Courtesy of Harry Reid's office
Friday, April 10, 2009 | 10:28 a.m.
*Check out this story with all its accompanying photos at VegasDeLuxe.com.*
Guitar great Carlos Santana will join our Merry Mayor of Mirth Oscar Goodman on Tuesday afternoon to cut the red ribbon of his new residence -- the new $60 million, state-of-the-art Joint concert venue at the Hard Rock Hotel. Then 24 hours later, The Killers will take over the empty facility and start dual-purpose rehearsals!
First to run their act down before they perform there at the premiere night April 17 and then their other weekend concert at Coachella in Indio, Calif., near Palm Springs. Secondly to “blow the dust out of the theater and its extraordinary sound system.” It takes a real-live band for that final tweaking! The Hard Rock could have hired a local group to just keep playing as all the systems were finally finely calibrated, but who better than our hometown heroes The Killers to accomplish both purposes?
For six weeks now, a French sound engineer has done nothing but walk every inch of the new tri-level facility. In a sense, he’s “balanced” the massive venue (3,000 seats or 4,000 standing) using white and pink noise. Often he’s played French pop music at full blast as he’s checked that the sound standing in the mosh pit at the stage has the exact same clarity, depth and feel in the speaker system aimed at those in the last row of seats upstairs.
D&B Acoustics from Germany, hailed as the rock world’s top sound system providers, has installed the top-of-the-line, spare-no-expense audio set-up. Paul McCartney says it’s his favorite sound system and told Hard Rock officials that it was a lucky coincidence because he only found out that it was D&B after he signed the contract to perform there two days after The Killers! Carlos Santana’s people have already been here to “kick its tires” and are totally happy with the first listening. The star guitarist will hear it for himself Tuesday just ahead of the ribbon cutting.
I went on a private tour of the new Joint with Hard Rock’s entertainment VP, Paul Davis. He told me that when he spent time on a day of media interviews with Santana last week that Carlos said: “I could have just retired right after Supernatural. I’ve been blessed, and I get more joy than drugs or music or anything knowing that I can be of service.” Accordingly, Carlos confirms that helping others is the main motivation for signing the 36-shows-a year residency at the Hard Rock. Says Carlos: “There are a lot of Latinos and poor whites and poor blacks who graduate from high school with high grades but have no money to go to college. So I’m inspired to play Vegas and turn the money over to them so they can go to college.
“We will seriously kick your booty with some music to make your molecules go damn. When Santana plays, time disappears. People start dancing, laughing, crying, and they remember that your inheritance, which is the glory of God, is to be healthy, happy and with peace of mind that you can’t get even if you break the bank in Vegas or win the lottery.”
The new Joint has doubled in size, although I think it looks even larger than that, but all the original vibe is still in place. The farthest seat is still only 155 feet from the massive stage, plus there are 38 flat HD TV screens throughout the place. Bon Jovi is set for April 24 and Kenny Chesney on April 25, with Carlos beginning his run May 27. The first four shows are already sold out, and in McCartney’s case, it took legendarily less than 10 seconds to sell out!
Paul Davis apparently wanted to put on a “good old-fashioned rock show,” so he insisted that the venue have the option of standing and seating. Paul told me: “We will have 3,000 people seated for shows or 4,000 when it’s standing general admission. Ticket sales for Carlos have come out strong and very positive. The reaction from the music business has been overwhelming because we picked an icon to knock it right out of the ballpark. Carlos, of course, had played the old Joint, and we sent him the architectural drawings as we progressed. His people have come here the past few weeks as we finished, and they are excited and absolutely genuinely thrilled to be the first residency here.
“Carlos said he’s not retiring and that this is a break from the rigors of touring. He will still go with international and East Coast shows, but for two years, he’s got a place to put down roots on the West Coast. We have the first 16 Carlos Santana shows on sale now. We haven’t started the marketing for them, so we are very happy with the start of the sales, which are evenly spread throughout the first set.”
Prized real estate at the new Joint will be the seven VIP suites on the second level for $3,500 to $5,500 for 20 people. Those seats are dead center just 100 feet from the stage. The Joint will present Mixed Martial Arts fights and on May 9 the first of HBO’s live boxing events with the light heavyweight showdown between Antonio Tarver and Chad Dawson. The adjoining ballroom for corporate meetings and dining has given the Hard Rock larger-than-expected bookings for corporate events and entertainment.
Today is exactly one week before the first public showcase of the new Joint with The Killers. That makes the Frenchman with “the best ears in the world” just a little bit nervous. “I think we will have the best sound in America, if not the world. But it’s not until you’ve got 4,000 people packed in here and everything is still perfect that you know my job is done. Only then do we know because it’s one thing to be perfect in an empty theater and another thing in a packed theater. It changes everything, but I have a very good feeling we are right on the money. I wanted to make it sound even better than if you were in the actual recording studio with the band. I think we have succeeded!”
Check out two fascinating design functions there when you visit: the eight giant authentic Zilgen cymbals that hang from the back bar ceiling as lighting fixtures. You can reach on tiptoe to bang your fingers on them and get that authentic sound! Down both sides of the inner walls of the theater is a set of “guitar string bars and dots” supersized but identical to a real guitar the entire length from the head of the instrument down its throat. I’m not sure, but I think they call that the “full fret.” Totally unique and so subtle, you do need to look hard at it. Those replace the original Joint walls, which featured all the actual old guitars. Those were removed over the last weeks before it was demolished and given to the last performing rock groups, including Motley Crue, who closed the Joint. Our local hometown hero Vince Neil returns with the boys for Crue Fest 2 this summer to the new Joint.
So Tuesday afternoon, Carlos will be standing in his new home for the first time with Hard Rock President Randy Kwasniewski and AEG Live President John Meglen, who signed Carlos to the residency similar to his deals with Celine Dion, Bette Midler, Cher and Sir Elton John at Caesars Palace. Vegas DeLuxe will have full photo coverage of all the superstar shows and happenings at the Hard Rock next week, including a one-on-one interview with motorcross rider, stuntman and Wasted Space owner Carey Hart, who will open his new tattoo parlor there Thursday.
Paul Davis summed up: “Everything is on schedule. Nothing is running late. No last-minute problems or emergencies. We’re ready. The Killers will play their rehearsals, and our French sound engineer will keep on walking as they play. He’s confident, though, he’s created the best for when the doors open.”
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground. Read more of Robin's stories at VegasDeLuxe.com.