We wait all year for the shiny belt buckles, cowboy hats, Ferris wheels and over-sized corn dogs that are a prelude to the bucking bronco and bull riding events that have made the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo famous.
Note: Since publishing this article, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has been canceled as part of the response to the coronavirus pandemic.
If food, fashion and carnival rides aren’t enough to entice you to NRG Stadium, and the mud, blood, guts and glory emblematic of the exciting rodeo competitions are not your style (seriously, this is Texas, after all), why not do a little ‘boot scootin?’ Each night, once the Rodeo dust settles, a superstar takes the stage to entertain the crowds. The star entertainers begin performing after the last rodeo event is completed each evening, and the stage is set.
From country to Tejano, to pop, to R&B, EDM, hip-hop and more, the diverse variety of genres represented offers something for everyone. With sellout crowds expected for the biggest names, it’s wise to choose the acts you want to see early and carefully.
Here are five recommendations to help guide you during the annual event that takes place this year March 3 – March 22.
1. Willie Nelson
It doesn’t get more country than the iconic Willie Nelson, one of the creators of the outlaw country sound. Whether you’ve never seen him, or you’ve seen him dozens of times, the celebrated musician, actor and activist – who won yet another Grammy Award in 2020 for Best Country Solo Performance – will create a memory you’ll never forget. The still-going-strong 86-year-old Nelson performs March 4, which the Rodeo has designated as Armed Forces Appreciation Day.
2. Becky G
Fresh off her starring role in a Super Bowl commercial, the multi-platinum recording artist, songwriter and actress Rebecca Marie Gomez, who performs as Becky G, has displayed limitless potential. Born for the spotlight, she cites her biggest musical influences as Jennifer Lopez, Christina Aguilera and Selena. Notably, her collaboration with fellow rising star Kane Brown – who performs at the Rodeo on March 11 – on the Spanish remix of “Lost in the Middle of Nowhere” – successfully fused country and reggaetón music. See Becky G on stage March 5.
3. Maren Morris
Maren Morris, who is expecting her first child in March with husband Ryan Hurd, a successful country music singer/songwriter in his own right, has been on the kind of roll that makes legends. With vocal stylings that reflect her country, folk, hip-hop, R&B and pop influences, the Arlington, Texas native reached double platinum status with the hit “My Church” in 2016 – helping to push country music into the 21st century. In 2019, she formed the supergroup, the Highwomen, which includes her, Brandi Carlile, Amanda Shires and Natalie Hemby. In 2020 Morris picked up a Grammy nomination for her song “Common” off her album “Girl,” which features Carlile. Morris performs March 7.
A highlight of Black Heritage Day will be a March 13 performance from Houston-raised and newly minted Grammy winner Lizzo. Christened Melissa Viviane Jefferson, Lizzo attended and played in the band at both Alief Elsik High School and the University of Houston. She has often said Houston is where she found her voice and her love for hip-hop. Recently named Time Magazine’s Entertainer of the Year, the flamboyant singer, rapper and flautist performed a sold-out show at Revention Music Center in October.
Khalid (full name: Khalid Donnel Robinson), from El Paso, Texas, became a prominent R&B artist after Kylie Jenner featured his 2016 hit “Location” on her Snapchat. It rose to quadruple platinum status. His debut studio album, “American Teen,” was released on March 3, 2017. Since then, he has achieved several top 10 hits, a top-10 charting EP, a number one album and six Grammy nominations. Khalid takes the stage March 18.
If these five mega-talented artists somehow fail to peak your interest, the complete and impressive list of performers features some of the world’s greatest talents. How about the international sensation NCT 17, a South Korean boy group? Or, popular country acts such as Dierks Bentley, Chris Stapleton, Brad Paisley and Luke Bryan? And, don’t forget fan favorites like “Hollaback Girl” Gwen Stefani and “accordion king” Ramón Ayala, who performs on Go Tejano Day. With Friday nights featuring hip-hop and EDM stars like Chance The Rapper (March 6) and Marshmellow (March 20), the 2020 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo offers a musical feast everyone can enjoy.
Cover photo courtesy Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo
Richard Bonnin is a Houston-based writer.