Joe Perry of Aerosmith forecast the song, saying it was first sung by someone who had played Las Vegas a long time ago.
Then he pulled on a pair of big golden sunglasses and said, “This might give it away.” Yep.
The crowd at Park Theater on Saturday night cheered, and it was Perry — not Steven Tyler — who tackled, “Viva Las Vegas.” The band veers from a set list filled with its own classics, and it is a noble effort, one of the many nods to Vegas in the Deuces Are Wild residency.
It was just the latest in a long line of versions of “Viva Las Vegas,” the 1965 Elvis Presley song from the film of the same name. I’ve written of the song over the years, spotlighting the kaleidoscope of “Viva” artists. Vegas’ own rock superstars The Killers performed their version of the song in February 2018 at MGM Grand Garden. ZZ Top performs “Viva Las Vegas” too, and they are to headline The Venetian Theater in April. I’ve even heard it performed inside Cleopatra’s Barge at Caesars Palace, during a medley in from “The Cocktail Cabaret.”
We’d assembled a list, years ago, of favorite “Viva Las Vegas” renditions. The new, improved lineup is 13, because we feel so confident about our bet on the Eagles (the football team, not the rock band) that we’ll tempt bad luck:
14. Engelbert Humperdinck Sort of a free-flowing take on the tune; many are not aware E.H. has even sung it, but he has, and he takes it seriously.
13. “The Cocktail Cabaret” Eric Jordan Young, Niki Scalera, Maren Wade and Daniel Emmet slid a few lines into their nearly unbroken rollout of contemporary tunes at Caesars Palace in January 2018. A cover of the entire song would have sent this crew up the list.
12. Dead Kennedys Their punked-out version was suitably delivered in the film, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” It was recorded long before, though, in 1978.
11. The UNLV pep band The song’s effect is conditional on the Runnin’ Rebels’ on-court performance at the Thomas & Mack Center. It soars after a victory against San Diego State; it can’t end fast enough after a loss to Air Force.
10. Sin City Sinners The longtime Vegas club rockers toy with the song on their CD, “Exile on Fremont Street.” Worth a spin, that one.
9. Bette Midler Backed by The Caesars Salad Girls dance troupe, Midler played the song during her run at The Colosseum in 2008-2010.
8. Billy Joel He pulled out “Viva” in a two-song medley, pairing it with “Suspicious Minds,” at T-Mobile Arena in May 2016. He even pulled on a pair of oversized Elvis shades, as if auditioning for “Legends in Concert.” Joel also teamed with Elton John on the song when the two toured together in the ’90s, but Elton did not play the song in his run at The Colosseum.
7. U2 They played an abbreviated version at Sam Boyd Stadium in October 2009. Among the VIPs in attendance, then-Sen. Harry Reid, former President Bill Clinton and will.i.am.
6. Aerosmith The band gave it a full go Saturday, though afterward Perry said, “You win some, you lose some.” But it was one of those only-in-Vegas moments, and should be used if the LVCVA updates its “What Happens Here” marketing campaign.
— John Katsilometes (@johnnykats) February 9, 2020
5. Wayne Newton Recorded in the mid-1990s, it happens to be the song I once uses to open my KUNV radio show each week. He ends with a hearty, “Yeah!” And so do I.
4. Bruce Springsteen In the days of the Las Vegas Wranglers, Orleans Arena rocked with Bruce’s turn on the tune. The minor-league hockey team played it after every home victory.
3. ZZ Top Effective use of slot-machine sound effects; great video, too. You really want to hang with these guys in Vegas, and soon we’ll get the chance when Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard return for five shows at The Venetian Theatre for five performances starting March 21. Their show’s subtitle, even, is ‘Viva Las Vegas.”
2. Elvis The song essentially serves as Vegas’s tourism anthem. Maybe it’s bad karma to go against Presley as No. 1, but the song is a bit dated. That’s its charm, of course, and would be be the top of the pops if it weren’t for …
1. The Killers The band plays the song only during live shows (and not even guaranteed at MGM Grand) on not yet on CD, but dang, it smokes, Brandon Flowers nods and calls out the lyrics, as if to say, “You know what I”m talking about.” The song closed the Vegas Strong Benefit Concert in December 2017. Whenever you have Flowers harmonizing with the likes of Penn Jillette, Carrot Top and Mr. Las Vegas, you have a Vegas moment that can’t be beat.