From the moment the Pearl Concert Theater opened to the public on March 17, 2007 (for a headlining performance by Evanescence, of all things), I’ve had an easy answer to this question: Where in Las Vegas would you most want to see your favorite band?
In the decade since, some great music rooms—from Brooklyn Bowl to the revamped Bunkhouse—have opened around town. Yet the space inside the Palms has remained my single happiest place to catch a show. Not because it’s in my neighborhood (it’s not) or because it offers the best beer selection (it doesn’t). The Pearl has stayed atop my rankings because its creators prioritized the two most important aspects of concertgoing: sight and sound—obvious, sure, but rarely taken seriously enough.
I’ve been in virtually every section over the years—on the floor, down the sides, straight back, up top—and my view of the stage has never been the least bit impaired. Better yet, I can’t recall fretting even once over the sonic quality, and I’ve become pretty picky over decades covering concerts.
What the Pearl hasn’t had, unfortunately, is consistently interesting booking. What began with a pretty open mind under then-owner George Maloof and his original talent buyer (see: Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Bloc Party, The Pogues?!) evolved into a safer approach that leaned heavily on classic rock and conceded most left-of-center acts to its competitors. With Station Casinos now in charge, it remains to be seen whether the Pearl can again be a player in Vegas’ wildly competitive music market.
As the venue celebrates its 10-year milestone with A Perfect Circle (see Page 60), I’ll also reflect back, on five Pearl shows that stood out for me.
Björk (December 15, 2007) Part 2 of a momentous weekend doubleheader (Tool played one night earlier) earned the Icelandic innovator an ultra-rare five-star review. “Without aid of a costume change, aerial acrobat or dance troupe, the evening felt as dramatic as any production show on the Strip,” I wrote then, and I stand by those words nearly 10 years later.
Matador at 21 (October 1-3, 2010) The single-best musical weekend of my life saw influential indie label Matador Records gather current and former acts for a whirlwind of can’t-believe-this-is-happening-here performances from the likes of Pavement, Sonic Youth and Superchunk. I also got to see my favorite band, Guided By Voices, right where I wanted them. Dreams do come true.
LCD Soundsystem (October 12, 2010) The hip Brooklyn outfit’s lone Vegas appearance didn’t pack the house, but anyone who was there will tell you it should have, as frontman James Murphy and his mates served up favorite after deliriously danceable favorite for folks in the know.
Bob Dylan (July 16, 2011) I’d given up on Dylan as a live entity until this one turned my head around. “Dylan stepped away from the organ, picked up his harmonica and moved to the front of the stage,” I wrote. “That movement alone eclipsed my previous Dylan encounter for excitement, and it was only the beginning. What followed was shockingly powerful, an icon proving he’s still a viable performer.”
Butthole Surfers(August 28, 2011) This might not have been an all-timer, musically speaking, but every time I think about it I smile. Because, like, 300 people showed up in a room that holds 2,500. Because the band played in a classy theater while the goriest videos I’ve ever watched rolled behind it (as in, the decapitation scenes were a relief from the really nasty stuff). And because the giant marquee outside the Palms read “BUTTHOLE SURFERS,” all night long.