when it comes to beer!,” Reynolds laughed. “We drove to Atlanta tonight because you’re not going to find three bands on a bill together that’s better than this, and to get to see him in a huge place like this was worth it.”
“Luke’s going to play a Super Bowl halftime show in an arena like this one day,” added Sutherby.
Also in the audience were 28 New York University students from a music-business class taught by MAC Presents founder Marcie Allen, all of whom, in a combination of business and pleasure, received VIP treatment for the show as a way of seeing how the industry operates behind the scenes (see the group with Church below).
“It’s been incredible to see the community that exists between country artists and their fans,” says NYU music business and marketing and vocal performance major Myles Walker. Added entrepreneurship and marketing major Saransh Desai-Chowdhry: “Getting to see how storytelling oriented country music is, even in this enormous venue with 90,000 people, it still feels intimate. You feel a close connection with the artist.”
Music-business major Bebe Howell, took a broader view of the weekend’s events after watching Allen in action. “Obviously, there’s still a huge gender gap in the music business,” she said, “but Marcie gives me faith that things are changing. Seeing her success makes me feel that much more comfortable and confident in my career path.”
It didn’t hurt that Allen’s students were excused from their 8 a.m. classes in New York on Monday morning. As Church said onstage before launching into fan favorite “Rock n Roll” on Sunday night, “Ain’t none of you going to work in the morning — none of you!”
With reporting by Richard L. Eldredge