The lineup is outsize, the emotions even more so.
Every December, the return of the National Finals Rodeo heralds the biggest month of the year for country music in Las Vegas.
This time around, though, there’s an especially significant occasion: Country superstar Jason Aldean will perform his first headlining concerts here since the Oct. 1, 2017, massacre at the Route 91 Harvest festival.
With three shows at the Park Theater at Park MGM from Friday to Sunday, Aldean will carry on in the face of tragedy much like Las Vegas itself.
Other big country events taking place amid the NFR festivities include:
— Shania Twain launching her latest Vegas residency at Planet Hollywood Resort (Friday-Saturday, Dec. 11, 13-14 and 18);
—“King of Country” George Strait returning to T-Mobile Arena (Friday-Saturday);
— Kip Moore and Midland teaming up Dec. 14 at The Chelsea at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas;
— Dwight Yoakam & The Bakersfield Beat taking over the Encore Theater at Wynn Las Vegas (Wednesday, Friday-Saturday, Dec. 10, 12 and 14).
The NFR concerts rank among the 10 biggest music happenings in Las Vegas this month. Here are the rest:
Intersect, Friday-Saturday, Las Vegas Festival Grounds
Another month, another new music fest in town. Weeks after the hip-hop-centric Day N Vegas sold out the Las Vegas Festival Grounds, the Intersect premieres this weekend at the same venue.
A mix of music, art and innovation, the Amazon Web Services-underwritten event pairs a variety of musical acts, including rockers the Foo Fighters, cosmo-country chanteuse Kacey Musgraves, R&B act Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals, rootsy singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile, synth popsters Chvrches, with the works of visual artists such as Beeple, Kyttenjanae and Nonotak.
There will also be tech demonstrations (such as Gesaffelstein’s Vantablack VBx2 show and Musgraves performing with a fleet of more than 500 Intel drones), gourmet cuisine offerings and interactive attractions.
Dodgeball in a post-apocalyptic arena, anyone?
Andrea Bocelli, Saturday, MGM Grand Garden
It wouldn’t be December in Las Vegas without Midwestern transplants texting obnoxious pictures of themselves in shorts and T-shirts to their snowbound kin back home and a visit from Andrea Bocelli: The Italian opera singer has played here nine of the past 11 Decembers.
Sleigh bells become slay bells (Get it?!) during Holiday Hell, one of the year’s best metal bills on Dec. 13 at the Fremont Country Club. Topped by pro-animal, anti-human deathgrinders Cattle Decapitation, the lineup also boasts metalcore veterans Unearth and Darkest Hour, jazz-influenced progressive death metal pioneers Atheist, sludge misanthropes Primitive Man and more.
In other seasonal bills, Brit rockers The 1975 offer “A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships” as headliners of “X107.5’s Holiday Havoc” lineup Tuesday at The Chelsea with Judah & The Lion, White Reaper, Joywave and Idkhow. Also at The Chelsea is “Mix 94.1’s Not So Silent Night” on Friday with the Goo Goo Dolls, Natasha Bedingfield, Dean Lewis and Maddie Poppe.
Jaden and Willow Smith, Sunday, House of Blues at Mandalay Bay
“Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” progeny unite when Jaden Smith teams up with “21st Century Girl” and kid sister Willow Smith. A la fellow showbiz siblings Donny and Marie Osmond, he’s a rapper-actor-conspiracy theory aficionado heavily inspired by Kid Cudi; she’s a prodigiously talented alt-R&B songbird prone to naming albums after ancient hominids.
Snoop Dogg, Dec. 10, House of Blues
Saving you time and energy on clapping, nods of approval and other expressions of affirmation, rapper Snoop Dogg helpfully gives himself a hand on latest album “I Wanna Thank Me,” his 17th overall. Hitting town for the first time in support of said record, Snoop brings along 213 running mate Warren G.
Modest Mouse, Dec. 11, Brooklyn Bowl at The Linq
These veteran indie rockers return to Brooklyn Bowl for the third time. Their new album is still in the works, but recently released single “Ice Cream Party” should tide fans over in the meantime.
Ariana Grande, Dec. 15, MGM Grand Garden
With a voice that lives up to her surname, Ariana Grande possesses the lung capacity of a narwhal and the ability to shout down a tornado siren. As such, she’s had quite the decade: Billboard magazine recently named Grande the most successful female artist to debut in the 2010s.
Chris Isaak, Dec. 20-21, Encore Theater at Wynn Las Vegas
Why is Santa rocking a pompadour next to Nudie suit-clad elves as Rudolph professes his love of reverb? Because it’s time for the Chris Isaak holiday show, naturally. Prepare for a “Forever Blue” Christmas with a rockabilly-weaned crooner cooler than the white stuff he sings of on “Let It Snow.”
New Year’s Eve shows
R&B mood enhancer Lizzo raises spirits and flumes of champagne alike as she returns to ring in 2020 at The Chelsea.
Speaking of NYE returnees, pop rockers Maroon 5 head back to town for the sixth time in seven years Dec. 30 and 31 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.
Elsewhere on Dec. 31: Alt-rockers Third Eye Blind take over the House of Blues, and reggae act Stick Figure rolls into Brooklyn Bowl.
A pair of hit residencies also soundtrack NYE weekend with Lady Gaga at the Park Theater (Dec. 28-31) and classic rockers Journey refusing to stop believin’ at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace (Dec. 27-31).
Anticipated music releases
Liam Payne, “LP1” (Dec. 6): The British singer’s debut features big-name collaborations with the likes of Quavo, Zedd, Rita Ora, J Balvin and others.
Camila Cabello, “Romance” (Dec. 6): No more “Crying in the Club” for this ascendant pop singer, who follows up her chart-topping debut with “Romance.”
Free Nationals, “Free Nationals” (Dec. 13): R&B favorite Anderson .Paak’s live band drops its debut.
Harry Styles, “Fine Line” (Dec. 13): This One Direction heartthrob tows the line on album No. 2.
Stormzy, “Heavy Is the Head” (Dec. 13): The acclaimed British MC recruits Ed Sheeran, H.E.R. and others for his second LP.