Las Vegas Sun

March 21, 2019

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From Dead Kennedys to The King: The best versions of ‘Viva Las Vegas’

<em>Viva Elvis</em>

Julie Aucoin/Cirque du Soleil

Cirque du Soleil’s Viva Elvis at MGM CityCenter’s Aria.

Engelbert's version

U2 does Elvis

Dead Kennedys rock it

Springsteen's vintage version

ZZ Top on Fremont Street

Elvis in the film of the same name

On Sunday at Hard Rock Café on the Strip, I spotted the ZZ Top display, which shows the suits worn by the band for the recording of the video for its cover version of "Viva Las Vegas." A video screen plays a loop of that video.

Later, I picked up a copy of the Sin City Sinners' new CD, "Exile on Fremont Street." On it, the band plays a segment of "Viva Las Vegas."

And of course, Friday night "Viva Elvis" celebrates its gala opening performance at Aria. The song linking Elvis to Las Vegas is performed during the show.

So there's ample Viva going on in Las Vegas at the moment, and what better time to take a look at those who have lovingly performed the title song of the 1965 Elvis vehicle, in which he stared as one Lucky Jackson? Following are eight versions I like, in ascending order. YouTube clips are provided to enhance the reading experience:

8. Engelbert Humperdinck. Yes, he's done a version. Kind of a fluid take on the song. A little jauntier than most others you hear.

7. Sin City Sinners. If they'd played a full version on "Exile," theirs would be at or near the top.

6. U2. They knocked off a truncated version during their October show at Sam Boyd Stadium. I'd like to have seen a full-force rendition.

5.Dead Kennedys. This version of the song was aptly featured in the film "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas."

4. The UNLV pep band. It helps when the Rebels are winning. Back when the team won the 1998 Western Athletic Conference tournament championship by upsetting New Mexico, 54-51, the band played a version that was just wild as students streamed onto the Thomas & Mack Center court. Seventeen thousand fans going crazy. That was a party, folks.

3.ZZ Top. Great footage in the video from 1992, showing a pre-canopy Fremont Street.

2. Bruce Springsteen. I like it when Springsteen sings about locales that are not in New Jersey, especially ours.

1. Elvis Presley. It's sort of a dated version, but to not go with Elvis as No. 1 on this list is some bad karma. Bad Vegas karma. Set my soul on fire, for sure.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at

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