Sold-out crowd opens venue

The Hard Rock Hotel’s new Joint got broken in exactly right on Friday night. Thin-mint women shimmied in tiny black skirts. The opening act was a band no one ever heard of. And the smell of smoked-weed-in-progress wafted gently higher.

Only the Budweiser got bad reviews from, no surprise, Brits in the crowd. Michael Groom and his wife, Sadie, flew in from London to see The Killers on opening night. He was bouncing happy. But he smirked at his draught.

"They sell cooking lager at extortionists’ prices, and smile at you," Groom said. (In fact, Buds fetched $5 and $6.)

He also panned the "polite conformity" of the crowd, especially those with seats on the second and third balconies.

"You stand up, you sit down, you stand up, you sit down," Groom said. "It’s not church services. … The general audience in America — I don’t think they GET music.

"On Tuesday, I saw AC/DC in London — five 60-year-olds on stage, doing the AC/DC stuff, and the crowd went mental. Drinking. Throwing chairs. Moshing. THAT’S what music’s about."

Sadie’s view was askew of the queue at the bar.

"The bar is rubbish," she said when her husband was stuck buying drinks. "He’s been queuing for at least 15 minutes."

All of this was nitpicking, after all, for the sake of British humor. They loved the venue, they said, and the three big, flashy video monitors, and the sound system, and the Killers since "they sound like the ’80s."

They came to Vegas with three friends, including Stu Lawn, a Dubliner who, chance would have it, sells professional recording studio equipment, so he was in the position to declare the Joint a musical success.

"It sounds crisp enough," Lawn said.

Lawn was also a fan of the can.

"The sound in the toilets is especially excellent." He was being serious. "When you go in the loo, and the band is playing, you can hear the band" clearly.

"It’s like the old Joint but bigger," said Sadie, who’s come with her husband yearly to see shows at the old Joint, by the British-fan clichés of Oasis, Travis and Bloc Party. And now The Killers, who are bigger there than here.

The new Joint does look like a bigger, shinier version of the old Joint — a rectangular box, but now with balconies and VIP suites for high rollers (who munched on sushi and burger sliders). Wheelchair areas are lovely.

Tonight’s show is Avenged Sevenfold. Sunday: Paul McCartney.

A big, looming question: Can the new Joint and the hotel’s $750 million renovations return the hotel’s buzz to its glory days, when a lot of people considered it the coolest place in Las Vegas?

Whatever. The cool factor wasn’t the Brits’ concern. The minute The Killers began playing, Michael Groom started planning his rental car’s escape from the stuffed parking garage.

"If we leave now," he said as The Killers took the stage, "we can just beat the traffic."

Contact reporter Doug Elfman at delfman@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0391.

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