Saddle up, Bayou City. RodeoHouston is back.
The entertainment portion of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo makes its heralded return, nearly two years after the 2022 season shuttered halfway through proceedings due to a then-unknown coronavirus. Things didn't get much better in early 2021, first forcing the postponement, then the eventual cancellation of that season. The economic loss for Houston mounted into the hundreds of millions.
Thankfully, NRG Stadium is prepped and ready to play host to three weeks of shows for its 90th edition, lassoing all the favorite performers, including many of the same acts set to play back in 2020. And even though CultureMap didn't nail down every prediction for this year's roster of artists (scoring 6 out of 13), those taking to the star-shaped stage after missing out two years ago makes for a pretty cool redemption story.
The great thing about RodeoHouston is its diversity — drawing on different styles and genres to hit almost every segment of life across Greater Houston. Every show is a reason to make a side-visit to the midway for fried delicacies, but we've picked the 10 must-see shows that should bring the fire.
Monday, February 28
It really wouldn't matter who performed the first RodeoHouston show, that's how triumphant the moment will be once the lights go down in NRG Stadium and the crowd roars. The win-win opening night slot means a chance for someone who might not carry as big a spotlight as someone like George Strait (more on him later). And the entertainment bookers chose well, keeping it close to home with charming country crooner Cody Johnson.
Very much keeping with the country theme, the native of small East Texas town Sebastopol (population 120) first tried his hand at bull riding before taking a job in the Huntsville prison complex. While grinding out a paycheck, he bet on himself and released a string of independent albums that were each more successful than the last, landing him at a major label.
Amazingly, he'll ride into his RodeoHouston for his fourth performance on top of the Hot Country charts with his first No. 1 song, "'Til You Can't." Not too shabby.
Wednesday, March 2
On a hot streak right now, Tim McGraw is experiencing a late-career renaissance as an actor, appearing on Yellowstone spin-off, 1883, with his wife, Faith Hill. Even without the hit show, the surprisingly progressive-minded artist is one of the most celebrated and thirst-worthy male country acts ever, with three Grammys, 14 Academy of Country Music awards, 11 Country Music Association awards, 10 American Music Awards, and three People's Choice Awards to his name.
Simply put, the nine-time RodeoHouston performer is responsible for some of the catchiest songs in the history of the genre like "I Like It, I Love It," "Just to See You Smile," and "Live Like You're Dying."
Friday, March 4
We'll all be "Livin' La Vida Loca" when Puerto Rican heartthrob Ricky Martin makes his first appearance at RodeoHouston, only months after performing a sold-out show with another Spanish-speaking heartthrob, Enrique Iglesias. While he hasn't had a major English-speaking hit in 20 years, Martin has racked up countless Latin music hits.
But due to his untouchable run as a crossover artist early on with English songs "Shake Your Bon-Bon," "She's All I Ever Had," and "She Bangs," there will be plenty of folks in attendance who will enjoy songs from both periods of his career.
Wednesday, March 9
Hours before his 2020 appearance, fast-rising country artist Kane Brown was informed that he would not be able to perform due to the cancellation of the the rest of the RodeoHouston season.
The Georgia-raised, modern country crooner's return will be extra special in 2022. An immediate star from his debut album onward, he reached No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200 with the 2018 album, Experiment, and has three No. 1 country songs under his belt buckle, including "What Ifs," "Lose It," and "One Right Thing" with fellow RodeoHouston performer, Marshmello.
Thursday, March 10
This pick is simply for those who want to shout-sing, "Don't stop. Beliiiiiieeeeviiinggg" with thousands of people in unison. The authors of one of the best karaoke songs ever is somewhat of a karaoke version of Journey these days.
Original lead singer, Steve Perry, involved in the band's most recognizable hits, broke from the band years ago only to be eventually replaced by Arnel Pineda, a cover band singer who was discovered in his native Philippines, via YouTube. It's hard to replace the charismatic pipes of Perry, but classic rock fans should be able to suspend disbelief long enough to belt out the hits such as the aforementioned, "Don't Stop Believing," "Any Way You Want It," and "Faithfully."
Bun B’s H-Town Takeover
Black Heritage Day, presented by Kroger
Friday, March 11
Let's call this the Super Bowl Halftime Show of Houston hip-hop. Led by former UGK member, Bun B, RodeoHouston is about to bring together most of the legends of the city's storied '90s "chopped and screwed" era that launched local artists to the upper echelons of the Billboard charts. The much deserved and long-time-coming acknowledgement of the cultural impact made by these artists will feature appearances by a who's-who of local rap, including Slim Thug, Lil Flip, Lil Keke, Z-Ro, Paul Wall, Baby Bash, Big Pokey, Frankie J, and H-Town Watch out for a tribute to the man credited for starting the movement: DJ Screw.
Tuesday, March 15
Did you know that Gwen Stefani played a show at University of Houston in 1992 with her neo-ska band, No Doubt, and hardly anyone cared? The pop queen will have a much more attentive audience when she performs in front of a much bigger crowd at NRG Stadium.
Since spreading her wings from her old band, the former judge on The Voice developed a chart-topping solo career buoyed by an electric fashion sense and a savvy eye for collaborators, scoring hits such as the No. 1 "Hollaback Girl," "The Sweet Escape," and "Wind It Up."
Don't be surprised if she busts out a country tune with a special guest appearance. Married to five-time RodeoHouston performer Blake Shelton, the two recorded a duet in 2020, "Nobody but You."
Wednesday, March 16
Filling in the R&B/pop bucket, the 24-year-old sensation Khalid made waves upon his 2017 double platinum debut, American Teen. Since then, he's racked up awards and No. 1 songs, including "Love Lies," "Eastside," and "Better."
He's won six Billboard Music Awards, three American Music Awards, and a MTV Video Music Award. He'll likely share new songs from his soon to be released third full-length, Everything is Changing.
Friday, March 18
Started back in 2017, RodeoHouston took a gamble, bringing EDM into its stable of genres presented on the dirt and dust. At first it didn't make sense, but event organizers proved everyone wrong when The Chainsmokers delivered an energetic, fun-filled set — glowsticks and lasers included — that many parents brought their TikTok generation kids to see. Two years later, German-Russian producer Zedd threw it down with equal aplomb.
Set to play in 2020, the foam-headed DJ, Marshmello, is back to reclaim the rave mantel, no doubt set to mix collaborations with the Jonas Brothers, Selena Gomez, and fellow Rodeo performer Khalid into his set. This slot should draw some big numbers, falling on Friday night of Spring Break for many local school districts. In other words, get on your dancing shoes.
Sunday, March 20
The King of Country shattered RodeoHouston attendance numbers in 2019, his appearance with Texas country greats, Robert Earl Keen and Lyle Lovett, hosting 80,108 fans. While that number might be tough to top due to some COVID-19 insecurities, if there is any artist who can do it, its George Strait, performing at RodeoHouston for an extraordinary 31st time. He'll be joined by 2019 CMA New Artist of the Year, Ashley McBryde.
What to expect when the Texas cowboy swaggers onto stage? The simple answer is: hits. Strait has 60 No. 1 country singles to pull from and for those who were there in 2019, he likes to play from his entire catalog. His previous appearance included 32 songs, an almost unheard of amount for a RodeoHouston show. You'll get your money's worth from this one.
Tickets for RodeoHouston shows can be purchased here.