Wednesday, December 13, 2023


 On our first Vegas trip as a couple, I swung for the fences.

Determined to have a great time and convince her that her previous terrible Vegas experience decades prior was not the only way to do Vegas, I made sure to fill our days with fun and our nights with great entertainment.  On that trip, we saw Brilliant at the Neon Museum, Fantasy, the Beatles Love, and finished off our final evening at Absinthe.  It was wildly successful. The problem is, where do you go there?

You can have the top half.
Out of all our Vegas show experiences, we loved Absinthe the most. It was - and remains - a perfect Vegas mix of sequins and trash, of sexy and vulgar, of talent and spectacle.  So when I booked our second trip for early 2019, we opted to check out Spiegelworld's newest show, Opium. At that time, I can honestly say that I didn’t love it. Opium paled in comparison to its big sister Absinthe.  Later that same year, I saw Atomic Saloon shortly after it opened. I felt that Atomic Saloon was a strong, close 2nd to Absinthe, while Opium was a distant third.  We recently all went to see Opium together, and I was curious to see how the show evolved in the 4 ½ years since.

First, a history lesson: OPM (the show was retitled in 2021, probably to get around advertising restrictions) is the second “permanent” show created by Spiegelworld for Las Vegas after the wildly successful Absinthe. It opened in March, 2018 at the Cosmopolitan where it has remained until its closure at the end of this year.

Flingin' rings.

OPM follows the variety show format that Spiegelworld developed with Absinthe.  The various acts you see don’t necessarily have a common thread, they are just loosely linked together, sometimes simply by a few words for a host or emcee. This is less-so in Atomic Saloon, which does make an effort to tie the various acts into the story; but as with all Spiegelworld productions those who attend looking for a compelling narrative will be disappointed. Spiegelworld’s strength is curation: the assembly of the fantastic, the weird, and the incredibly talented into a show that will simultaneously amaze, arouse, and confuse you.  The way Spiegelworld designs their shows, they are also nearly impervious to personnel issues. Performers can take a night off, get sick, or simply move on to another gig, and the show won’t suffer because some other great act can simply be plugged into the show and no one will ever know the difference. What this also means is that the show we saw is not necessarily the show you will see.  I’ve seen Absinthe twice and OPM twice, and all four experiences were different.  Whether you catch OPM before it closes or one of the other fantastic Spiegelworld shows, I’m pretty sure that you will still have a great time regardless.

Andromeda is your hostess

Before I dive too much into OPM, I’ll say this: over the last several years, the show has improved. The quality of the various acts has stepped up a notch, and the too-absurd-to-care-about story-line has been abandoned.

Ever see a Cirque show or a magic show?  If you’re like me, sometimes when you’re watching the show your mind is reeling from all the amazing things you’re seeing, but after a while it becomes noise. Spiegelworld shows work well with my short attention span by continually switching up what I’m seeing, so mentally the entertainment never ends. In OPM, we saw a girl climb into a giant latex balloon, and two men turn giant throwing rings into spectacle. There was a pair of tumblers who terrified us as they launched each other towards the relatively low ceiling. Not everything works, though.   A girl in a straitjacket lip syncs psychotically to “No One” by Alicia Keys while writhing in an audience member’s lap, but the bit never seems to have a payoff.  A highlight for me was the “bubble-blowing guy,” who had the audience in the palm of his hands while making intricate creations with bubbles. It seems like a parlor trick, but I suggest finding YouTube videos of this act if you never catch OPM live.  All of this cements OPM as the most eclectic collection of talent in the Spiegelworld catalog.

Bubbles is back in town and he wants your number

OPM’s absence is Vegas’s loss, but fortunately you can catch the show before the end of the year. The show is dark on Mondays and Tuesdays, but is available twice a night at 7pm and 9pm every other night.  Tickets currently start at $72.  If you don’t get a chance to see OPM, rest easy knowing that the Spiegelworld magic is still available in other places on the strip in the form of Absinthe and the Atomic Saloon Show.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

The Sphere

People will try to describe the experience you have at the Sphere but let’s start with saying it unlike anything you've experienced before.  It doesn’t matter if you see the film or a live act, this will be different. Which is exactly what Madison Square Garden Company was going for with the Sphere.  You’ll find a lot of comparisons to IMAX, Disney’s Soaring Attraction, 360 theaters but that’s only because how else do you describe something never done before.  The Sphere is one of those rare attractions that lives up to the hype, not only breaking the technological ceiling set before it but creating a new form of entertainment.  Let’s discuss some of the ways its unlike anything you’ve seen before.
First, the Sphere is located behind the Venetian convention center.  It’s the largest spherical building ever constructed at 366 feet tall and 516 feet wide.  The exterior also features 580,000 square feet of LED displays, making it the largest LED display in history.  It cost approx. $2.3 billion to build and took 4 years to bring to life.  Construction started in 2018 with a planned opening in 2021 but had to put the project on hold in 2020 due to supply complications brought on by the COVID pandemic.  When progress resumed, materials and technology costs had increased causing the originally projected $1.2 billion dollar price tag to almost double by the time it was completed.
The Sphere is the most expensive music and entertainment venue in history.  It seats 18,600 and with standing room accommodations that can handle up to 20,000.  10,000 of those seats have haptic technology incorporated into the seats.  They work in conjunction with 4d features like scent and wind.  At 160,000 square feet, the 16k resolution wraparound LED screen is the largest and highest-resolution LED screen in the world.  The sound system comprises of 1,600 speakers installed behind the LED panels.
The experience starts the moment you enter the venue.  The atrium is large enough to fit the statue of liberty or the Saturn V rocket.  Inside, you’ll find five humanoid robots throughout the venue introducing you to the Sphere as well as interacting with patrons.  While the technology is impressive, personally, I would best describe them as borderline creepy.  That said, they are powered by AI and have the ability to react to those that interact with them.
The Sphere isn’t designed to host things like professional sporting events typically presented in the round.  However, it would fit well with events like boxing, MMA, WWE, esports or even award ceremonies in addition to concerts and films. Today, we are going to discuss both the film and the concert experience.
The Film
Darren Aronofsky, probably best known for the films like Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan and The Whale, is the director of the first film ever captured in 18k.  It’s called “Postcards from earth” and tells the story of a dystopian earth that humans have had to evacuate due to all the damage done to it. It follows 2 humans waking up from cryo-sleep after their journey to another planet that can sustain life. Darren uses this narrative to showcase what sort of film experience only the Sphere can offer. It can probably be best described as a love letter to the planet featuring some of the most breathtaking scenes ever captured on film. The film is 50 minutes long and ticket prices start at $89, increasing based on the better the seat location.
The Show
So a few of things to get out of the way:
First, I know this is a divisive band. People seem to love them or hate them. I happen to be in the “love them” camp, and I don’t really care if you’re in the “hate them” camp.  Music opinions are entirely subjective and no one is going to change anyone’s mind.  With that in mind, I’d like to ask those that aren’t interested to simply move on instead of voicing your distaste. It’s not that you can’t have an opinion, it’s just that I don't like K-pop, but I don’t mention that I don’t like K-pop every time the subject comes up. What I’m saying is don’t yuck someone else’s yum, okay?  Also, if you think U2 is the worst ever for putting a free album on your iPhone several years ago, but you continue to buy all things Apple, your opinion has no weight here.
Second, I recognize that this isn’t 360 Vegas Album reviews, and I’ll try to keep that in mind as I discuss this show, but the Achtung Baby album is the center of this show, and it’s the genesis of my love for this band, so forgive me if I spend too much time discussing the virtues and nuance of the album.
And finally, I’m not going to have too much to say about the experience at the venue.  Our seats were general admission, so we were standing room on the floor. They brought us in a separate entrance from everyone else who had seats, and we never saw the lobby or any of the concession areas.  I wish I could comment more on the rest of the facility, but my experience doesn’t allow that.
All right, so back to point 1.  “Achtung Baby” made me a U2 fan.  I came out at a time when I was looking for my own music and not just listening to the music my parents listened to.  I always thought it was a brave album: U2 had won two Grammys for The Joshua Tree and came back four years later with Achtung Baby as if to say, “Glad you liked that, now here’s something completely different.” It’s an album about conflict and resolution; a result of recording in Berlin after the reunification, and during the time guitarist The Edge was going through a rocky divorce. I also think it’s a very “Vegas” album.  It’s dark, it’s sexy, and it’s full of temptation references. There’s an arc through the album, and you can argue that it tells the story of a night out that goes a little too far, and the reconciliation that comes with the sunrise.
So all of that is to say that when I found out my favorite band would be performing my favorite album in my favorite city, I packed up my favorite person and made for the promised land.
Again, our tickets were General Admission, which is standing room only on the venue floor.  We’ve done this once before; more than ten years ago. I waited in line all day to get us “close” to the stage, and always felt as though it was a one-time thing.  When we bought General Admission tickets for this event, I made it clear to my wife that I was not going to spend a day in Vegas waiting in line. Thankfully, the event attempts to address this, somewhat successfully. If you have General Admission tickets, you can arrive at the Sphere between 8 am and 1 pm the day of the event to get a numbered wristband. Then you return to the venue around 5 pm, and they let you in based on the number on your wristband.  It’s not a perfect system, though. We drove to the Sphere to pick up our wristbands, and they didn’t allow parking on the property for wristband pickup. So we had to park on a crowded side street and walk around a bunch of F1 fencing and bleachers to get to the part of the venue that was distributing wristbands. I understand charging for parking when there’s an event, but not even letting someone park to run in and get a wristband for 2 minutes is bonkers.
We stayed at the Wynn the night of the show, so we walked to the event in the evening. Getting there is easy, and there are signs through the Venetian directing you there. I thought we were going to end up taking the new pedestrian bridge that crosses over Koval from Venetian to the Sphere, but here again, they directed GA ticket holders out of the Venetian convention center building along Sands Avenue, where we had to cross Koval via the crosswalk. Then we had to walk along the north side of the building and enter via the “East VIP entrance.”
Here is another complaint about the venue. They have got to streamline their entrance procedures. I think about a venue like T-Mobile Arena, which has similar capacity to the Sphere. It takes less than 5 minutes to scan your ticket, pass through security, and be inside that place. Sphere needs more doors, and more Security people at the door to make that process a little smoother.
Once inside, we were directed down very dark, moody hallways toward the GA area. We stopped to use the restroom along the way, and I found the restrooms to be suitably massive. Excellent capacity for restrooms only intended for the GA crowd.  There was also a bar/lounge, but we didn’t really check it out.
Upon entering the GA floor, we ran into a wall of people.  I had seen in videos from previous shows that it seemed as though the stage left side had fewer people than stage right, and they literally dumped us out on the stage right side. We pushed our way over to the stage left side, and so despite getting there long after we should have with our wristbands we ended up about 10 people back from the stage. Not bad.
We sat on the floor because it was still about an hour and a half before the band was to take the stage.  I was pleasantly surprised to see a whole herd of cocktail waitresses walking the GA floor and taking drink orders. I have never seen that on a General Admission floor before.
Around 7:30 or so, a DJ started playing. He was DJing from this modified car that slowly moved around the GA floor. When I heard the band chose a DJ for the opening act, I was really hoping that it wouldn’t be “oonce-oonce club music,” and it turns out that I had nothing to worry about.  This guy knew his audience, and was playing rock and pop hits from the 80’s and 90’s.  The crowd was really getting into it and singing along with songs like “Livin on a Prayer.” It was a great fit.
At about 8:40, the lights went down and the crowd got loud.  Slowly, the band took the stage. Bono started singing a sort of short acapella song that I have not heard before, then the drums kicked in and the band launched into Zoo Station, the opening track of Achtung Baby. I don’t want to spoil what happens, but I’ll say that the way the band uses the screen here to kick off the show is really cool. If you think you might want to see the show, I’d recommend staying spoiler-free about the intro. It’s really fun.
The band played 7-8 tracks from Achtung Baby. They did not play them in exact album order, but in this first section, they played songs from the first 2/3rds of the album. Then they shifted gears a little and played a few other songs, mostly acoustic. This was the day after the Hamas attack on Israel, so this was mentioned, followed by I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, Pride (In the Name of Love), and MLK.
Then Bono announced it was “time to wake the Baby up,” and the band went on to finish Achtung Baby.  This was probably my favorite part of the show for a couple reasons: 1) It’s later in the show, so fewer people had posted photos and videos of this portion, so there were more surprises and 2) it’s really the emotional emotional climax of the album, so I’ve always felt those songs hit pretty hard.

After finishing the 2nd Achtung Baby section, the band said goodnight, but of course returned for their encore. The encore was kind of a greatest rocking hits section, where they did songs like Elevation, Vertigo, Where the Streets Have No Name, Beautiful Day, and of course, their new Vegas anthem Atomic City.  I won’t spoil Atomic City either, but it had some of my favorite visuals of the show.
Let's talk about some of the visuals. We were concerned that where we were sitting, we would be so close to the screen that we couldn’t appreciate the whole thing.  There were times that we found ourselves looking around and above to take everything in, but I don’t think we missed out on anything by being so close. There was another concern about getting dizzy. Some people get Vertigo (ha!) in Imax theaters, and the Sphere is like Imax on steroids. We only felt a little dizzy at one point, and that was during “Even Better Than The Real Thing.” So during this song, it has maybe the most impressive and complicated graphics of the entire show. They are structured like a moving monument to Elvis and Vegas, and they slowly and steadily move downward. I was looking up at these graphics and following them down with my eyes. When my eyes got to the fixed point of the stage, it felt like the stage was tilting up from the back and we were about to all fall over. They don’t really use any flying or moving visuals that might convey motion from the viewer’s point of view, so there weren’t any other times I felt dizzy or motion-sick.
A few words about sound quality, since we are discussing a rock concert. Overall, I think the sound was excellent. The mix was superb, and I could hear every instrument. I’ve seen them live in arenas where we sat in the nosebleeds and Bono’s voice was all tinny. I’ve watched a lot of videos taken from different vantage points in the Sphere, and the sound is pretty good in all of them, especially considering that it’s going into a crappy cell phone mic. It’s worth noting that aside from 4-5 monitors on stage for the band, you don’t see a single speaker anywhere in the venue. 

At the end of the day, I think if you don’t like the band - if they just rub you wrong no matter what they do - you’re probably going to stay away, and that’s fine. If you like a few of their songs and want to see a rock concert unlike anything else you’ve seen, it’s worth checking out. And if you call yourself a fan, then you really shouldn’t miss out on this experience. I think a band or artist could be intimidated by this venue and this space, it would be easy to be afraid of being upstaged by the visuals and the scale of everything, but I think U2 is the perfect group to launch this facility. 25 years ago they were touring with (what was at the time) the biggest video screen in the world, so these are guys who know how to utilize large scale visuals in their shows and embrace the technology.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Blue Man Group

Who farted?
 Do you have that one piece of media that you would like to check out, but never seem to get around to it? Like, you’re scrolling through Netflix, and there’s that one movie that you’re interested in checking out, but not this time. Or the next time, or the time after that. It’s always there, and you’re interested, but not interested enough to dive in at the moment. That, my friends, is how Blue Man Group was for me until recently.

I’ve known who the Blue Man Group was for over 20 years now. I remember there was an Intel Pentium TV commercial that they starred in, and a little Googling tells me that was in the year 2000.  Sometime after that, I borrowed their album - yes, they have albums - from a friend, because I really liked the unique sound they had. And when I took my very first grownup trip to Vegas in 2002, I stayed at the Luxor, where BMG has had their Las Vegas home off and on since the year 2000.

Men beat their 'bone, live on stage!
I’ve never been one to mince words in my reviews, so I’ll say up front that I liked Blue Man Group. But I’m having a hard time describing Blue Man Group.  I left the theater thinking, “I don’t know what the fuck I just saw, but I’m pretty sure I liked it.” Kind of like a donkey show in Tijuana, but a little more family friendly.

So the Blue Man Group itself goes all the way back to 1987. Created as a sort of performance art by three friends in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, the group started with street performances which gradually grew to full on stage productions.  People in New York like weird artsy shit.  Gradually it became a phenomenon, with worldwide tours, 3 albums, and more blue latex than any person should have access to. The Blue Man Group brand was sold to Cirque du Soliel in 2017, another Vegas mainstay.

So what the hell is it? The show is kind of a techo-surreal experience.  Three Blue Men guide the audience through various experiences, like making music, art, and marshmallow tossing.  Without spoken words, the show manages to explore themes of science and technology, information overload, and cultural norms.  The characters have a sort of naive curiosity in their behavior. It can come across as mime-like in its execution, but there’s more to it than that. The characters seem like visitors from another world, and their experiments and explorations address our assumptions about the world around us.


Imagine colored paint leaking out of a member’s chest hole onto an under-lit drum that flashes brightly when struck, showing colored drops of paint splattering through the air. If you are thinking that this seems weird as fuck, you’re right, but there’s a sort of mystical coolness about this when BMG does it on stage.  Watch as they play wild instruments custom made from PVC pipe and create songs that are absolute bangers.They play songs that the group has created themselves, along with well-known classics like Beethoven’s Fur Elise, pop songs like Bad Romance, and even tease a little Freebird.

Audience Fuckery Factor:
Minimal, but they do go out in the audience looking for volunteers. They look for people raising hands, so don’t raise your hand if you don’t want to go onstage.
And just like a trip to Sea World, avoid the first several rows if you don’t want to get splashed.  I think they hand out plastic rain ponchos, because I saw several people with them.

The show plays with light (you may be blinded by the lights during the show) and sound (I highly recommend ear plugs).

This could be you!

The theater is nice. It has a capacity of 830 people. There is a low slope on the house floor, so you may have people blocking your view.  I recommend row AA if you don’t want anyone directly in front of you, but you also don’t want to be splashed or singled out.

Shows are 2 - 3 times /day everyday of the week.  Tickets start at $49.  This is a great value show.  I also think it works well as a family show, or show to take the in-laws to when they decide they want to join in Vegas because you’re always going there.

Thursday, July 27, 2023


On the next "Chicks you don't want to break up with:"

I think there’s been more talk about this show since it opened than any other Vegas show in memory.
  Good or bad, people are talking about Awakening.

We saw the show in late February 2023, when we were in town for the Half Marathon and 360 Vegas Winter Vacation.

Before we get to the review, let’s talk about how Wynn got here.  When the resort opened in 2005, it opened with the production show La Reve. Like Awakening, La Reve had its share of problems.  Developed by Franco Dragone from Cirque, who Steve Wynn poached from Cirque.  Dragone was instrumental in developing Mystere and “O” for Wynn at Treasure Island and Bellagio. The sort-of Steve Wynn biography “Winner Takes All” talks about the mixed reactions to La Reve in the beginning, including bewildering acts like pregnant women falling from the ceiling during the show.  We almost saw Le Reve in July of 2020, but shows weren’t cleared to reopen, and our front row seats were refunded to us. Permanent closure of La Reve was announced Aug 14, 2020.

Complete with giant mythical forest creatures!

Wynn announced Awakening  in October, 2022.  The show was developed by Bernie Yuman, Baz Halpin, and puppeteer Michael Curry.  Theater aficionados might recognize Michael Curry’s puppet work from The Lion King Broadway production. Awakening opened November 7, 2022 but closed briefly for a few weeks for rehearsals/changes in January. The show closed again April 17, ‘22, and at the time of this writing is scheduled to reopen Friday, June 23.

So you want my opinion?  I think this is a really good show. It has a unique story and great visuals, which include fantastic costumes, innovative puppets, and a state of the art stage.

The story is like nothing I’ve seen on a Vegas stage. It has its own mythology, and the groundwork for the story set up in the prologue. (I believe the prologue was added after the January hiatus, and the addition of this prologue has cleared up a lot of confusion around the story that surrounded the show’s brief first run.)  Essentially, the story goes: Light and Dark are lovers, and together create Magic. Light leaves, Dark freaks out, and Dark imprisons Magic. Custody battles suck. Heroine “IO” sneaks into Black and White ball that Dark is holding in a sort of heist. IO finds Magic, and ends up on a quest to unite Dark and Light, and free Magic.  Together with her companions, she travels through multiple “realms,” like Water, Earth, Air, and Fire.

The Awakening theater is gorgeous. It is a theater in the round, so there are really no bad seats.  At the time I saw the show, Wynn charged the most for seats in the back, presumably because you can see it all better?  (A look at ticket prices for the June reopening indicates that this is not the case in the future.) There are individual surround sound speakers at each seat, so every seat has great audio.  Seats are also quite comfortable.
Have you heard the word?

The stage itself is a technological marvel.  It is constantly changing levels in sections to create different environments. The stage floor is translucent, and underlit, for additional effects.  Michael Curry’s puppets - the word “puppet” seems way too insignificant for his creations - are incredible. Personal favorites include a giant whale that seems to swim above you, and a rock creature that comes alive on the stage.  Of particular note is the creepy blank-face dark creature that serves as Dark’s chief henchman.  The show makes full use of the theater space, so the story feels like it plays out everywhere, not only are you looking side to side, but up and down as well.

Audience Fuckery Factor: Zero.  No one's messing with you, so sit back and just enjoy the show.

Not sure if drinks were allowed in the theater. No drink service during show, but there was a bar in the theater lobby.

When the show resumes on June 23, showtimes are set for 7 and 9:30 pm. Shows are Tuesdays through Saturdays, dark Sundays and Mondays. Tickets start at $99 on

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Brew Dog


To summarise, although there were multiple service issues, it didn’t spoil our enjoyment. This place should do very well, having good beers, burgers and pizza right off the bat. The draw is going to be that roof terrace, the drawback is going to be the location. Price wise it’s in line with the rest of the strip with $11 beers and food at resort level pricing. Overall in our opinion, it’s worth a visit. It will be interesting to hear what other people think.

Saturday, April 29, 2023

SIX: The Musical

One of the great things about a Vegas trip is all the opportunity for surprises. Not bad surprises, like the bell desk lost your luggage or you just checked in and there’s a used prophylactic in your sheets.Good surprises, like a jackpot, or a delicious new drink, or finding out that random restaurant you decided to try has the best food ever.

On my most recent trip to Vegas, I got to experience one of those good surprises when we decided to check out SIX: The Musical during its limited residency at the Venetian. (An aside: I think that I’m a little more tapped into the theater scene than the average straight American male. This is due to a rather diverse resume that includes a non-zero amount of time working backstage in professional theater.  So I still hear stuff from friends in the entertainment industry.  But this show was not on my radar at all.)


Part of the reason for this is that SIX: The Musical is a relatively new show.  Conceived in 2017 for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, SIX quickly made its way stateside, where it had an unfortunately-timed Broadway debut in March of 2020.  Once it was able to actually open, it was a smash hit. In the 21/22 Broadway season, it received multiple awards, including the Tony Award for Best Original Score.The “SIX: Live on Opening Night” album also debuted at #1 on the Billboard cast album charts.  While the show plays on Broadway, there are also two touring productions traveling the US right now.

But didn’t know any of this when we sat down to see the show.

The premise is a sort of time-bending pop concert, where the six wives of Henry VIII are having a competition to see who was the most wronged by him, and who, therefore, should lead the “band.” The band is an all-woman four-piece rock/pop band who back up the six all-female cast members. Each queen gets a chance to say and sing her piece, arguing why each “she” was hurt the most by her marriage to Henry VIII.

To keep things interesting, the show creators gave each queen a “Queenspiration,” or a real pop star or two that their historical character and song style is modeled after.  For instance, Catherine of Aragon is styled after Beyonce and Shakira, while Jane Seymour is styled after Adele and Sia.  All of the music is modern styled, like Hamilton. You won’t find any lyres or harpsichords here. Unlike Hamilton, the costumes are also modern, but still manage to evoke Renaissance era England.

Damn, Jane! I want to see more!

The result is a unique and entertaining show that moves along on at a decent clip. The Broadway production is only 80 minutes long, so the Venetian production didn’t have to remove anything to accommodate Vegas audiences (or more accurately, casino bosses who would prefer show patrons be out of the theater and gambling.)

I found SIX: The Musical to be immensely entertaining. The performers are all extremely talented, and have gorgeous voices that compliment their “Queenspirations” and ensure that each of the songs have their own distinct sound. There were enough great tunes that we found ourselves streaming the soundtrack in the car next day. It’s also a funny show; especially Anne Boleyn repeatedly asking all the other wives how they could have possibly had it as bad as her when they have their necks intact.

During the remainder of its Vegas run, SIX: The Musical will be at the Palazzo Theater.  It’s a large, well kept theater. There is no drink service during the show, but there is a bar in the theater lobby.  Note that the exit for most patrons forces you through a single staircase, so it’s a little slow getting back out.

Things might get a little funky...

The Audience Fuckery Factor for SIX: The Musical is virtually zero. There’s some calls out to the audience for cheers or to get on your feet like you’re at an actual concert. No one in the audience is getting picked on or called onstage.

Performances are Tuesday through Sunday, up until May 7, 2023.  Tickets start at $78.

Wednesday, April 12, 2023


My heart just got all achey-breaky.

This next review is one that I’ve been hanging on to for some time.  Listeners with excellent memories might recall that back in spring of 2022, when I submitted my first review to be read on the show, we figured out that my wife and I were at a show the previous week that Mark was also at. I’m kind of in awe at how much has changed since then. I started as a regular contributor, then I attended my first Vegas Vacation, then we all started hanging out together on the many trips I’ve taken to Vegas since, and then Keren got tired of reading my reviews on the show, and so now here we are recording together. So today, let’s talk about the first time Mark and I hung out in the same room, even though we didn’t know it at the time. Let’s talk about X-Country.

Okay, so let’s get this out of the way. I like women. If women choose to be naked in front of me, I like that, too. As I type these words out onto the screen, it occurs to me that I probably cannot review this show without coming across like a dirty old man. But in the words of Popeye the Sailor, “I yam what I yam.”  So if you share or even merely tolerate my indulgences, then keep listening.

I'm rooting for your team, miss.

I’ve said before that for me, going to see shows in Vegas is more for my wife than me. However, since I’m the one who plans the trips, I’m often the one who chooses the shows. As a result we occasionally see a topless revue because I want to, damn it. My wife does not object to this.  There’s some tradition here. Vegas is where we let our freak flags fly.  Going back a few years to our first trip to Vegas as a couple, the first show we saw was “Fantasy” at the Luxor. (Note: It technically was “Brilliant!” at the Neon Museum earlier the same evening, but that kind of depends on how you define “show.”) So yeah, as a red-blooded straight male who loves Las Vegas, I’m kind of a connoisseur of these shows, or at least I’d love to be.  Since then, we’ve seen Fantasy three times, X Burlesque, BurlesQ (you have to pronounce the letter “Q” in their name because who the fuck knows?), Rouge, and now X Country.

Some words here about the change, the nature of Vegas, and regret: Like Mark, I consider myself a Vegas history buff. I never got to see any of the classic “showgirl” type shows; Mrs. Jaydubs and I kind of discovered Vegas as a couple just a little too late and Jubilee, the last true showgirl style show, had already closed.  Now Crazy Girls is gone (they say it will return with a new home, but that’s a song we’ve all heard before) along with X Rocks and Sexxy at Westgate. This has created a sense of urgency in me that has me treating topless shows like Pokemon: “Gotta See Em All!”

So if you’re still listening, and have never seen a topless show in Vegas and would like to, let me share more about the overall experience. First, just do it. I think most are reluctant to see a topless show because they’re worried about how they will be perceived. The audience is full of all kinds of people. Men, women, couples. Young people. Older people.  There’s more women and more couples in the audience than one might think at first, and the women cheer louder. It’s a hell of a lot of fun. Fantasy at the Luxor is probably my favorite. It has the nicest venue, the largest number of performers, and the most advanced choreography (which isn’t really that advanced, but hey, boobs!) I think it’s the longest running topless revue currently playing. We’ve seen it three times, and you can expect a review for Fantasy soon.

If it seems like I’m providing a lot of context and haven’t yet really reviewed X Country, you’re absolutely right. Because how much can you say about a show whose entire premise is young women dancing in nothing but boots and g-strings? And that is basically what you get with X-Country. It’s a fun, sexy show that got the Mrs and I warmed up for the evening. It served its purpose. We laughed, we cried, we got turned on, and we all learned a little something about ourselves along the way.

Just in case you’re starting to think I’m incapable of actually providing a critical review of this show:  There was a time that I thought there could be no such thing as a bad topless show, because hey boobs!  Check out episode 409, “Jennifer Grey Nose Job” formy review of BurlesQ (Why the FUCK do you pronounce the “Q” in their stupid ass name?!) to find out why that’s not necessarily true.

The good: I have to admit, I’m not a fan of country music. I know the lyrics to “Friends in Low Places” and I know that the Chattahoochie is a river in the south and not a nickname for my ex, but that’s about as far as my interest and knowledge of the country music scene goes. So I was a little worried that this show would be country-trashy, in a straw-chewing, cousin-fucking kind of way, rather than just Vegas-trashy in a paying-to-see-tits kind of way.  There are A LOT of different numbers in this show, and they quickly switch between the sub-genres of country songs to keep the energy going.  (What’s that line from The Blues Brothers? “We got both kinds, we got country and western.”)  I thought I might get bored after 80 minutes of country music, but the show managed to keep it fresh, and the boobs probably didn’t hurt either.  Still not a country music fan, though. The good news is that you don’t have to be one to enjoy the show.

Something for everyone: tits and ass!

There are five different performers, with a good mix between solo numbers, duos, and ensemble bits.  There was a variety of body-types between the performers, but zero variety in skin color, which I guess is consistent with the theme.  My wife is a dancer, (no, not that kind of dancer) and she informed me that at least three of the girls demonstrated that they have had some formal dance training. There’s an aerialist number that uses a silk web; it was pretty impressive how much she could do in such a small venue.

Comedian John Bizarre provides some laughs between numbers. We were seated right by the stage on stage right, and there was an occasional moment of terror when he looked our way as he was scanning for audience members to interact with.  Fortunately, he ended up picking on the four young guys opposite us who were legit farmers from Iowa. By the way, while our seats were close, I don’t recommend sitting to the side of the stage. There was a number in which I had a better view of the crew member holding up a set piece rather than the two girls writhing on the set piece.  Seats were decently comfortable, and ours had a small table between them for drinks.

X-Country performs nightly at Harrah’s at 10:00, and is dark Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  Tickets start at $60, and you should click through the link on the website or the show notes to get your tickets.

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

A Musical About Star Wars

Long, long ago, in the Miracle Mile Shops far, far, away…

All right, so if you and the listeners haven’t figured it out yet, I’m a big dork. In my youth, I enjoyed video games, Star Wars, and installing A/V equipment so much that it’s a wonder I ever got laid. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve shifted my dorky obsessions to things like bourbon and Vegas, but I’m still a dork. So when it was announced that the show “A Musical About Star Wars” was coming to the Miracle Mile Shops, I had to check it out.  Over the holidays I grabbed a pair of tickets and we went to see it.

Some background on the show: While I had never heard of the show before it was announced that it was coming to Vegas, it has been around for a few years. It premiered off-Broadway in New York back in 2019, and one of the stars of the Vegas version is a co-writer, and he was also part of the original cast.  

Let’s just get this out of the way: the comparisons to Potted Potter playing at the Horseshoe are inevitable.  Both shows are in relatively small venues, with small casts, and cover similarly expansive series with obsessed fan cultures. In A Musical About Star Wars, the cast is small, with only three performers; Potted Potter has two. Unfortunately, one of these shows works better than the other.

I think the biggest issue I had with A Musical About Star Wars is how accessible the humor is.  In Potted Potter, you didn’t have to be a big fan of the material to get most of the jokes.  Most of the humor in Potted Potter is in the execution, in the journey to try to tell all these stories in 80 minutes.  In A Musical About Star Wars, the humor is in the source material.  Most of the jokes are about the content of the films, and the result is that only big fans will find a lot of the jokes funny.

For example, there’s this recurring bit where the two guys in the show speak to each other mimicking some of the alien languages spoken in the movies. They’re repeating actual dialogue from the movies, and it’s supposed to be funny, but comes across as so cringy. Watching it, I just end up feeling embarrassed for my fellow Star Wars nerds.  Even the subtitle of the show is cringey. The full title of the show is “A Musical About Star Wars, or Why Star Wars Is The Greatest Thing To Ever Happen In The History Of The Galaxy And Is Much, Much, Better Than Star Trek.”  If you’re going to make a show that you need to be a huge fan to enjoy, why would you make the characters who are fans in your show so stunningly awkward?  They even get nervous about talking to the female character. It’s just riddled with simple, unfunny nerd cliches.

The other issue I had with the show might have more to do with me than the show.  So I am somewhat hard of hearing.  I watch TV with the subtitles on.  It’s not severe; I spend about half of my work day talking on the phone, and my hearing loss doesn’t really affect my ability to do my job.  You’ve heard enough of my reviews to know I don’t really have any issues with this when it comes to Vegas entertainment.  But I could not for the life of me hear about three quarters of the dialogue and singing in this show. I think this is probably due to a variety of factors, including my hearing trouble.  I think their sound system sucked.  You probably don’t get the best audio quality in the theater at the mall. Wait, actually, it’s the backup theater at the mall.  Through most of the show, you got 2-3 people singing at the same time.  They’re singing the same things, but they are going kind of fast and they aren’t perfectly in sync. Couple this with the bad sound system and my bad hearing, and I couldn’t really hear what they were saying.  I don’t think this was just me; I didn’t hear a lot of people laughing at lines that I was missing.

The premise of the show is also similar to Potted Potter.  There’s kind of a show within a show, with the two male cast members trying to get their Star Wars play shown at Comic-con Las Vegas. They need a real, actual, girl for the female roles, and that's where the other cast member comes in.  Except she doesn’t really want to be there, and thinks Star Wars is stupid and sexist.

It’s not all terrible, there’s a few parts that work really well.  When they cover the Star Wars prequels, they decide to tell the stories of episodes 1-3 “Hamilton style.”  They parody the rap style from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical, which in itself is funny, but the spoken method also means more of the jokes can be heard.

The show is in the V Theater, at the back of the Miracle Mile Shops, next to Flights.  I haven’t seen any other shows here but I think this isn’t even the main “V” Theater, I think it’s their secondary theater. We had to wait in line on a flight of stairs to enter, while they tried to do that thing where every party has stop in front of a green screen to get their pictures taken. Super annoying. Oh, and when we exited and they were trying to sell everyone their finished pictures, they weren’t even related to the show. The green-screened background was the Vegas skyline.

If you do decide to see the show, I recommend center seats.  The venue is very wide, but only goes a few rows back. The stage is raised, so it’s better to be in the center back than on the front row but the far edge.

The Audience Fuckery Factor for this show is minimal. They can’t even talk to girls. They aren’t going to venture out into the audience and talk to you.

If you and everyone else in your party have excellent hearing and are Star Wars fans, maybe give it a shot.  The show plays daily at 4:30 at the “V” theater at the Miracle Mile Shops. Tickets start at $29.  We always appreciate it when you purchase your tickets from via the link on the blog or here in the show notes.

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Mad Apple

So this is actually the first Cirque show I’ve reviewed for the podcast. I’ve seen several Cirque shows; the wife is a big fan. Our first trip to Vegas together included The Beatles - Love, which I really need to revisit. Maybe Tony will go with me, since he really should see it. Since that first trip we took together, my wife and I have seen “O”, Mystere, as well as Zumanity. Confession time: I liked Zumanity. I think we saw it twice. I was definitely disappointed when I heard it was going away. But we really like Cirque, and we like New York- New York. We’ve never stayed there, but we always end up hanging out there. So I was very interested in what we were going to get when Mad Apple was announced. I heard a lot of buzz that it was “not your typical Cirque show,” which actually made me really nervous because that’s also what they were saying about “R.U.N.” and that show was apparently a giant belly flop… 

Not the best photo, but she was hanging by her hair. By her hair!
To me, it’s kind of funny that since I started doing these reviews, it’s pushed me to sort of have a greater sense of urgency to see new shows so I can review them for the podcast. We made an effort to see Rouge at the Strat, Miss Behave’s Mavericks, and Mad Apple all within a few months of their opening so that I could get the review content for the show. Anyway, I snagged tickets for a trip in July, and we really enjoyed the show. One of the things I like about Cirque shows is that since I’m a cheap bastard, it’s actually often better to sit back a ways so that you can take it all in. In fact, out of all the Cirque shows I’ve seen, none of them really benefit from front row seats. So there’s a frugal Vegas tip for you. 

If you ever saw Zumanity, Mad Apple is in the same theater. From the audience perspective, the theater doesn’t really look that different from the time that Zumanity was there. One cool thing is the bar at the end of the stage. So the stage looks like a regular stage, but it has this part that sticks out into the audience, which is actually called a “thrust stage.” Insert joke here about parts that stick out and thrusting. So at the end of the stage, there’s now this half circle bar, and you can go up to the bar and order drinks for yourself before the show starts. When the show begins, there’s a cover for the bar that’s lowered down so it just becomes part of the stage. 

I don't remember. I just remember laughing my ass off.
The show itself isn’t your typical Cirque show. I would describe it as “intro to Cirque.” It has the acrobatics, but it’s not all acrobatics, and it doesn't have the weird French-Canadian stuff that’s all over “O” and Mystere. What it does have is live singers and a live band. A few years back, word was that Cirque du Soleil was moving away from live musicians, so that was a pleasant surprise. It also features 3 different comedians throughout the show, which gives the show a chance to breathe. 

I think Mad Apple - while not a show for kids due to the humor - is a show for younger adults, or those who might be bored by the more traditional Cirque material. (Seriously, I think it was purely my confusion keeping me awake during “O”.) I try really hard to keep politics away from my Vegas discussions, because Vegas is my escape. However, it should be noted that this is a show that celebrates the bluest city in the bluest state. It’s not too in your face, but I’ve seen complaints online about some of the content. New York City’s population leans left on average, so the show, in that spirit, is going to lean left a little. This shouldn’t be shocking, but apparently some people were nonetheless clutching their pearls. Consider yourselves warned.

Feel the thrust of the stage.
The format of Mad Apple is more like a variety show than anything else. Between the aerialists, the
singers, and the comedians, it feels almost like Ka and Absinthe had a baby, but it’s a beautiful baby. I’ll be the first to admit that I have a short attention span; even more so when I’m in Vegas, and the way Mad Apple frequently switches up the content works for me, and is a great blend of funny, amazing, and musical talent.

I enjoyed all three of the comedians. There’s a Little Person comedian, an absolutely hilarious Jewish guy, and someone who is a virtuoso with shadow puppets. From what I’ve been reading, most of the people who are complaining about the show are complaining about being offended by the comedians, which to me is a pretty good indicator that they’re funny as shit. I’ve been told that the writers and producer of Mad Apple gave the comedians free reign, so their routines aren’t run through the corporate filter. If you’re easily offended by naughty words, you should find a different Cirque show (and maybe a different podcast). 

One of the things I liked about the variety show format is that the traditional Cirque acts seemed to stand out more. An aerialist couple who hang from straps were previously part of Absinthe, and their number flourishes in the bigger space. There is another aerialist who swings around the stage while hanging from her hair, which probably accelerated my male pattern baldness just by witnessing it. There’s a huge, impressive set piece called the “Wheel of Death” which is best seen live, rather than me attempting to describe it. 

Let’s discuss the A.F.F. or Audience Fuckery Factor for Mad Apple. Cirque shows are reasonably easy on the audience, and Mad Apple is similar. However, having the comedians involved means that if you’re sitting in the first few rows, you run the risk of being singled out, exactly like being at a comedy club. Of course, you're going to take my advice and save some money and get a better view of the whole production by sitting further back, so this won’t be an issue for you. 

If you are taking someone to their first Cirque show - especially someone who might roll their eyes at the idea of a Cirque show - Mad Apple is a great middle ground show, the mixes up the content but doesn’t compromise on the quality. Thinking about it later, I found a certain irony in a show about the city that is home to Broadway (New York) is in actuality structurally perfect for the city it calls home: Las Vegas. Mad Apple is performed twice nightly at New York New York at 7:00 and 9:30, but is dark Wednesdays and Thursdays. Tickets start at $69 (which is probably more appropriate for its predecessor, Zumanity) and can be purchased via the link to in the website or here in the show notes.

      You can find Josh on twitter @vegasjaydubs