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Published on February 9th, 2019 | by Jerry Doby

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Vegas Music Guide: The Acts You Need to See in Sin City in 2019

Think of Las Vegas and the first thing that probably comes to mind is a brilliant neon metropolis in the heart of the Nevada desert. The second is an endless array of casinos enticing visitors in with the prospect of a big win. Then there’s the spectacular entertainment featuring the world’s biggest stars installing themselves in long residencies and putting on huge and spectacular shows with dancers, orchestras and stunning effects.

What you might not think of is a lively urban, hip hop and R&B scene. After all, the glamorous and glitzy backdrop of The Strip is a long way from the streets of the cities that gave birth to this music. But never let it be said that Vegas will overlook the sorts of acts that will pull in their fans – and that’s why you’ll not only find lots of big names performing there this year, as well as a great choice of clubs that are urban to the core.

The switch to entertainment

This search for new audiences in Vegas has happened for a number of reasons. At the core of them has been a long decline in the revenues being generated by the casinos. Some have put this down to players falling out of love with land-based casino gambling. For example, in September 2013 the game of baccarat generated $116 million in revenue for the casinos along The Strip – but the corresponding figure for 2018 was just $69 million.

With a dramatic decrease like this, it’s not surprising that many people are making the link between the falling revenue and the increasing popularity of visiting online casinos instead. Baccarat is just one of the many games that online operators offer along with other big favorites like blackjack, roulette and, of course, slots. What’s more, many also now often the “live casino” option streaming games in real time and featuring live dealers.

The fact that players can take part 24/7 from anywhere with an internet connection simply adds to the appeal of the online alternative. As such, players now play quality games with great graphics and quick speeds, and the overall market is worth a staggering $60 billion. Visit one of the best online operators in the world and play these casino online games and you’ll understand exactly why they’re so popular.

It seems that the casinos are well aware of this fact themselves, hence the increasing focus on entertainment as the big draw to the city. It’s also significant that the biggest development in recent years hasn’t been a new casino complex but an 18,000 seat entertainment center backed by Madison Square Garden and Las Vegas Sands Corporation and called MSG Square due to open in 2020.

This is great news for music fans everywhere with a venue like this surely being the perfect stage to have even bigger and better events than ever before. These are also certain to feature some of the biggest hip hop, R&B and urban acts in the world and give even more fans the chance to see them.

You can also be sure that the existing values will be making even more efforts to book the big names and recreate the huge successes enjoyed by stars like Elton John, Maria Carey and Britney Spears in the past. And for anyone who loves urban music that’s surely going to be very good news indeed.

What’s on?

Let’s kick things off with some distinctly old-school sounds and a group who are widely credited with bringing R&B to the attention of lots of people for the first time. Boys II Men were a Philadelphia band who hit the big time in the 1990s and 2000s thanks to their unique combination of acapella and R&B with contemporary hip hop references. Today they’re a three-piece with only Nathan Morris remaining from the founder members and you can check them out at the Terry Fator Theater in the Mirage Hotel. At around $75 a ticket, it’s a steal to see these legends.

Over at Hakkasan at the MGM Grand, there’s one of today’s biggest stars in the form of the massively popular Lil Jon. From his legendary beginnings fronting Lil Jon & The East Side Boys, he’s gone on to find even greater solo success. As well as winning a Grammy for the Best Rap/Sung Performance for his mega-smash Yeah! Yeah!, he’s also credited with helping to create and popularize the Crunk genre. He’s had many collaborations with other rappers including Pitbull and DJ Snake – who makes regular appearances at many of the city’s top urban nightclubs.

Brian McKnight is also going to be strutting his stuff over at the Star of the Desert Arena at Primm Valley Resort. Unbelievably, McKnight has never won a Grammy award, despite having been nominated no less than 16 times, a record only beaten by Snoop Dogg and Morten Lindberg. The multi-instrumentalist has mastered piano, guitar bass, drums, and a wide range of brass instruments too and you can also expect plenty of his famous high-falsetto singing that covers a famously wide range too. In fact, 2019 is going to be a big year for McKnight as it will also see the release of his eagerly anticipated album rumored to be called Bedtime Story and promised to be “baby making music”.

Top clubs to check out

If the club scene appeals then you’ll be spoilt for choice in Las Vegas with all kinds of urban music on offer.

Starting with one of the biggest on the strip, Drai’s has a stunning 70,000 sq ft dancefloor but the real focal point is the spectacular 80 sided LED glitterball. There are a pool area and really high energy feel that you won’t find anywhere else on The Strip thanks to the incredible dance team. There’s also a good chance that you’ll hit the club when there’s a guest appearance from one of the many hip hop legends who are contracted there including TIP, Nelly, Big Sean, Future, Chris Brown and Trey Songz. If you want the party to go on long after the club closes, there’s also the After Hours Club reached by a gold elevator and open all the way through to 10 am every day.

Another genuine hotspot is the Ling Ling Club. Part of Hakkasan in the MGM Grand, it can be hard to find in the maze of the hotel, but it’s well worth seeking out. The music is more radio-based hip hop than the obscure tracks but what really makes the atmosphere is the brilliant LED light show that illuminates the dance floor. If you’re into star spotting then this is the place to go – especially if you want to see where some of the biggest sports team go for a little R&R with their R&B. In the past, the Seahawks, the Raiders and the Browns have all been seen kicking back there.

But if it’s dancing that rocks your boat then the best place to head for is Heart of Omnia in the Omnia nightclub. You’ll find a heady mix of Top 40 and less well-known beats and a real party atmosphere every day of the week, not just at weekends. In fact, Tuesday nights are a real highlight when they throw their Wild At Heart party. Come along and you might discover that it’s a night when regular visitor Justin Bieber might have decided to pop in.

Summary

Vegas has never been a place to just go and gamble. In its heyday, the likes of Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, and Tom Jones were regulars here, drawing in big crowds that came to watch them perform rather than play the tables. Given the evolution in the way people are gambling, Vegas venues are understandably keen to bring major artists back to plug falling revenues. So if you’re heading to Sin City anytime soon, there’s likely never been a better time to go.


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About the Author

Editor-in-Chief of The Hype Magazine, and internationally published arts & entertainment journalist. Member of the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture as well as the United States Press Corps.


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