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Lady Antebellum & Miranda Lambert Weekend in Las Vegas

In the fickle music biz, careers many times breeze in and out like the capricious winds. 

Last year the Nashville trio Lady Antebellum, right, – “Lady A” to their fans – didn’t win the one category they were nominated in last year (for Top Vocal Group), but this year it’s a whole new story. They’re the favored front-runner, with seven nominations for Sunday’s Academy of Country Music Awards at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. 

Lady Antebellum’s free performance drew a huge crowd to Fremont Street Experience in Las Vegas last night.  Some said the show drew upwards to 20,000 people. If so, that would make it the largest non-New Year’s Eve gathering ever on Glitter Gulch and the biggest in the four-year tradition of ACM-related concerts. 

Nominated for seven awards, the group attended last Wednesday’s “American Idol” show and did a post-show taping of their hit “Need You Now.” Their performance will be part of the “Idol Gives Back” show next week. 

Lady Antebellum announced on Friday that their latest, “American Honey,” was the band’s third consecutive No. 1.  Lady Antebellum’s current single, “Need You Now,” is No. 4 on Billboard’s overall Hot 100 song chart, sandwiched between Train and Lady Gaga. 

Miranda Lambert, right, a six-time nominee for Sunday’s Academy of Country Music Awards show, though, will prove tough competition.  She heads an ACM-filled lineup of free concerts tonight at the Fremont Street Experience. Lambert performs from 10:45 to midnight on the Third Street stage. Kicking off the evening from 7-7:30 p.m. at the First Street stage will be Joey + Rory, the Top Vocal Duo nominee. Gloriana, the Top New Vocal Group nominee, plays from 7:45-8:25 p.m., also at the First Street stage. The Randy Rogers Band, nominated for Top Vocal Group, performs from 8:40-9:25 p.m. on the Third Street stage. Luke Bryan, winner of the Top New Solo vocalist award, precedes Lambert, from 9:40-10:30 p.m., performing on the First Street stage. 

If you’re lucky enough to catch Lambert and others tonigt performing live in Las Vegas, it’s a good deal.  The ceremonies at the MGM Grand Garden are a pricey ticket if you don’t have friends at a record label, topping out at $450 for something you can watch free at home. (The 5 p.m. festivities air on CBS, live on the East Coast and tape-delayed on Las Vegas KLAS-TV, Channel 8, at 8 p.m.) 

Most of the ACM stars will stick around Monday in Las Vegas for “Brooks & Dunn — The Last Rodeo,” an all-star tribute concert that will be taped at the MGM for a separate CBS show airing next month. Tickets are $108 to $208 for the 7:30 p.m. show in which the likes of Taylor Swift, Kenny Chesney and George Strait will salute the venerable duo of Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn before they hang it up. 

The ACM Awards ride country music’s ever-growing popularity; what once was a niche genre is getting harder to distinguish from any remaining notions of a separate pop world. 

Last year’s ACM broadcast drew 14.8 million total viewers, a 26 percent gain from the year before. “It’s a happy problem,” says Barry Adelman, a producer and writer for the broadcast. “We’re not trying to fix something that’s dipping, we’re trying to keep something that’s going up, going up even higher.” 

And lest we forget…Garth Brooks isn’t performing at Wynn Las Vegas this weekend. But Steve Wynn did buy him that private jet and the pilot surely knows the route by now. And who would want to leave that guy out of a weekend like this one?

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Mum’s the Word for Disappearing Las Vegas Magician Lance Burton

As previously reported by Las Vegas Backstage Access, the Monte Carlo magician has indeed called it quits after headlining and performing about 15,000 Las Vegas shows for the last 14 years.   Lance Burton will close his Monte Carlo run in Las Vegas on Sept. 4. 

Burton reports that the decision to leave was his, though he remains guarded and vague when it comes to providing specific reasons for his departure.  

“About three ago I had a moment of clarity when it just all became clear to me that I’m not on the same page as the hotel,” Burton said, adding, he doesn’t plan to badmouth the hotel where he spent at least a third of his career and has a deep emotional connection. 

Some say that Burton and MGM Mirage officials were at odds over budgeting and cost-cutting issues, but, Burton says, that’s not the primary reason he gave notice.

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A-List Musicians Join Virtuoso Michael Legrand at MGM Grand in Las Vegas

Michael Legrand is a virtuoso musician with few equals.  The three-time Academy Award winner and five-time Grammy winner started his lifelong dedication to music at the ripe age of 11, where he began his study at the Paris Conservatoire. 

Legrand has composed more than 200 film and television scores for directors, including Jean-Luc Godard, Richard Brooks, Clint Eastwood and Robert Altman, and has recorded more than 100 albums with international music celebrities. 

On March 27 he will be blending his magic for his 50th Anniversary Concert Tribute at 8 p.m. in the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. 

Legrand will conduct a 66-piece orchestra and be showcasing the evening’s entertainers:  George Benson, Melissa Manchester, Jerry Lewis, Dionne Warwick, Andy Williams, Patti Page, Frank Sinatra Jr. and Steve Lawrence. 

Actors Jon Voight and Jennifer O’Neill will host the gala, which will air at a later undetermined date as a made-for-TV concert special. 

Perhaps the biggest news is the rumored surprise appearance by Sting.

Tickets range from $62.50 to $150 (plus fees); www.mgmgrand.com or www.ticketmaster.com   For more concert details:  www.MGMLegend.com

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Harrah’s Entertainment Plans to Buy Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas

Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. has filed an application to purchase the struggling Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, the Nevada Gaming Control Board said Monday. 

The casino giant has formed a new subsidiary, PHW Las Vegas LLC, with the intent of taking over the Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas. PHW filed the application to casino regulators last week, a person at the Control Board said. 

The Las Vegas Planet Hollywood is a separate entity from the restaurant chain, which has locations around the world. 

Harrah’s began pursuing Planet Hollywood in September when it purchased a $140 million piece of Planet Hollywood’s $870 million debt for an undisclosed amount from Goldman Sachs Group. 

A person close to the situation said that it appears the slice of debt Harrah’s purchased could give the casino giant enough influence over the other lenders to control the property. 

Harrah’s controls six contiguous Las Vegas casinos just north of Planet Hollywood. Those properties are across the street from City Center, the $8.5 billion MGM Mirage resort has been opening all this week in Las Vegas. 

In an email to employees last week, Harrah’s Chief Executive Gary Loveman reportedly said the location made the distressed Planet Hollywood an attractive acquisition. 

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. currently manages the project’s hotel and also has a minority stake in Planet Hollywood. 

Restaurateur Robert Earl, who developed the movie-themed Planet Hollywood restaurant chain, and investment manager Bay Harbour Management acquired the Las Vegas property in 2007.

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MGM’s CityCenter in Las Vegas Announces Huge Retail Lineup

CrystalsCityCenter, the multi-use development opening later this year on the Las Vegas Strip, announced a collection of unique luxury retailers and restaurateurs that will join the lineup at Crystals, a 500,000 square-foot retail and dining district.

Planned to open December 3, Crystals will showcase a large and varied array of the world’s most exclusive retailers including many flagship stores.  For many of these brands, the Crystals’ location will represent their largest business in Las Vegas, the United States, or in some cases, the world.

Large-format luxury retailers that are planning to establish Crystals as a preeminent international shopping destination include Prada, Christian Dior, Bulgari, Carolina Herrera, Hermes, Roberto Cavalli, Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels and Versace. These brands will join previously announced retailers Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co. and Ermenegildo Zegna. 

Unique-to-the-market retailers opening their first locations in Las Vegas include Tom Ford,  Assouline, Kiton, Miu Miu, Paul Smith and Porsche Design, along with the previously announced de Grisogono, H. Stern, Marni, Boutique Tourbillon and Mikimoto.  Restaurants opening their first Las Vegas locations at Crystals include Eva Longoria Parker’s Beso and Mastro’s Ocean Club Seafood House.  These upscale restaurants will join an exciting new Pub concept by Todd English and two previously announced new concepts by Wolfgang Puck.

Other prestigious retailers joining Crystals’ lineup include Bally, Emilio Pucci and Ilori.  Additionally, Dale Chihuly will introduce a stunning new gallery.

The Taubman Company, the world’s leading developer of upscale shopping centers, is responsible for the leasing of Crystals.

 “We’ve assembled an extraordinary collection of retailers and restaurateurs to make Crystals one of the world’s most unique shopping and entertainment districts when it opens this December,” said Frank Visconti, president of retail for CityCenter.  “Crystals will delight guests with its unique architecture, awe-inspiring interior design, brilliant art and intriguing water features.  These experiential offerings, coupled with exclusive items from the industry’s most celebrated brands, will make Crystals a premier social and cultural environment in the heart of CityCenter.”

An architectural achievement that integrates the talents of world-renowned artists, architects and designers, CityCenter plans to attract visitors from around the world, being a landmark for global taste and style.  In addition to Crystals, CityCenter will feature ARIA Resort & Casino, a 4,004-room gaming resort; three luxurious non-gaming hotels including Las Vegas’ first Mandarin Oriental, Vdara Hotel and The Harmon (slated to open in late 2010); Veer Towers, the development’s only strictly residential buildings; and a Fine Art Collection. 

Mandarin Oriental, Vdara and Veer Towers will include approximately 2,400 residences.

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MGM Mirage Tapped Out?

What a difference a short time can make in a volatile economy.  Months ago the MGM Mirage had billions of dollars of cash at its disposal, supposedly well insulated for the recession.  Now they are painting a continuing bleak and mgmmiragegloomy picture.   The MGM Mirage tapped last week their remaining $842 million in cash under their $4.5 billion revolving credit line because of the turbulent credit market markets and the “uncertain state of the global economy.” 

On Monday the MGM Mirage stock plummeted to an all-time low of about $3 per share, down about 95 percent from a year ago. 

Despite agreeing to sell the Treasure Island to former New Frontier owner Phil Ruffin for $775 million in December, the MGM Mirage, the Strip’s biggest casino operator, leading entertainment provider, and Nevada’s largest private employer could be facing a bankruptcy Chapter 11 filing if it can’t renegotiate better payment terms with its lenders covering some $7 billion in their outstanding loans.  The MGM Mirage has a little more $1 billion in cash remaining on their balance sheet. 

And if MGM Mirage lenders are not flexible in payment restructuring, also at risk is their new $9.1 billion CityCenter project that has a final $1.2 billion payment owed.   The project has been planned to open in October, with the 4,004-room Aria, the centerpiece hotel-casino, scheduled to open in December. 

Like most other Las Vegas casino operators, MGM Mirage has undertaken numerous cost-cutting and debt restructuring measures over the past year.  But, so far, none have brought them the much needed financial relief.   Talks on a variety of other debt restructuring schemes continue including selling some of their 10 Strip hotel-casinos, other properties, or, failing that, sell part of their CityCenter project and perhaps negotiate with Dubai World, already a 50 percent owner in the project that has invested almost $6 billion, for Dubai assuming a greater ownership stake.

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