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Timberlake rocks the house in Fontainebleau opening

Updated December 14, 2023 - 4:05 pm

Justin Timberlake dances in a tux like we think we dance in pajamas.

J.T. brought rowdy refinement to the party at Fontainebleau’s VIP grand opening party. J.T. performed for about 70 minutes for 3,800 formally attired fans at BleauLive Theater, where the floor was set up for standing-room-only guests. A mosh pit, we call it.

That community got into it as Timberlake unleashed “Sexy Back,” “Suite & Tie,” “Rock Your Body,” and “Cry Me a River,” before which he asked the well-heeled crowd, “Sing along, if you know the words!”

Timberlake also halted action to focus on Jeffrey Soffer and his birthday party. Fontainebleau’s billionaire owner took up a VIP area on house right (or stage left, for J.T. and his band). Timberlake asked the crowd to join in “Happy Birthday to You.”

It was at least the third time Soffer was treated to the tribute Wednesday at his new resort, with well-wishers singing at the morning ribbon-cutting and Paul Anka re-imagining “My Way” in his set prior to Timberlake’s appearance.

Timberlake was paid a reported but not confirmed $5 million as an appearance fee and brought in his arena-scale set for his upcoming solo tour that might have cost hundreds of thousands. His 2024 tour is reportedly solo, but he and NSYNC released the single “Better Place,” in September. The song is on the soundtrack for the animated comedy “Trolls Band Together,” in which Timberlake voices the character Branch.

The 42-year-old recording star shut it down with a medley of “Smile” and “Can’t Stop The Feeling!” then “Mirror” as the finale.

“I’ll see you out there on the casino floor!” the superstar shouted. “Let’s go have some fun!” That was the theme of the night, and also the mantra of this amazing resort.

Bleau us away

The first person I ran into upon arrival (actually my second entrance into FB on Wednesday) was boxing legend Oscar De La Hoya. Sightings around the party were Aces co-owner Tom Brady, Cher, Ivanka Trump, Kim Kardashian, Kendall Jenner, Mark Davis, Sylvester Stallone, Dua Lipa, Lenny Kravitz, Jimmy Kimmel, Keith Urban (who played a set at Bleau Bar), Alice Cooper, Marshawn Lynch, Tyga, Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul.

A memorable exchange was with Beast Mode, whom I’ve always wanted to meet. I approached with, “I’m a columnist with the Review-Journal and a big 49ers fan …”

These are not two of Lynch’s favorite institutions.

But he did smile and shook my hand. Call it a victory.

That’s entertainment

Prior to Timberlake’s performance and after Anka’s, more than 50 artists — singers, dancers, acrobats, musicians — put on about a 20-minute variety show at BleauLive. Half of those pros were Vegas residents.

Anka’s 28-piece band was dotted with Vegas players, led by trumpet great Danny Falcone, who contracted the Vegas musicians. Falcone’s legendary pianist/music director father, Vincent Falcone, worked with Anka and also for a decade with Sinatra. On stage, he joined Eric Tewalt, Jason Levi, Gil Kaupp, Phil Wigfall, Kurt Miller, Wes Marshall, Sonny Hernandez, Rob Mader played in the horn section. Vegas string players in the mix included Geri Thompson, De Ann Letourneau, Lindsey Springer, Svetlin Belneev, Victoria Liu-Elliot, Erika Syroid, Dima Kourka, Yunior Lopez, Lauren Cordell and Rebecca Sabine.

As is always the case, it’s terrific to see Vegas musicians hired for these landmark performances.

Our take

We had understood Fontainebleau’s grand scale — more than 3,600 rooms on 25 acres. We’ve watched this building loom latently on the Strip since original construction halted during the recession of 2009.

But the attention to detail in a place of this size and scope shows remarkable thought and vision. The bow tie chandelier over Bleau Bar is just one example. Bow ties are found everywhere around the hotel — the more you look the more you see. BleauLive Theater showed off its tech versatility with the Anka/Timberlake performances.

The FB’s F&B roster is set up to be a game-changer in Las Vegas. The hotel’s grandeur and size show a confidence that Fontainebleau is a major player, not just on the north Strip, but among all Vegas resorts.

The night in question

Wednesday started with the hotel’s ribbon-cutting and writing/social media from the second-floor Bow Tie Boardroom, from my interview with Fontainebleau President Mark Tricano. Then home, change to the base of a black-tie-event suit (this is all-black without the tie), hustle to the Chelsea at the Cosmopolitan for “The Family Plan” world premiere red carpet and quality time with Mark Wahlberg. Wrote that up at the open work stations (for employees, I was reminded) down the hallway from the venue. Then back to Fontainebleau, where I lapped the property and made it to the back of BleauLive Theater. I stood at the back of the top section, at the venue’s GA tabletop-style platforms, plugged in and wrote of Anka and also the above stretch about Timberlake. Then I went back to the party to visit the beautifully appointed Papi Steak, and catch the electronic jam band 2LOT at Now Where Lounge (the graduated version of Rose. Rabbit. Lie., for those with long memories).

In a year of wild assignments and events in VegasVille, Wednesday might have been the topper.

All those blondes

Some 50 models/atmospheric artists were hired to don blond wigs or color their hair to travel in 3s around the hotel. They also answered guests’ questions — “Where can I find North Valet? — in unison. Loved that. It’s like a gaggle of contestants in a Gwen Stefani lookalike contest. But they were on the scene just through opening weekend.

To the top

Hearing a lot of tantalizing buzz about Fontainebleau’s rooftop Poodle Lounge VIP club, which is said to be the hotel’s version of Foundation Room at Mandalay Bay, Circa’s Legacy Club, and Allē Lounge on 66 at Resorts World. Star Chef Masa Takayama is planning to return to Vegas at that space. Takayama most recently operated BarMasa at Aria (where Catch is today) before closing in April 2018.

A big-name recording artist is involved with programming that room. A new Vegas resident. We’re excited about this place. The sunsets are going to be spectacular.

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 X, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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