Every time we drove back to Santa Clarita from Burbank, from IKEA, or Ventura from Ventura Harbor Village, or Buena Park from Po Folks and Buena Park Downtown and Anaheim from Downtown Disney, I was always deeply disappointed and even a little down because my reason for living that entire week, to reach that day when we could go to those places, was over. We were going back to where there was nothing to do, nothing to connect to, nothing to want to think about in relation to the area, such as its history or its weaving roads. I experienced all those and it was time to move on from them as Santa Clarita approached. Not forget them, of course, but not think about them as much because there was the next day. What the hell was I going to do with the next day?
Two months ago, Meridith won tickets from Sunny 106.5 to see Shania Twain at the Colosseum, choosing May 31st, yesterday, as the evening to see her. I had been following news of her show back in Southern California, when it was a rumor at first, and now I was going to have the chance to see it for myself. I was excited, I was looking forward to it, but I wasn't breathlessly anticipating it as I did a day trip to Burbank or Ventura or Buena Park or Anaheim. They were all day trips. It took that long to get to each. There were other things to do in Las Vegas leading up to the concert, such as my weekly library visits, and subbing as a library aide at various elementary schools, and reading, and writing, and visiting casinos, and visiting Henderson, and going to a buffet (the one at Terrible's lately), and grocery shopping, and so much else that never disappeared like those days did. They last. They become part of my own personal universe here, what makes me what I am in Las Vegas, and what I feel about all of it.
Even when there are places we haven't been to in such a long time, I always remember the first time I was there, such as with Caesars Palace when we went last night, our first time since we were tourists. When the elevator doors to the casino floor opened, we were overcome by the Cher Army waiting to get to the parking garage after leaving the Colosseum. Cher's show was over, so they were invading. This was in May 2010, I think, and I remembered Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill being a lot smaller. And wasn't the entrance to the Colosseum much bigger than that? Maybe Cher's glassed-in costumes at the entrance made it seem bigger. I think Bette Midler was there at the same time, part of the Colosseum rotation, which now features Celine Dion, of course, Shania Twain, Elton John, and Rod Stewart, with one-night-only dates from Jerry Seinfeld popping up occasionally. Those are the major players, as well as Luis Miguel every September to celebrate Mexican Independence Day, which is great for us for tourism.
This time, when the elevator doors opened to the casino floor, no Cher Army. She left in February 2011. And then when we saw the entrance to Mesa Grill, I thought that it had been smaller. I was sure of it. But things always seem bigger, grander, awe-inspiring when you're a tourist. That's not to say that Las Vegas isn't awe-inspiring for me anymore. Going to Caesars Palace last night was walking through another dreamworld. There's a lot of those here. Sights you'd only expect to find in dreams exist here. Seeing Shania Twain in concert might well have been in a dream because if Meridith hadn't won those tickets, I'm sure it would have been another two years before I would have been able to see her. We can't readily afford those tickets. It would have taken a lot of saving.
After seeing the Shania store (which rotates the merchandise depending on the act. Her merchandise was front and center and then after her final show tonight before she leaves for the summer, the store will close briefly and Celine Dion's merchandise will be placed front and center and more prominently throughout the rest of the store, with Twain's and Elton John's merchandise threaded throughout), and having dinner at the Cypress Street Marketplace food court, the nicest food court I've ever been to, Meridith and I left Mom and Dad and went inside the Colosseum, taking an escalator to the second floor, to our seats, which were still first-floor seating, but rising way up near the back, one row before the seats against the wall in the back. Row O, seats 425 and 426, and center-stage for us.
There are all kinds of dreams to be experienced in Las Vegas and this one began with strips of curtain that had a forest digitally projected on them, in which fireflies appeared and a black horse appeared and then faded out. It was such a beautiful scene with the appropriate forest sounds and flute music to match. And then the show began with a video of Shania Twain on a motorcycle, riding in the desert toward a tunnel and once she reached the tunnel, the real Shania Twain was lowered from the ceiling on a motorcycle, the motorcycle steering to match the motion onscreen and then she finally landed gently to begin the show, to huge applause. I don't remember what song she started with, but I was still floored that I was here, seeing Shania Twain live.
There was an outdoor Western set, as well as a Western bar set for a few songs, and besides watching Twain perform, I like watching all the behind-the-scenes business in action, such as the changing of the sets. I probably pay closer attention to this than most, and I enjoyed watching special effects end and begin according to the song. My favorite part of the concert was on a campfire set, with dry ice fog simulating a campfire, with a gentle fake flame in the middle, and rocks around the campfire for Twain and randomly-selected audience members. Before this, during two songs separated by another song, she walked off the stage to the bottom sections closest to the stage to meet and greet the audience while she sang.
Then for the campfire set, she chose a girl who was there with her mother for her 18th birthday, a couple from Brazil who had seen her in London in 2004 when they were dating, an enthusiastic Brazilian guy who looked like he was wearing his country's flag as a shirt and a beanie hat, and most touchingly, a girl possibly younger than the 18-year-old one, 16 or 15 it looked like, who was overwhelmed and started tearing up on stage because she had been singing Twain's songs since she was 5. Twain had just finished tearing up reminiscing about her late mother and the greatest gift she gave her, her sister Carrie-Ann, and she started all over upon meeting that girl. She had the birthday girl and her biggest fan sit next to her on stage and there were two acoustic songs sung. Twain's love for her audiences is genuine. She is so appreciative of her good fortune in being this major star performer, and despite it being her second-to-last show before she leaves for the summer (her final show is tonight and then she's back in late November), she gave it her all for the entire show.
The final third of the show began with her singing "Still the One" to her white horse on stage, and then "From This Moment On," closing the show with "Man! I Feel Like a Woman." I loved the entire show, but I was especially fascinated by the musicians, the harmonica/piano player, the electric guitarist and the other musicians, because they were clearly in their zone. They have a plum gig with this show and they know it and they love performing as much as Twain does. The harmonica player in the song on the outdoor Western set became the piano player in the Western bar set, and he was jumping around while he was playing the piano. They clearly love what they do.
I was disappointed that "You've Got a Way" wasn't in the setlist, but that was tempered by the Colosseum being the crown jewel of Las Vegas. Meridith said that going to the Colosseum to see a show should be on everyone's bucket list. But I amend that to limit it to those who live in Las Vegas and who visit Las Vegas. She's right. It was built in 2003 solely to entice Celine Dion, and it has become a mega-entertainment venue. It's rightfully celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. I've been to a few showrooms in Las Vegas, with many more to come for sure, and I don't think any can type the Colosseum for class, for beauty, for gentle history. Everyone at Caesars Palace involved with the Colosseum take such loving care of it and it shows.
Now it's 5:09, the next afternoon. Michael Bolton is performing at Eastside Cannery at 8:30 tonight, and Mom and Meridith will be there since Mom won tickets for it on Sunny 106.5 on Thursday. I'm not thinking as much about Shania: Still the One beyond what I wrote, but living here, it'll always be in mind in some way. It colors my view of Las Vegas being a continuous waking dream. It makes me wonder more about those musicians, about what they do for work when Twain goes back home to the Bahamas for the break. I'm sure they find work somewhere, but do they already have it lined up or are they waiting until after the final show tonight? And where do they store those sets at the Colosseum? Do they truck them off to a nearby air-conditioned, climate-controlled warehouse, or is there plenty of room backstage? How does that work?
This time, and in previous times, I'm not disappointed that the experience is over. I'm still here, and will always be here, so it's still here. No matter how many years down the road Twain performs until she decides to leave, it'll never leave. I like that. For once, it's not about having to go back to real life as defined like it was in Santa Clarita. It fits squarely in my memories, in my imagination, and that's important to me. I can look at the Colosseum and know I was there, and also wonder what will happen next. Elton John is coming back to the Colosseum in September and October, and I'm hoping Sunny 106.5 gives away tickets. Because it's him, and after being at the Colosseum, I'm going to bang the phone away for those, trying my damndest every single time they're announced. But hopefully not every single time. I hope I win them the first or second time.
I know that it's partly because I'm local and not having to go through mountains and freeways that the show will never leave me, that I can always reference it any way I need to in heart and mind. But it's also because I'm finally home that I can do that, that I care enough to remember, and without regret, as it was for all those years, regret at having to leave pleasure. Here, it's always mine. That's how it should be, and I finally have it.