The eyes of the entertainment world are focused squarely on Las Vegas for this week’s opening of T-Mobile Arena.
The $375 million venue, built by Anschutz Entertainment Group and MGM Resorts International, has been under construction on the south Strip since May 2014. It’s been well worth the wait for music fans across the globe.
Wednesday’s opening bill is meant to broadly represent the different eras of music most closely associated with Las Vegas: Wayne Newton, Shamir and The Killers. Nicki Minaj and Ariana Grande perform Thursday.
Friday and Saturday bring a musical event 20 years in the making. That’s how long it’s been since the original members of Guns N’ Roses last played together. This weekend, three of the act’s original members — frontman W. Axl Rose and his mononymously monikered former bandmates Slash and Duff — will share the stage for the first time since the start of the Clinton era.
Las Vegas gets back-to-back shows with Alice in Chains a full week before Guns N’ Roses makes its way west to Indio, California, for a pair of performances at Coachella, followed by a full summer tour.
“What an honor to work with the biggest name in rock ’n’ roll as part of the opening celebration of T-Mobile Arena,” Bobby Reynolds, vice president of booking for AEG Live Las Vegas, said in a release when the dates were first announced. “Guns N’ Roses choosing to return to the stage in their full glory, on the Las Vegas Strip to open T-Mobile Arena, is rock ’n’ roll history.”
Wednesday’s opening night should be especially memorable for locals and longtime Las Vegas visitors. Newton is a legendary figure who’s performed countless shows here since the ’50s.
Then there are the hometown headliners, The Killers. The band worked its way up from open mic entrants at the long-since-departed Emergency Room on Decatur Boulevard, playing Café Roma, the Junkyard, Crown and Anchor, Sasha’s and the Huntridge, and then earning worldwide fame. Through records like “Sam’s Town” to “Battle Born” to filming videos like “Shot at the Night” on the Strip, the musicians have never been bashful about letting people know from where they hail.
Neither has their other supporting act, Shamir Bailey, a stellar songwriter straight out of North Las Vegas. Now known better simply as Shamir, the singer has since moved to Philadelphia, but it wasn’t all that long ago that the acclaimed artist attended Legacy High School.
The high-pitched vocalist, who named his debut full-length “Northtown” after the section of the city where he was born and raised, started earning accolades from places like Pitchfork while he was still working at Topshop at the Fashion Show mall. Before he knew it, he had became a buzz act and then a breakout sensation, something he never even considered to be a real possibility.
“I just thought of it as now maybe this could be a side hustle,” Shamir said. “I never thought … because, I don’t know, I think so many of the musicians that I love and listen to are kind of on the smaller scale compared to more pop musicians and a lot of them still work normal jobs while they maybe tour during the summer or, you know, do stuff like that, and music is just kind of like a side gig. I never thought that music was going to be able to be my main gig. I just thought that was impossible unless I was Beyonce.”
That The Killers are the first act to be tapped for top billing at T-Mobile Arena is unsurprising and appropriate. But the arena’s developing lineup for the rest of 2016 is just as strong. It includes country stars including Garth Brooks and George Strait, who are each playing a series of dates, alongside an array of additional arenaworthy acts like the Dixie Chicks, Keith Urban, Janet Jackson and Billy Joel.
Whether T-Mobile Arena will attract acts that have passed on playing Las Vegas is hard to say. In the meantime, it’s a great time to live in Las Vegas, which continues to live up to its billing as the entertainment capital of the world.
Read more from Dave Herrera at reviewjournal.com/music. Reach out directly to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow @rjmusicdh on Twitter.