Thursday, April 7, 2016 | 3:03 p.m.
You might expect that Wayne Newton has seen it all after performing for Las Vegas audiences since 1959.
Wednesday night’s opening of T-Mobile Arena presented a rare “first” in Las Vegas for Mr. Las Vegas.
Newton closed his 30-minute set with “My Way,” a song he has performed many times and also famously favored by Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra.
As Newton started the song, the arena sparkled with thousands of lights.
“I looked out and realized these were cell phones lighting up the whole arena,” Newton said. “I actually started to tear up.”
Newton talked of the festive opening, replete with a post-concert fireworks show from the top of the new arena, this morning at Symphony Park.
Why was he there at 9:30 a.m.? To help trumpet the formal opening of Project Neon, the Nevada Department of Transportation’s expansion of I-15.
Newton was joined by Gov. Brian Sandoval, Mayor Carolyn Goodman and Rep. Joe Heck, among other dignitaries, and accepted a “Mr. L.V.” license plate from Sandoval.
Newton apologized for his weariness, telling the crowd assembled behind the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, “I was at T-Mobile Arena until 2:30 this morning.”
He then left for rehearsal of his new show, “Up Close and Personal,” set to open April 21 at Windows Showroom at Bally’s. He was running behind for that, too.
But what a night for Mr. Las Vegas.
Expectedly, Newton was greeted with a roar when he walked the stage in front of the largest crowd he’d ever played to in Las Vegas, announced at 13,000.
Newton stopped for a moment to take in the scene and salute that crowd.
“It was the biggest show I’ve done in Las Vegas, and I wanted to feel that audience,” Newton said. “The great thing about that type of event is you walk out there and you actually feel like you are levitating.”
Newton’s opening number matched the song The Killers summoned to close the night: The city anthem “Viva Las Vegas.” It is uncommon for a concert to feature the same number performed by different artists, but suffice to say this was an evening for exceptions.
“I had called Brandon (Flowers) and said, ‘We should talk about who is going to do what, and what do you have in mind?’ ” Newton said. “And he said, ‘I thought we would close with ‘Viva Las Vegas,’ and I said, ‘I thought I’d open with it.’ ”
Newton then laughed and said, “So he said, ‘It wouldn’t be a bad idea to bookend the show with that song. You open with it, and we’ll close with it.’ It was that kind of offhand decision.”
Newton also performed the classics “Danke Schoen,” “Daddy, Don’t You Walk So Fast,” “Red Roses for a Blue Lady” and busted out his trusty banjo for “Baby Face.” He later joined The Killers for a rowdy take of “Johnny B. Goode,” with Flowers calling out, “On guitar! Mr. Las Vegas!” as Newton vaulted into a solo.
“It was like a jam session,” Newton said. “Nothing about this was choreographed or planned except for the end when we all came out.”
The finale played out like one of those Las Vegas montage posters you see at tourist gift shops: Newton was joined by members of Cirque du Soleil, a few showgirls and members of Blue Man Group.
Even Flamingo headliner Jeff Civillico, who performed a segment of his afternoon show after Las Vegas hip-hop artist Shamir opened the night, was juggling to great delight.
Newton had earlier been asked by The Killers to join them in an unannounced appearance at the Bunkhouse in downtown Las Vegas. Word spread of this performance early in the show at T-Mobile, with the first 120 to arrive at the venue allowed in (if they paid the $10 cover).
But Newton had to pass. He was exhausted.
“It just got too late,” Newton said, shaking his head. “But I’ll tell you what, I had an absolute ball.”
Viva Las Vegas, for sure.