April showers AC with unseasonably big-time headliners
You don't have to look too closely at this year's spring music calendar to guess that casino executives are banking on a busier-than-usual prelude to summer in 2005. With such a high-caliber entertainment lineup booked in town this spring, staring at the list of offerings (p. 30) makes it seem like August is upon us, not April. When's the last time artists as huge as Green Day and Elvis Costello made their Atlantic City debuts more than a month before Memorial Day Weekend? Do you recall the casinos collectively offering such a varied and rich music line-up in April?
With all of the amplifiers, drum kits and acoustic guitars being loaded into Atlantic City over the next few weeks, the hope is that the audiences will follow. And as far as ticket sales indicate, they will. Something's happening here and what it seems to be is that the town, formerly known exclusively for its summertime fun and gaming attractions, is edging even closer to becoming the year-round entertainment destination that many had hoped it would blossom into.
Looking back at last April, aside from a couple of noteworthy headliners, it was the same old scene in Atlantic City's headline entertainment world. As in years past, it wasn't really until the traditional start of the summer, Memorial Day Weekend, when things really picked up in terms of concerts being offered at the various casinos in town. The Trump property duo of the Taj Mahal and Trump Marina stretched the envelope with their respective offerings of youth-oriented rockers Godsmack and Live respectively, but elsewhere in town nothing really jumped out of the Frank Sinatra, Jr., Paul Anka and Engelbert Humperdinck box.
Even last year's May entertainment line-up seems tame compared to this year's April offerings. Not only is there music for all tastes this spring, but for all ages as well. Sure, old-time favorites Don Rickles, Petula Clark and Kenny Rogers are back in town, but so are Duran Duran, Sting, The Eagles and Bob Dylan. And although a rolling stone like Dylan has been strumming on stages since the early 1960s, his audiences, like those of many of the acts coming to town this spring, attract a crowd that fits into what Resorts Atlantic City's executive director of entertainment Rick Gallagher calls "one of the fastest growing segments of the gaming market." Specifically, as Gallagher notes, that segment is comprised of 21-40 year olds.
"We're going for a younger, edgier audience," says Gallagher, whose casino kicked off 2005 with a very popular Snoop Dogg show the day after New Year's Day. "With Snoop Dogg, we wanted to explode the myth that Resorts was just for seniors. It's not. And we're just going to continue that momentum."
On Saturday, April 2 the city's oldest casino, which is in the midst of transforming itself into one of the city's hippest, brings in funky pop rockers Sugar Ray. Again, it shows that Resorts has started booking headliners to attract a more diverse audience and give potential visitors a reason to come into town even with the summer a few months away.
"Atlantic City is becoming a year-round destination," says Gallagher. "There's plenty to do here in the winter. Certainly, the weather can be a challenge, but when you use a Snoop Dogg or a Sugar Ray off-season, you're putting a good name out there to draw people to town that may not normally come because of the weather. And we're finding out that it's working. People are doing it."
Since opening in July 2003, the Borgata has seen first-hand what kind of business bringing in unique entertainment can attract on a year round basis. The casino's COO Larry Mullin says that, all along, the casino's entertainment emphasis has been on giving guests more options than gambling, and booking musical acts that have proven their ability to sell tickets, not just bring in slot players.
"We don't really go after an age group," says Mullin of the Borgata's targeted demographic. "We go after good entertainment."
This modus operandi is in full effect with regard to the Borgata's April music offerings. Packed between the typically modest weeks of April 10 and April 30, the casino is bringing in Duran Duran, Lenny Kravitz, Little Feat, Elvis Costello, Bob Dylan, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and Sting, as well as a healthy line-up of top-notch stand-up comedians. Some of the shows, like Duran Duran and Dylan, will even be presented on a Sunday night, something that even furthers the notion that the Borgata is confident that regardless of when they offer it, as long as the headliner is top quality, the audiences will come.
"We're confident that the acts are going to sell no matter when you play them," says Mullin. And he's right. Duran Duran's show is already sold out.
"The perception of the town has changed in that it's more entertainer friendly than it has been in the past," adds Mullin, who credits all of the casino properties in town with working to give Atlantic City the ability to offer more entertainment options for visitors. Aside from more restaurant, nightlife and shopping choices, this means booking musical acts that you might find at Madison Square Garden or Philadelphia's Wachovia Center, but not necessarily at an Atlantic City casino in years past, especially before the summer tourist season starts.
And with acts like the Eagles and Rod Stewart returning to Boardwalk Hall this month - instead of waiting until the heart of the summer - along with all of the other casino offerings, what does this say about what can be expected for the hotter months? If the headliners already booked for the month of May are any indication, it promises to be the biggest entertainment summer in the city's casino history.
As Resorts sees it, one of the main differences in this year's summer entertainment line-up will be that a lot more will be happening within the city's expanding beach bar scene.
After more than 30 years, Duran Duran is having one of the best years of its career. Nick Rhodes talks about the group's next studio album and more.
“He was all about us returning to where we once where. He wanted a sequel to the 'Rio' album. It was fortunate that he talked to us about this since we were open to it. We would have turned the idea down five, 10 years ago because we were always into sounding as contemporary as possible."
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