Las Vegas has a long history of attracting the most fabulous entertainers to grace a stage. Starting in the 1970’s, the days when Elvis Presley would perform wearing capes dripping in jewels, and Liberace would soar above the audiences at the Las Vegas Hilton, playing a mirrored piano suspended by steel cables in the air, and Charo shook her cuchi-cuchi while singing and playing flamenco guitar. The campiness and glamour of Las Vegas was a perfect fit for gay audiences, who had formed an semi-secret underground community in nightclubs, and therefore appreciated a fun show.
Things only got gayer as the years progressed, with Vegas magicians Siegfried and Roy famously admitting they shared a bed at home with their white tigers, and Frank Marino drawing in thousands and thousands of mainstream audience members to see a cast of men performing as “female impersonators” in a celebrity drag revue. The shows in Las Vegas gave the destination its reputation for bigger-than-life showmanship, with dancers either wrapped in lamé or wearing next to nothing, that now make it one of the biggest draws in the world.
Las Vegas concerts are hotter than ever, and some of the biggest names are performing in the upcoming weeks before the New Year and, in some cases, beyond.
Take a look at these headliner shows, and since many performers share venues, click the links to see each show’s rotation of dates:
1. Olivia Newton-John
Winter is approaching, but Olivia Newton-John is bringing the Hot Summer Nights in her residency at The Donny and Marie Showroom at the Flamingo Las Vegas. Accompanied by a pop music band, Lovely Olivia sings a retrospective of her music, from the songs of “Grease” to the disco hits from “Xanadu” and of course 80’s anthem “Physical.” Newton-John has a new album, “Grace and Gratitude,” and she performs songs from it as well. We’ve seen her perform live and when she sang “I Honestly Love You,” she cried. Not that anyone wants her to be sad, but hopefully she gets a little teary in her show at The Flamingo, because it adds a little something special to the music.
2. Elton John
The Rocket Man’s show “The Million Dollar Piano” has been part of the Las Vegas lineup since 2011, not only to see Sir Elton perform, but also for the actual piano, which is very fancy, complete with built-in LED screens and other pieces of machinery that add to the extravaganza. An ensemble band accompanies him through the show, but Mr. John on his own would be enough reason to see this show at the Colloseum.
3. Britney Spears
Anyone who watched TRL after school on MTV in the 1990s undoubtedly feels a pitter-patter of the heart at the sight of Britney Spears. In her Las Vegas show at Planet Hollywood, “Piece Of Me,” La Brit Brit sends her fans back to those fun and frisky days of high-energy dancing to pop songs created for no other reason than fun. This is not just Britney Spears singing or lip-syncing her old songs. This show has revitalized Spears’ career, and is bringing new fans to her music with a show designed with the largest multimedia stage production set ever built indoors.
Thomas Pentz, or Diplo, to his legions of EDM fans (that’s electronic dancehall music, in case you don’t know the lingo), co-produced several tracks on Madonna’s album Rebel Heart, and two tracks on Beyonce’s album Lemonade. This is just the start of the list of music superstars who have collaborated with the superstar DJ, who is well-known among his fans for his gritty, edgy mixes of hip-hop and techno. Diplo is slated to perform two sets in Las Vegas before the end of 2016, both at XS The Nightclub at Encore, Nov. 12 and Dec. 3, and there will undoubtedly be thousands of people at each event. Plus he takes his shirt off when things get crazy, and that’s always a fun turn of events.
5. Jennifer Lopez
Jennifer Lopez is not a singer who has toured extensively, so few fans have seen her perform live in concert. And the consensus in Las Vegas is, where has she been? This is one of the biggest tickets in town, in part because of the huge production swirling Lopez as she sings and shimmies across the stage. In her Las Vegas show “All I Have,” rotating in at Planet Hollywood, Lopez performs as a heart attack-inducing level, and of course adorned with costumes that are simultaneously extravagant while often being barely there. And then there are her male dancers, who are so hot they will leave you, as the saying goes, “on the floor.”
6. Penn & Teller
It wouldn’t be a list of Vegas headliners if there weren’t some magicians, and Penn & Teller currently reign supreme as the top act in town. Penn & Teller are well-known among Las Vegas locals for their support of HIV/AIDS organizations, and have been the Grand Marshalls of the AIDS Walk for years. Penn Jillette (the one who talks) has been particularly vociferous in his disdain for anti-LGBTQ laws, going on news outlets to preach free love for everyone gay and straight any however else a person may identify. Any magician’s best work comes from a combination of smarts and stage savvy, and that is no more evident than this duo’s mix of tricks, dangerous stunts, and wrap-your-mind-around-it illusions combined with provocative and funny commentary. Sometimes they even explain how the trick is performed. Then the next show at the Penn & Teller Theater at Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, they may do something entirely different. Plus, they’re funny!
7. Ana Gasteyer
Ana Gasteyer is widely recognized as a comedian, thanks to a long run on Saturday Night Live. Her career has segued into musical theater, having performed on Broadway as The Wicked Witch in Wicked; in her current stage tour, stopping in Las Vegas on Nov. 11 and 12, she performs I’m Hip, a collection of big band standards from at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts with a collection of big band American standards. Some Vegas shows are about this production, but with Gasteyer, it’s all about her voice.
8. Miranda Sings
Comedian Colleen Ballinger became a YouTube superstar with her character Miranda Sings, a bizarre entity who sings abrasively, tells ridiculous jokes and is all-around strange. When Ballinger puts it all together, the persona works, and her videos have amassed over 7 million subscribers, and over a billion views of her various videos. That’s a lot of views. Ballinger now brings her Miranda Sings persona to the Smith Center stage, with a collection of comedy, songs, magic tricks, dramatic readings of hate mail and of course new videos. The kids love her, she is hilarious.
9. Maxwell and Mary J Blige
This is a rare and special opportunity to see two massive & charismatic R&B stars share the same stage in the King and Queens of Hearts Tour. Even Maxwell and Blige acknowledge the combo has been too long to arrive on stage together: “Maxwell sings from his heart and soul with an amazing voice,” say Blige. “When you hear him, you feel comforted, good, sexy, sly. You feel like you want to go out with your girls and then you also feel like you want to lay up with your man. He just gives you that freedom as a woman to be all those sexy, empowering and beautiful things.” We could not agree more.
10. Lady Antebellum
This is one of the best live country bands around, and the opportunity to see them up close & personal in Vegas is not to be missed, whether you are a country fan or not. The cross-over appeal is evidence in the band’s millions of sales, and packed crowds everywhere. The Nashville-based band is also scion of music royalty: Hillary Scott is the daughter of country singer Linda Davis, and Charles Kelley is the brother of alt rock singer Josh Kelley.