“In the fourth quarter of last year, we pursued a relationship with Drake and his management team to do something different in Las Vegas — not the traditional residency,” says Alex Cordova, Executive Vice President and Managing Partner of Nightlife for the venue. “A partnership will be the right word [for this relationship] because this isn’t just about performing at the venue. This is more about how we bring Drake into the concept of Wynn Las Vegas. We’re looking at all possible environments within the hotel and working with Drake and Drake’s team to see exactly how he can lend assistance in curating these experiences.” The star’s next two performances will take place on May 4th and May 18th. 2020 dates have not yet been announced.
Rumors of Drake’s long-term commitment to Las Vegas first emerged in January following a triumphant speech the star gave as he closed out a show at XS. “When I came back, I thought it’d be back at T-Mobile Arena … but I’ll be back here at XS all year,” Drake said, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “You’ll have a lot of chances to see me.” He later posted a picture of himself performing at the venue along with the caption “new home.”
A spokesperson for Wynn declined to comment on rumors that Drake’s deal with the venue was worth more than $10 million.
For artists outside of electronic music, a Las Vegas performance run once seemed like the domain of past-their-commercial-prime acts. Singers like Shania Twain and Boyz II Men can set up shop for extended periods and revisit the million-selling standards they wrote 15 or 20 years previously.
But that perception is rapidly changing. In December, Lady Gaga started a residency just as her single “Shallow” was becoming culturally inescapable. Cardi B will also play several shows in Las Vegas in 2019; she has seven different hits on the Hot 100 this week.
Still, Drake’s decision to return to the Wynn might be considered surprising, since XS is considerably smaller than the arenas the rapper has enjoyed filling in recent years. Pollstar reported that Drake’s 2018 jaunt, the Aubrey and the Three Migos Tour, sold 678,410 tickets and pulled in $79 million in 2018. In New York City and Los Angeles, the star played seven shows apiece, a remarkable show of popularity in the two biggest cities in the country.
So it makes sense that luring the star to XS for a series of performances wasn’t easy. “I think there was a lot of apprehension from both sides,” Cordova, a nightlife veteran who worked at Pure Nightclub, Wet Republic and Hakkasan before joining Wynn, says. “We wanted to make sure this wasn’t related to other things that are happening across the strip. That was most important to his team and to our CEO. This can’t just be about a show, about dates on a calendar. It has to be more important.”
To that end, Wynn promoted the up-close-and-personal aspects of performing at XS: Since the majority of Drake’s fans have only ever seen the star from a distance in an arena, the ones with money to burn will now have an opportunity to watch Drake boast and serenade at close range. “It’s going to redefine his performance,” Cordova claims. “[Drake’s] team is extremely excited to provide something that their fans will not see going to an arena show.”
“We’re going to completely remove the DJ booth,” he adds. “Our artists perform in the round, so essentially, where the exterior and the interior space meets in the center, that’s where the stage is going to be. So Drake is going to be able to perform for the intimate crowd of 1,800 [on one side] and also to [a crowd of around 3,000] on the other side.”
For comparison’s sake, a space like Madison Square Garden fits around 20,000. But according to Adel “Future” Nur, who manages Drake, performance decisions are “not [just] about reach.” “Whether it’s a stadium, an arena or a space like XS, Drake loves to perform,” Nur adds. “My job is to give him different opportunities to do what he loves.”
With Drake heading to Las Vegas, Cordova expects other stars to start hunting for similar partnerships in the city. “His being here will lead to more of this,” Cordova asserts. “Which is great for the town.”