Singing in Las Vegas

By Leena Tailor

See your favourite stars amid the glitz and glamour of Sin City.

Rocket Man Elton John brings his Million-Dollar Piano to the stage. Photo / Supplied
Rocket Man Elton John brings his Million-Dollar Piano to the stage. Photo / Supplied

From pop icons to rock legends and country superstars, a singing residency on The Strip has become one of the ultimate gigs in the world of music. Some of the biggest names in history are signing up for shows in Las Vegas in the next year. Many performances offer a unique insight into an artist's musical background and inspiration, with covers and personal anecdotes you wouldn't hear at a regular concert.

We check out those likely to be in highest demand.

Celine Dion

It's been 15 years since her Titanic ballad swept over the globe, but as I sit watching the opening lines of 'My Heart Will Go On' it's clear the soundtrack smash still has its power. On my left, a young male tries to subtly wipe away a tear and on the right an elderly couple start making out.

The 44-year-old Canadian is thrilled to have made her comeback in the gambling mecca, following a virus which forced her to cancel performances earlier this year.

"This is a dream come true for a singer... and for my husband it's a bigger dream...he's all in!" she tells the Roman-inspired Colosseum Theatre, built especially for her at a cost of US$90 million.

Amid a whirlwind of sparkly dress changes, the superstar showcases her perfectly-flawless voice, accompanied by a 31-piece orchestra. Expect special guests (although not in the traditional form), waterworks (not just from emotional fans) and adorable family photos and stories.

While much of her set-list is covers, from Journey to Adele, she still belts out favourites like 'Because You Loved Me' and 'The Power of Love'.

* Dates: December-March.

* Pre-show bites: Sit back with a watermelon and cucumber margarita while the spectacular Fountains of Bellagio light up the sky through the large open windows at Hyde. The menu features small plates such as Kobe sliders and Kumamoto Oysters from the neighbouring Circo restaurant. Try the Ahi Tuna Tartar Cones, which will have your mouth crackling, thanks to a unique ingredient - Strawberry Pop Rocks.

Shania Twain

Celine is set to get some competition as The Strip's favourite Canadian when Shania debuts the most hotly-anticipated residency of the year. Directed by Raj Kapoor, Shania: Still The One promises to wow audiences with 4D experiences, impressive fashion and fun surprises all reflecting the 46-year-old's chart-topping career. "I wanted to keep the hits at the heart of it while weaving elements of surprise throughout the experience," says the songstress. "My vision is to bring the atmosphere of each song alive through a multi-dimension sensory experience and share the journey of my life and career from a unique perspective."

* Dates: December, March, April.

* Pre-show bites: You know a restaurant is good when the bread basket (complete with a ham and cheese toastie) wows the whole table and your neighbouring diner whispers, "If there was a heaven on Earth, this would be it".

Ask for a table by the window, then try Scarpetta's signature spaghetti or a dish now banned in California - Duck and Foie Gras Ravioli. The Nutella and Vanilla Creme Bomboloni is an absolute must for dessert, complete with white Nutella powder which we're informed a scientist is perfecting in the kitchen.

Elton John

The Rocket Man returns to Sin City's Colosseum with his "Million Dollar Piano", an engineering marvel that took more than four years to construct and features dozens of LED screens, which display images as he plays. Backed by a band and female singers, the 65-year-old won't disappoint with hits such as 'Your Song' and 'Yellow Brick Road'.

* Dates: October.

* Pre-show bites: Head to Sushi Roku at Caesar's Palace, where signature dishes include a delicious baked lobster roll, served with a creamy miso sauce and the Shima Roll - shrimp and spicy tuna with avocado. Be sure to ask for the secret, off-the-menu scallop roll.

Rod Stewart

The 67-year-old rocker returns to The Colosseum with Rod Stewart: The Hits' featuring favourites 'Maggie May' and 'Do You Think I'm Sexy' plus covers and lesser-known songs. The show coincides with the 18-time Grammy-nominated star's upcoming memoir.

* Dates: September, October.

* Pre-show bites: Las Vegas is known for amazing buffets and they don't get much better - or stylish - than Wicked Spoon at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Whether it's freshly-made sushi, a pizza bar, carvery, salads or seafood there's something for all tastes, as well as an impressive selection for the vegetarian in our party. A bakery offers a rainbow of desserts.

Garth Brooks

"Three songs and she gets four standing ovations... they call me Mr Yearwood," laughs Garth Brooks as his wife Trisha Yearwood leaves the stage after getting the loudest cheers. But while fans at the 50-year-old country superstar's shows are constantly delighted with Trisha's surprise appearances, it's Garth who continues to sell out shows at the Wynn Las Vegas. Casually walking on stage in jeans, sneakers, a shirt and baseball cap, the crooner looks like any guy off the street yet he counts Barack Obama among his biggest fans and in January was named the best-selling artist of the past two decades.

Like many Vegas residencies, much of Brooks' show pays tribute to the musical inspirations that led him to headlining glory. Starting with the '60s he moves through the decades, covering artists such as Cat Stevens and Elton John, interweaving music with comedic family anecdotes and cheeky digs at The Beatles. By the time he promises, "It's all Garth Brooks from now," the audience is on their feet for hits such as 'The Dance' and 'Friends in Low Places'.

* Dates: September, October, November.

* Pre-show bites: Wazuzu at the neighbouring Encore Hotel features Pan-Asian fare like Wok-Tossed Mongolian Beef - the best my dining companion has ever tasted - and Drunken Noodles, made famous on The Food Network's The Best Thing I Ever Ate.

Santana

Led by guitar legend Carlos Santana, the band kicked off a two-year run at Mandalay Bay's House of Blues earlier this year. The venue was reconfigured specifically for the show, An Intimate Evening with Santana: Greatest Hits Live - Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. "We hope to honour the diversity and brotherhood of world culture that the House of Blues promotes," says the 10-time Grammy winner.

* Dates: September, November, and various in 2013.

* Pre-show bites: Planet Hollywood's new Pampas Brazilian Grille is a Churrascaria restaurant offering barbecued meat, seafood and vegetables served from skewers straight to your plate and accompanied by a sides bar featuring salads, tempura vegetables and salmon (with numerous gluten-free options). The barbecued pork is a must-try.

Faith Hill And Tim McGraw

Country stars Faith Hill and Tim McGraw launch Soul2Soul at The Venetian in December. The married pair say that unlike previous shows, they will perform more than a few songs together in the intimate venue.

"The focus has been a chance to be on stage the entire time together and make it about us," says Tim.

* Dates: December-April.

* Pre-show bites: Next door at The Palazzo, Lavo has launched "Beer, Bubbles and Balls", a $7 happy-hour menu featuring beer, prosecco, fried crab balls, meatballs and more.

Guns N' Roses

Sin City will transform to Paradise City when the rockers kick off their first Las Vegas residency at the Hard Rock Hotel's 4000-capacity venue, The Joint. Appetite for Democracy will span hits from the band's debut Appetite for Destruction through to 2008's Chinese Democracy.

* Dates: Oct, Nov.

* Pre-show bites: Pink Taco has unbeatable chicken fajitas as well as trademark Panuhos (pink tacos) - corn tortillas with black beans, grilled chicken, salsa Arbol, pickled onions and avocado.

One to watch:

Hamilton-born jazz singer, 22-year-old Sarah Frances Johnston, is currently playing T Bones at the Red Rock Resort and Hank's at the Green Valley Ranch Resort. "I'm really happy I started here because I'm building my way up and have quite a following now," she says. "People come and say amazing stuff like, 'You sing that song better than the original'. It's still really overwhelming."

CHECKLIST

Where to stay: Ask anyone who frequents Vegas regularly and they'll agree that The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas is the place to settle into for your next stay. From the moment you walk into the trippy lobby and past a giant Louboutin shoe to the three-storey Chandelier bar, you will feel every bit as decadent as your exquisite surroundings - even when you're stumbling to your room looking worse-for-wear after a night at the hotel's Marquee club, or dripping through the casino after a lazy afternoon at one of three pools.

Situated across from the Bellagio fountains, the hotel is right in the middle of The Strip, making it convenient to the various show venues.

Splurge on a room with a balcony for spectacular views of the Bellagio fountains below and Paris' Eiffel Tower across the road.

The only downside? Having to leave the premises.

- Herald on Sunday

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