Most major tours swing through Phoenix at some point. These are the seven concert venues where you’re most likely to see your favorite performers and what you need to know before you go.
Located on the west side, just off I-10, Ak-Chin Pavilion is an outdoor venue that has seen some pretty big names, including its first performer, Billy Joel, in 1990. At the time, it was known as the Desert Sky Pavilion; it’s since gone through a series of name changes, including the Cricket Pavilion and Ashley Furniture HomeStore Pavilion. The Ak-Chin Indian Community currently holds the naming rights.
Ak-Chin Pavilion can accommodate up to 20,000 with reserved seats under the roof of the pavilion and 12,000 on the hillside beyond the pavilion. Don’t worry that you won’t be able to see if you’re on the hill—several large video screens give you a better view.
Even though concerts are outdoors, there are no refunds in the event of inclement weather. However, parking is included in the price of most events. (2121 N. 83rd Ave., Phoenix; 602-254-7200.)
Formerly the Dodge Theatre, this downtown venue has hosted everything from music to comedy to boxing since it opened in 2002. (The first performer was Harry Connick Jr., followed by four sold out shows with Jerry Seinfield. In later years, “Blue Collar Comedy Tour: The Movie” was filmed here as well as George Lopez’s HBO special “America’s Mexican.)
You probably won’t see Beyoncé or Katy Perry perform here—at least not at the height of their popularity—since the Comerica Theatre seats 5,000, but you it still attracts performers with mass appeal like Steven Tyler and Phillip Phillips.
Parking in the area can be a bit of a hassle. The theatre recommends pre-purchasing parking spaces online or through the box office for the Adams Street Garage, located at 4th Avenue and Adams Street. (400 W. Washington St., Phoenix; 602-379-2800.)
Gila River Arena
Katy Perry actually has performed at Gila River Arena, the home of the Arizona Coyotes, our National Hockey League team. It’s also where Usher, Prince, Elton John, Britney Spears, and Justin Timberlake have performed. If you want to see a big name performer, chances are they’ll be performing at Gila River Arena.
Since the stadium is located just off the Loop 101, there can be a lot of traffic, especially around rush hour. The website recommends arriving early (congestion is at its worst 30 to 45 minutes before the show begins). You may even want to arrive early enough to grab a bite to eat at one of the restaurants in the Westgate Entertainment District.
To make things even easier, pre-purchase a parking permit before you go and print it out. By pre-purchasing, you’ll have direct driving directions to your assigned parking location (no hunting for a space) and you won’t have to fish for cash or plastic when you arrive. Attendants will scan the barcode on your permit. (9400 W. Maryland Ave., Glendale; 623-772-3800.)
Fort McDowell Casino
This casino run by the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation regularly offers free live music in its Lucky 7 Saloon, but occasionally, it will host well-known acts like the Beach Boys. Larger concerts like these are held outside, rain or shine. Tickets can be purchased either at the casino gift shops or through Ticketmaster.
Parking and traffic typically aren’t a problem. Fort McDowell Casino is located on the northwest corner of State Route 87 (the Beeline Highway) and Fort McDowell Road. (10424 N. Fort McDowell Rd., Fort McDowell; 800-843-3678.)
Mesa Arts Center
The largest comprehensive arts campus in the state, the $95 million Mesa Arts Center hosts everything from Broadway shows to dance recitals and high school graduations in its four performance venues. Most of the big name concerts—if not all of them—take place in the 1,600-seat Ikeda Theater.
Expect to see popular acts that can draw crowds, just not super big ones. Think along the lines of upcoming performers Jackson Browne, Lyle Lovett, and The Monkees.
Parking shouldn’t be a problem, but if you’re concerned, come early and secure your spot. Then, head to dinner or for drinks at one of the restaurants in Downtown Mesa. (1 E. Main St., Mesa; 480-644-6500.)
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts
Like the Mesa Arts Center, the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts hosts countless events, education programs, and festivals throughout the year. Most of the concerts take place in the 853-seat Virginia G. Piper Theater. Acts like Roberta Flack and Roseanne Cash headline here.
Tip: Arrive early for admission to the center’s Catwalk Lounge. Doors to the lounge open 90 minutes before the show. For $10, you’ll receive light hors d’oeuvres and one alcoholic beverage (or unlimited non-alcoholic beverages).
Talking Stick Resort Arena
Of all the casinos, Talking Stick Resort attracts the biggest names. In the 650-seat venue, The Showroom, performers like Buddy Guy, Air Supply, and Rick Springfield take the stage. Even more popular acts like Alice in Chains, ZZ Top, and Foreigner perform The Pool, an outdoor venue for anyone at least 21 years of age.
For Scottsdale residents, Talking Stick Resort is probably the closest venue for bigger name acts. You’re still not going to get Katy Perry here, but the casino always has a solid lineup and you don’t have to worry about parking the way you would downtown or at some of the other big venues. (524 N. 92nd St., Scottsdale; 480-850-7777.)