Category Archives: Shows

Las Vegas Shows Are Great for Solo Trips

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concert crowd

Pre-show crowd at House of Blues

A couple of months ago, I wrote about how I’m kind of sick of Las Vegas because I’ve spent too much time there over the past 15 years. One thing about Las Vegas that I’m not sick of, though, is its excellent variety of top-shelf shows. I’ve traveled around the world and when it comes to evening entertainment, nothing beats Las Vegas (okay, I suppose Broadway comes close). I believe experiencing a Las Vegas show can be an ideal way for a solo visitor to spend an evening. You might not feel comfortable going to a club or bar by yourself, but if you can go to the movies alone, you can go to a show alone.

On my trip last May, I decided to take advantage of the nighttime entertainment options in Vegas by seeing not one, not two, but three shows in one week.That’s the most I’ve ever done before, and I’m not the least bit sorry. All three were excellent, and they all offered very different experiences from each other, from the big, acrobatic production number of the Beatles’ LOVE (by Cirque du Soleil) at the Mirage to concerts by Billy Idol at the House of Blues and Lionel Richie at Planet Hollywood. I suppose if you really want to look for a common theme running through them, you might say all three represent the “music of my life.”

Note: All three of these shows offered theater-style seating, which is more comfortable for me as a solo. That’s something you might consider as you’re choosing which Vegas shows to see. Now, without further rambling, my show reviews:

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The Legendary Big Elvis

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Big Elvis Poster

Big Elvis Poster

Those of you who are new to Las Vegas–or perhaps too young to remember the late Elvis Presley (1935-1977)–may have heard that the city has its fair share of Elvis impersonators. You might wonder why, after all these years. Not only did he star in the movie “Viva Las Vegas,” but Elvis had a hugely successful seven-year residency in Las Vegas (at the Las Vegas International Hotel, now the Westgate), so his life and music are as much a part of the fabric of this city as the Rat Pack.

It feels like a rite of passage to see an Elvis impersonator in Las Vegas, as much as seeing a magic show or Cirque du Soleil or even playing a slot machine just to say you did. I’ve seen two Elvis impersonators in the past: One guy who was just an okay singer but very funny; and Steve Connolly, who is fantastic and can be seen Downtown at the Four Queens in his “Spirit of the King” show.

But perhaps the most legendary Elvis tribute artist in Las Vegas is Peter “Big Elvis” Vallee, who has performed on the Strip for many years (formerly at the Barbary Coast/Bill’s and now at Harrahs Piano Bar). He is known as “Big Elvis” because he is a very big guy. For one reason or another, I have never made it to his show until my trip this January. It has taken me over a decade of visits to Las Vegas to see him perform. Shame on me. Continue reading

Billy Joel at the MGM Grand Garden Arena

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MGM Grand Garden Arena

This might be hard to believe, but in the thirteen years I’ve been traveling to Vegas, I’ve only ever been in town once when there were concerts I actually wanted to see (who weren’t resident headliners).  You may remember from my “sneak peek” post before my last trip that I had a smorgasbord of concert choices, and ultimately decided to see Billy Joel. Because….BILLY JOEL.

Billy’s Glass Houses album was one of the first I ever owned. I played it ’til I wore it out, long past the time when most people got rid of their record players and made the switch to cassettes. (I’ve gone digital now; I’m not a total dinosaur.)

Arena Crowd

Waiting for the show to start.

I waffled for awhile on the price, because I was trying to make this a cheap trip, but finally went for a mid-range seat for $162. As far as I knew, this could be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see him. Once I bought my ticket, I started to get excited. Continue reading

Of Show Tickets and Disappointment

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When news broke this week that Mamma Mia! at the Tropicana will be closing after just three months, I wasn’t surprised. When I saw the show, the theater was only half full. They moved everyone up to the front half and closed the rear section of the theater. (In what was a disorganized process that seemed to frustrate even the ushers.) If that audience size was typical, they must have been hemorrhaging money every night.

I feel bad for everyone who’s losing their jobs and hope they find something else soon. But honestly, I wasn’t all that impressed with the show in the first place. Though I admit my bitterness might be clouding my judgment.

Why am I bitter, you ask? Let me tell you my story. Continue reading

Rock of Ages: Where Mullets Go to Party

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The first time I saw Rock of Ages was aboard the Norwegian Breakaway cruise ship last May. About halfway through the show, I slouched down in my seat, with my hand over my face, groaning and laughing about what a weak plot it had. But by the end of the show, I was just as pumped and upbeat as everyone else walking out of the show. The songs stayed in my head for the rest of the cruise. Somehow, I had been infected with the Rock of Ages bug. So much so that when I was planning my July trip to Vegas, it was one of two “must see” shows I booked. I had to see how the Vegas production compared to the Breakaway‘s.

Rock of Ages

Both casts are good, but somehow, I found the show at the Venetian much more interactive and intimate. Maybe it was just that I had a seat closer to the stage. I love the fact that the actors regularly “break the fourth wall” by addressing the audience directly (especially the narrator, Lonny, played by the awesome Mark Shunock).

Here’s an example of how this plays out:

Lonny (to Drew): “Nobody gets everything they want in life. Including all these people.” (Gestures at the audience.)
Man in back of theater (yelling): “I did!”
Lonny (after a couple of beats): “Sitting way back there? I doubt it.”

The audience ate it up. Continue reading