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Rodrigo sells out the Cosmopolitan in Strip headlining debut

Updated May 22, 2022 - 2:09 pm

Olivia Rodrigo began a song introduction Friday night with, “Years ago, when I was 16 years old …”

Wait a second. “Years ago, when I was 16 years old,” is something I would say. Because it was so many years ago. Rodrigo is only 19, but she’s waxing nostalgic of those days of yore, in 2019. At the time, Rodrigo was starring as Nini Salazar-Roberts on “High School Musical: The Series.”

That’s when she penned the song she was about to sing, “All I Want.” That was among the songs the sold-out crowd could recite exactly. Actually, the crowd knew every word to every song Rodrigo performed.

This was a soaring sing-along, dance party and love-fest in Rodrigo’s first appearance at the Chelsea at the Cosmopolitan. It was a legitimately packed show, with standing/GA seats exceeding $400 three hours before Rodrigo took the stage. More than 3,000 teens and fans in their 20s turned out for the emerging singer-songwriter, alternating between acoustic guitar and a crystal-encrusted grand piano.

This, on the first night of the Electric Daisy Carnival, which saps interest in live entertainment on the Strip, especially among the young demographic. Of course. the casino floor might not have reaped any profits from this largely underage crowd, but still … an impressive turnout. (We actually checked Rodrigo’s age after being informed Thursday that she and a crew of 17 attended the male revue “Magic Mike Live,” the show’s age restrictions being 18-over.)

We became interested in Rodrigo’s rapid ascent at the Grammy Awards show in April when she turned in a hypnotic performance of her hit “Drivers License” at MGM Grand Garden. Her performance was every measure as polished as the seasoned vets who shared the telecast. Rodrigo captured three Grammys that night, for Best New Artist, Best Pop Solo Performance (for “Drivers License”) and Best Pop Vocal Album, for her debut studio album, “Sour.”

At the Cosmo, Rodrigo alternated between guitar and piano while bounding around the stage and working the crowd as if she’d been performing for decades. She covered Avril Lavigne, one of her idols, with the 2002 hit “Complicated” early in the set, just after dealing “Drivers License” early, as the third song. “Traitor,” Deja Vu,” and “Good 4 You” shut down a show that moved at a crisp 70 minutes.

Rodrigo exhibited ample energy while racing to either side of the venue, at one point wearing a blue-plaid top shaped in a heart, reading “Happy and Healthy.” She is also OK with quiet moments, reclining across the piano and singing to the ceiling, or playing the acoustic with the curtains closed and without her backing band.

And that group of musicians are also early in their careers. The lineup looked and played like a group of Las Vegas Academy students (and in VegasVille, that is a high compliment).

As the show unfolded, I felt there was nothing Rodrigo could produce that would be a surprise. She could have used a vintage rotary phone as a prop, and it would have made sense. She unleashed a classic ska-punk song from another decade, and even century, No Doubt’s “I’m Just a Girl.”

Rodrigo and her band blasted through Gwen Stefani’s personal anthem, which was the title of her Zappos Theater residency and written just as “No Doubt” was breaking.

That was in 1995, kids, eight years before Rodrigo was born. The crowd hung on every word and note, too.

So many thoughts walking out of this performance, as Rodrigo’s legions continued to sing “As It Was” while filing out of the theater. For most it was a great night of entertainment, happily captured on social media. But it was more than that. It was time spent with the future of popular music. It was a show borrowed from the past and spun forward by this gifted, focused wunderkind. Olivia Rodrigo is on her way to a long career. Enjoy it.

A cool 30 minutes

That’s what the “Mad Apple” creative team has been cutting from the new Cirque show at New York-New York. The show opened for previews May 12 and formally opens Thursday night. “Mad Apple” replaces “Zumanity,” and is under the direction of Simon Painter, the onetime fiddle performer in “Spirits of the Dance,” some 20 years ago at Golden Nugget. Painter is still fiddling (and working with paint, come to think of it), cutting the show back to about 70 minutes.

“Mad Apple” needs this fiddling, to fit the preshow progression, as ticket-holders can hang at the bars onstage before the production show starts. Then there is a post-show hang. The ability to creatively edit and pace these interlocking experiences will determine the success of this latest Cirque adventure.

Super Mario

Mario Barth and About Kings head up a rock show at Hard Rock Live at 7 p.m. Friday. The event is free to active military and veterans. DJ Aero will perform at 7:30 p.m., country singer Filmore is on at 8:15 p.m. and Barth’s band is on at 9:30.

Military veterans and active servicemen and women can register for up to five free tickets each on www.aboutkings.com. Cost for the general public is $30 or call (702) 265-3642 to make reservations. The profits will be donated to the Coalition for Tattoo Safety nonprofit, which establishes safety guidelines for tattoo artistry. Barth is president of the organization, and owns Starlight Tattoo at Mandalay Bay.

That 10

Laugh Factory at the Tropicana celebrated its 10th anniversary over the weekend. Jamie Masada’s Vegas outpost of his famous L.A. club replaced Brad Garrett’s original club on the hotel’s mezzanine level. Harry Basil is now GM, and sometimes guest performer. This weekend the esteemed Dom Irrera headlined. The club has been renovated. New flooring. “New Carpet: Bigger Laughs” is the yet-to-be-formalized club slogan.

Cool Hang Alert

We’re halfway there, oh, oh, living on a prayer … This week at Monday’s Dark at The Space, where the theme is Bon Jovi, the charity partner Operation Homefront, and the scene loose. Showtime at 8 p.m. Tickets $20, go to mondaysdark.com.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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