After 45 years in the industry The Doobie Brothers say they’re still inspired to make music and perform. (May 8)
The Doobie Brothers will be takin’ it to the Strip in the spring when the classic rock behemoths unveil a limited engagement in Las Vegas.
The shows, which begin May 13, represent a do-over for the band. A spate of dates in February 2020 was terminated after a couple of performances when singer/guitarist Tom Johnston was felled by an illness he now believes was an early bout of COVID-19.
The Doobie Brothers will commandeer the Zappos Theater at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino for eight dates: May 13-14; 18; 20-21; 25 and 27-28. Tickets are on sale Dec. 17 at 10 a.m. PT/1 p.m. ET via ticketmaster.com/DoobieBrothersVegas. Various pre-sales will be available Dec. 15-16.
The Doobie Brothers – from left, Patrick Simmons, Tom Johnston, John McFee and Michael McDonald – are celebrating 50 years with a tour featuring McDonald. (Photo: Clay Patrick McBride)
In October, the band wrapped the first part of its 50th anniversary tour – rescheduled from 2020 – which featured the return of smoky-voiced singer/keyboardist Michael McDonald.
McDonald will join Johnston, guitarist Pat Simmons and guitarist/multi-instrumentalist John McFee for the Las Vegas dates.
Both Johnston and McDonald spoke to USA TODAY in separate interviews to share their anticipation about being stationed in the vibrant entertainment city for a couple of weeks.
Q: What are you looking forward to about in playing Las Vegas?
Michael McDonald: I’m kind of excited about it because we’re making some adjustments as we go. (Keyboardist) Bill Payne won’t be with us (next year) because of his commitments with Little Feat, and nobody is sadder than me about that. So I’m readjusting my keyboard position. (Vegas) will be fun, anyway, but it’s also a chance to get a jump on whatever changes I need to bring to the summer dates.
Q: This is a “limited engagement” rather than a full-fledged residency. Would you ever consider doing something more long-term?
Tom Johnston: I don’t know about a few months anywhere, but that’s just me. That’s a long time to be in one place, like country artists in Branson, Missouri. I like to travel. I like the idea of being in a different town every night. You see a lot more people that way and I like to travel internationally, though all of that has a big question mark on it right now.
Q: Do you like Vegas in general?
Johnston: It’s a neat place. I don’t go to Vegas a lot on my own, but I don’t go many places! But there are a lot of a great shows there.
McDonald: I never disliked Vegas, but I never really felt it was a place we would spend a lot of time. When I was playing clubs in L.A., a lot of those guys would go to Vegas and play in the lounges there to get a good-paying gig. In many cases back then, the hotels would comp you on everything. If you went anywhere in town, even a coffee shop on the Strip, if they knew you were working, you’d get the receipt and the hotel would comp your meal.
Q: So not really a gambler?
Johnston: (Laughs) We used to gamble on the plane in the ’70s, fooling around on the floor with a deck of cards, but that’s about it.
McDonald: No, not at all. I find that anything that has the slightest potential for addiction is not something I should be doing. I could get addicted to chocolate milk.
Q: These shows tend to be condensed to get people back onto the casino floor. You have a catalog that is not easily condensed. What do you think you will you do, set-wise?
Johnston: That’s a very good question. I’ll have to think about that and figure out how to pare down the length of the set. It’s been great being back on the road. This tour was beyond-my-dreams successful. Not only were the shows packed every night, but to have Michael with us and the crowd responding to songs form all eras…especially after that year that went nowhere. We’re also playing new music off the most recent release (“Liberte”), so we’ll probably play a couple of additional (new) songs plus what we were doing on the road.
Q: You have these Vegas concerts in May and then the rest of the tour and some makeup dates in June. What does the rest of 2022 look like for the band?
Johnston: Assuming everything goes OK in the medical end of the world, we’re booked all the way through the fall – and with Michael.
Q: Michael, what has being back with The Doobie Brothers meant to you?
McDonald: It’s that sensation that it feels so natural; it doesn’t feel like it’s much different than it ever was. Our friendships have always existed, so it’s almost like we’ve always been doing it. But on the other hand, we’ve grown because of it. When you spend the better part of a month together at any given time, we’ve been able to sit around and reminisce about a lot of stuff. I was talking to John (McFee) about how at our age, playing these venues still and getting to go out and tour like this, that’s something we don’t take for granted.