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The History and Significance of Entertainment Shows in Vegas

How did Vegas become such a magnet for stars and audiences, and how has it managed to evolve alongside changing trends in music and culture?

Vegas needs music like music needs Vegas. The two are inextricably linked. Vegas has hosted some of the greatest shows of all time, including record-breakingly long runs that have defied the odds. Elvis, for example, performed for an incredible run in Vegas between 1969-76 that included 837 consecutive sell-outs. Vegas always does things big – like finding the biggest stars and paying them big money to perform at big venues. Just look at Celine Dion, who earns approximately $500,000 per performance for a 70 nights-a-year contract. But how did Vegas become such a magnet for stars and audiences, and how has it managed to evolve alongside changing trends in music and culture? 

Attracting High-Profile Entertainers

The history of Vegas and music goes back a long way. The scene started to emerge in the late 1940s, when flamboyant pianist and singer Liberace wowed audiences with his lavish costumes, extravagant performances, and colourful personality. But Vegas entertainment really started to flourish in the 1960s when Vegas came into the public consciousness. The huge pull of these opulent, fortune-bringing desert casinos, combined with world-class entertainment, attracted millions of people every year. One group that really attracted the crowds on the Vegas entertainment scene was the Rat Pack—made up of crooners Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop, and Sammy Davis Jr.

The decades came and went, and many Vegas nightclubs and theatres played host to the biggest A-list singers by offering them "residences." This appealed to stars who are tired of global traveling and want to settle down for a while at the end of a tour. Even today it’s attracted the likes of Adele, Calvin Harris, and Elton John, who have all performed in long-term runs on the Vegas scene.

There have also been many other performers who have helped grow the breadth of entertainment beyond music, including illusionists David Copperfield, Siegfried and Roy, and Penn and Teller.

But the pantheon of musicians who have graced the city is almost too long to cite; Elvis, Tom Jones, Britney Spears, Cher, Rod Stewart, Mariah Carey, and Lady Gaga have all performed in Vegas at various points in history. Let’s look at some of the biggest stars who have helped define entertainment in Vegas.

Frank Sinatra

One of the original rat-pack performers, and a complete star in his own right, Sinatra made Vegas his home between 1951-94. He became part of the town in that he helped to change the city from a small town in the desert to the global destination we know of today. Sinatra was Vegas. Ol’ Blue Eyes was a regular Sin City feature, headlining shows in the city for four decades, lighting up Caesars Palace and, in his later career, the Golden Nugget Theater Ballroom. Actor Gregory Peck once said that Sinatra summed up Vegas with his "sense of free-floating fun and frolic."

Celine Dion

Perhaps most famous for singing the hit single for the Titanic movie, Celine had a hugely successful career as an international superstar who had hits in every corner of the planet. After taking a three-year break, she agreed to a five-year residency at Caesars Palace in 2003, and she is still there today, performing four times a week through the summer months. To date, nearly three million fans have seen her perform live shows. Stephen Brown, the director of the Center for Business and Economic Research in Las Vegas said that she had "more influence on the city than Elvis, Liberace, and Sinatra combined."

The Rat Pack

A name synonymous with the 1960s, and made up of some of the greatest stars of show business, is thought to have come from Lauren Bacall when she was married to Humphrey Bogart. He brought his pals Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Junior, Dean Martin, and others back for drinks one night, and the term was coined. The group included many other luminaries of the time, but the big three were the ones that the public remembered. It was they who set Vegas alight in the 1960s with the various mystery guests who would appear with them.

Entertainment is key to the Vegas experience.

Entertainment aside, Vegas is where people go to gamble. The city was built on the premise that gambling during the 1960s was being legitimized by being referred to as "gaming." But it was the entertainment that brought people into Sin City, as it was known, and, as a result, they passed their time gambling in the casinos and with the slots. The ultimate escapism was—and still is—a week in Vegas. And today, it’s widely described as an "adult Disney World."

Vegas is known to offer a unique gambling experience. However, its casinos are suffering greater competition in the modern age from online casinos. These virtual gambling halls are themselves pretty distinct from anywhere else, and some are more Vegas than Vegas. For example, check out the casino games at this online casino, which is designed to immerse gamblers in the Sin City of yesteryear, complete with checkered flooring and Wurlitzer soundtrack. Best of all, it can be played on the move, or from the comfort of your own home.

What Vegas will always have over online casinos is entertainment. Like all good businesses, Vegas has made a point of moving with the times. The city realised in the early 2000s, as the growth of the internet became a reality, that it would have to re-invent itself as a destination for people of all ages, and not just those older folks who liked swing and slot games. Electronic Dance Music (EDM) gigs were trialled to attract younger audiences, renewing the appeal of the city for a new generation. Vegas quickly became one of the premier venues for EDM DJs in the world. They have become huge stars, and the young dance crowd comes to see them perform.

People want to see great performers—be they DJ's, singers or magicians—and they want to see them perform live in front of big audiences. That’s why Vegas will always be an attraction. Whether people coming to Vegas are putting dimes in slots or seeing their idol perform before their very eyes, it is all part of the allure and dream of Sin City—a place unlike any other in the world.

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The History and Significance of Entertainment Shows in Vegas
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