Vegas To Recruit Rock n’ Roll Residencies?

MIKE WEATHERFORD: The Joint pursuing rock ‘n’ roll residencies
Las Vegas Review Journal
Mar. 15, 2009

The Michael Jackson news from London echoed in Las Vegas, but not just with the obvious speculation.

Yes, Jackson’s 20 summer shows at London’s 02 Arena are produced by AEG Live, which runs the Colosseum at Caesars Palace and the new 4,000-capacity concert hall The Joint, opening at the Hard Rock Hotel next month.

So Vegas/Jacko talk does have a logical connection to those rooms, though both are way too small and “we are not in any conversations about it,” says John Meglen, co-chief executive officer and president of AEG Live. London is “all he has agreed to do right now.”

But Meglen says he felt some pride to read Jackson’s concerts described as “a residency.”

“They used the word ‘residency’ almost as comfortably as we use the word in Las Vegas,” he says.

It’s a word we will be hearing more from the Hard Rock. The old version of The Joint was programmed with one-night concerts, competing with the House of Blues at Mandalay Bay.

The new one, says Meglen, will be more “the rock ‘n’ roll version” of the Colosseum. He hopes to anchor the room with resident acts booked anywhere from two weeks to 50 or more shows per year, but with room in the schedule for one-night concert stops as well.

“We want a show, but not to the degree that you need to build a show around the divas,” he says. “Elton (John) hit it on the head with ‘The Red Piano.’ ”

“One of my dreams is to marry some of the great movie directors together with great artists,” such as Spike Lee and Prince, or David Lynch with David Bowie.

Meglen cites Celine Dion’s sold-out world tour last year in what might become a sales pitch to others: A sit-down doesn’t kill your tour audience, and might even help build demand, “instead of going out year after year on the road and overexposing yourself.”

The Colosseum opened six years ago this week. It has sold more than 4.5 million tickets and generated more than $700 million in gross ticket sales, plus $70 million in a live entertainment tax “we never knew about when we began the project,” Meglen says. (It was passed after the building opened.)

The building’s transformational impact on Las Vegas doesn’t always get the credit of, say, Cirque du Soleil. I figure that’s because its innovation, the big-name star policy, was really an old-Vegas idea updated to fit the modern concert industry.

And the building isn’t loved for ticket prices as high as $255. But even in a recession, Bette Midler and Cher are averaging 90 percent capacity. “We’re not bullet-proof, but we’re holding our own,” Meglen says.

The Bon Jovis and Kenny Chesneys of this world will surely take note. “I hope we have killed the stigma of Las Vegas being the end of the road, the tail end of your career,” Meglen says.

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