Nobody disputes that Las Vegas knows how to throw a party. Vegas also knows how to put on a show.
From Sinatra to Siegfried and Roy, here are the five greatest Las Vegas casino shows of all-time:
1 – Absinthe at Caesars Palace
Over the last nine years, Caesars Palace has had a giant tent pitched on its front lawn. More precisely, spiegeltent or “the mirror tent,” which was purchased and erected by Caesars after the show was shut down due to not meeting the fire code.
The Gazillionaire is the clever, crass, lovable, and borderline slimeball leader of the Absinthe pack. The quick-witted host and producer of the show, The “Gaz,” takes the audience on a rip-roaring ride through the absurd and the amazing.
Along with the help of his incredibly friendly and scantily clad assistants, The Gaz presents terrific acts from around the globe. This variety show has something for everyone, assuming everyone is adults.
Absinthe is part vaudeville and part burlesque with amazing bonuses. The show features impressive carnival-style sideshows paired with edgy feats of strength and sheer gusto.
Absinthe takes the best parts of aerial acts like Cirque du Soleil. It makes them better while also taking shots at the famous brand.
This 90-minute show all takes place in the 600 seat speigeltent. Audience members are instantly drawn into the action. Being crowded around the small stage in folding chairs brings the story right to you.
Yet, Absinthe does not fail to deliver. Attend a performance of Absinthe, and when you aren’t cry-laughing, you’ll be in awe of the fantastic performances.
You may be in disbelief of what your brain is trying to convince you that you really just heard or saw what you think.
Absinthe is first on my list and first in the hearts of hundreds of thousands that have attended this new Vegas mainstay.
2 – Frank Sinatra
You can’t think of Las Vegas history without conjuring images of Frank Sinatra. Ol’ Blue Eyes, the Chairman of the Board, or any other moniker you prefer, Sinatra was “the Man” in Las Vegas for four decades.
Sinatra brought his smooth voice and even smoother style to Las Vegas in 1951. Over time he became synonymous with the city.
Actually, many attribute Las Vegas’ ultimate success to the crooner. Of course, Vegas did as much as Sinatra as he did for it.
I never got to see Sinatra in concert; I came along a little too late for that. However, growing up in an Italian family (on my mother’s side), Sinatra was a big part of my youth.
Let’s put it this way; take another Las Vegas icon like Wayne Newton. Indeed, a respectable entertainer and has drawn mega crowds at his own Las Vegas residency.
His star would be vastly outshined by the popularity Sinatra enjoyed in his day. Don’t forget he ruled the scene for over 40 years.
Once Sinatra and his pals teamed up to form the Rat Pack, they became entertainment royalty. Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop all teamed up with Sinatra to form the supergroup.
Sinatra ultimately went back to a solo career. Still, the Rat Pack continues to be one of the best groups ever to entertain a Las Vegas crowd.
Ol’ Blue Eyes played his last Las Vegas show in 1994. years years later, he would be gone, and the lights of The Strip went down in his honor.
3 – Elvis Presley
If anybody were to give Sinatra a run for the money when it comes to the crown of Mr. Las Vegas, it wouldn’t be Wayne Newton. It’d have to be the King of Rock’ n’ Roll, Elvis.
Elvis first hit the Las Vegas scene in 1969 to a sold-out crowd of over 2,000 fans. Over the next seven years, Elvis never performed a show that wasn’t a sellout.
That impressive streak from 1969 to 1976 saw Elvis rack up an incredible 837 straight sold-out shows.
The scene at an Elvis Presley live show was orchestrated chaos. Not that Elvis was wild or out of control, on-stage at least.
Adoring fans would lose their minds for the King. Elvis would be essentially mauled as he handed out his trademark silk scarves or touch hands with the crowd.
However, Elvis made a far more lasting impression on the world and specifically Las Vegas. I’m sure you’ve seen the Elvis impersonators in their bedazzled jump-suits and adorned in gold.
These tribute artists fully embrace Elvis’ Vegas years and the run he had. In fact, many people every year travel to Las Vegas to be married by the King. Or the next best thing, I suppose.
Elvis rocked Las Vegas with hits like Blue Suede Shoes, Heartbreak Hotel, and All Shook Up during his incredible performances. He even incorporated covers of hits of other bands like Hey Jude and Yesterday from The Beatles.
Perhaps his most significant success as far as cover songs go was Suspicious Minds. Elvis made the song so famous that few people probably realize it’s actually a cover of the song by Mark James.
Elvis left the building in 1976 and never returned. Still, he lives on in fans’ hearts and the dedicated few that honor the King through imitation.
4 – Siegfried and Roy at The Mirage
Siegfried Fischbacher and Roy Horn mesmerized crowds in Las Vegas spanning generations.
Their first performances amid the casinos and bright lights were back in 1967. However, it was in 1981 that the family-friendly big cat act really hit the big time.
This show had one goal in mind, entertain every person in the audience. The duo executed their craft to perfection.
One minute, you’re watching a woman being sawed in half, and the next, there’s an elephant on stage at their show. Of course, the team’s real stars were the lions and tigers that mesmerized the audience.
These trained big cats would perform on command for the pair. Then, poof, they’d disappear right before your eyes.
Even Siegfried and Roy were in on the vanishing act. They laid the foundation for hundreds of Vegas magicians that have followed.
The thrilling show enjoyed a respectable 22-year run on The Strip. Unfortunately, tragedy struck in 2003 when the unimaginable happened.
Roy Horn was near fatally injured by one of the tigers during a live performance. The incident occurred on Horn’s birthday at The Mirage Las Vegas.
There are contradicting theories from the inner circle as to why the incident happened. For the rest of his life, Roy Horn maintained that Montecore, the tiger, was trying to help Horn after he had suffered a stroke during the performance.
One word can accurately describe Siegfried and Roy, showman. The two were brilliant showman and deservedly enjoyed the Las Vegas spotlight for too brief a time.
5 – Celine Dion at Caesars Palace
I wouldn’t dream of making a list of the greatest Las Vegas shows of all-time without mentioning the fabulous female performers. They have held concerts in the world’s entertainment capital.
I don’t mean supreme in the sense of opposed to the other ladies I mentioned. I’m talking about all-time acts. Celine is an elite artist with a top five show in the town’s history.
The Canadian superstar opened her show in the Roman Colleseum, which was constructed only to accommodate Dion’s show in 2003. “A New Day…” indeed.
A New Day set a Las Vegas record after earning over $400 million before it closed in 2007.
Celine Dion made a triumphant return to the Las Vegas Strip in 2011 with her show titled “Celine.” Unfortunately, the residency was cut short due to her husband’s illness.
Celine made another return to the stage in 2016 following her husband’s death. As with all of Celine’s endeavors, her return to the stage a third time has been well received.
It seems the French-Canadian singer has found a new home in Las Vegas. In fact, Celine Dion is the most successful Vegas performer since the King himself.
However, the King is dead. Long live the Queen!
It’s nearly impossible to name all of the fabulous Las Vegas shows throughout history. The greatest Las Vegas casino shows of all-time capture the essence of the greatness that is Vegas and the outstanding performers that reside there.
While many of us missed most of these acts before they ended, there’s still time to catch shows like Celine Dion or Absinthe. Which one of your favorite Las Vegas performers got left out in the desert sun?