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Hard Rock Hotel’s Joint concert venue in Las Vegas turns 10

Ten years and $60 million ago, its doors opened with a man attempting to do the same with its ceiling.

“They built this place very well, and it’s all new,” The Killers frontman Brandon Flowers observed from the stage as his band christened the second incarnation of The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel. “But let’s blow the roof off.”

That was April 17, 2009.

Two nights later, Paul McCartney packed the 4,700-capacity room for a 2½-hour concert that sold out in seconds.

Tuesday night, British rockers The 1975 will play the 710th show since the “new” Joint debuted as part of the $750 million expansion at the Hard Rock, which began in 2007, replacing the smaller, original concert hall of the same name located on the other side of the property.

In the decade since The Joint of today replaced The Joint of yesterday, the Vegas concert market has evolved significantly, with the venue in question serving as one of the engines powering this change.

Unpack your suitcase and stay a while, Axl Rose

Big-name music residencies have come to define this city’s leading entertainment options, and The Joint was one of the places where they started, beginning with a 73-show, 2½-year run by Carlos Santana that launched in 2009. Extended engagements by Guns N’ Roses, Def Leppard, Kiss, Motley Crue, Journey and Rascall Flatts would follow.

While residencies from acts still at the peak of their drawing power have become commonplace in Vegas, they weren’t an easy sell to those acts back in the day.

“There were a lot of articles and stories about artists going to Vegas to die,” says Chas Smith, vice president of entertainment for the Hard Rock. “We had to seriously sit down and convince these guys who are midcareer or on the tail end of their career, but still have a lot of life left in them, that, ‘Hey, this something good for your career. These are things that are going to rejuvenate you, rejuvenate your crowd. They’re going to have access to you in one location where they can see you multiple nights, come back and buy your merchandise, maybe see you at one of the local restaurants.’ ”

Another benefit the Hard Rock pushed to residency candidates was the lower overhead inherent to being in one place for weeks at a time.

“One of our biggest selling points was like, ‘Listen, you don’t have to pay for trucking.’ ” Smith says. “ ‘You don’t have to pay for shipping guys and gear and buses and making sure people get to where you’ve got to get to on time. You can set up camp and live here for two or three weeks at the hotel. We’ll provide meals. You can check out the town.’ And they’re like, ‘Oh, really?’ So that money, they’re not dishing out 70 percent of it to production and transportation. They can now pocket that.”

Who needs an arena for an arena rock production?

One of the things that distinguishes The Joint is that while it’s a midsized hall, the stage and its rigging capacity are as sizable as what you’d find in an arena. This enables acts that normally headline larger venues to play The Joint without having to downsize their productions, a key to landing these types of artists. So when a superstar such as Kenny Chesney goes from playing stadiums to The Joint, which he’s done 18 times now, a smaller room doesn’t necessitate a smaller show.

“We’ve had many an act come in and they’re skeptical when we’re booking the show, ‘Oh, we’re not going to be able put on the show we want,’ ” Smith says. “And we’re like, ‘Listen, you can.’ We’ve done walk-throughs. We’ve done site visits. And they’re like, ‘OK, we’re going to trust you guys that we can fit it all in here.’ And sure enough, we bring in a Motley Crue residency that had almost 10 trucks worth of equipment and it went flawlessly.”

Of course, the Vegas concert landscape has continued to expand since The Joint debuted, with the addition of venues such as Park Theater at Park MGM, Brooklyn Bowl at The Linq and The Chelsea at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas vying for the same acts at times.

“There’s so much competition right now. It’s very challenging,” Smith says. “Everybody’s out to keep their venues full and their owners happy, so we’ve got to get really creative and figure out what the next thing is that we can do differently and make it more special than my competition can.”

While the Vegas live music scene has changed in recent years, the same can’t be said of The Joint itself.

“After 10 years, we’ve put some money into the venue, but we haven’t really touched much,” Smith says. “We love the look of it. We love the smell of it. We love the feel of it. The tradition lives on.”

Contact Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476. Follow @JasonBracelin on Twitter.

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