I didn’t realize it at the time, but something happened toward the beginning of last year. Slowly but surely, the Hard Rock Live at Seminole Hotel & Casino was beginning to turn into the performance venue I always thought it should have been, with a Penn & Teller here and a Joel McHale there. Then came Elvis Costello. Then came the sold-out Bill Maher show this past weekend. After years of following Hard Rock Live’s schedules, the venue was finally beginning to book acts that I, as a person under 30, was interested in.
This was big news. After all, I had come to almost dismiss e-mail notifications of Hard Rock Live concert announcements, because they was inevitably be for acts like Chicago and Paul Anka and Frankie Valli and Jay Leno and Peter Frampton and Tom Jones. Translation: baby boomer acts clearly targeted to concertgoers of my parents’ generation, not mine. These days, in addition to the names I mentioned in the first paragraph, the venue has booked John Legend, alt-rockers Weezer and the national tour of “So You Think You Can Dance!,” a show targeted only to the Gen-X-and-younger crowds.
So what happened? First of all, according to Bernie Dillon, senior vice president of entertainment at the Hard Rock, the addition of younger acts is not a drastic sea change to the venue’s repertoire. He still sees the 55- to 65-year-old customer as his primary demographic, as evidenced by upcoming appearances from Julio Iglesias, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Bill O’Reilly. And Dillon reminded me that in the past several years, the Hard Rock did book younger-targeted acts like the Killers, Adam Lambert and Kelly Clarkson. But the difference I’ve noticed is indeed the result of a movement to attract younger crowds, for a reason you might not suspect.
“One reason is that we’ve got table games now, as opposed to just slot machines,” says Dillon, who has scheduled entertainment at the Hard Rock since its inception. “The table game customer tends to be a younger person. One of my assignments was to go and diversify, to bring in a broader range of audiences. It coincides with the appeal of the different casino products that we offer.”
The venue has also increased the number of shows each year, from the 70-85 range to 110-120, which is great for the local economy no matter which way you slice it. And with that increase also means the inclusion of entertainers that, a few years ago, the Hard Rock may not have had the budget or inclination to pursue.
One thing is certain: My appreciation for Hard Rock Live has, to borrow a term from President Obama, “evolved.”