Courtesy of Sasha Rincon

20 Years of House of Blues: Here’s What We Remember

Where do we start with House of Blues Las Vegas?

March 22, 2019

By Jason R. Latham

After 20 years, we can’t even call it a concert venue anymore. It’s more like an old friend who has always been there when we needed it. It’s remarkable, and somewhat unbelievable, to walk through the Mandalay Bay casino and still see House of Blues—more or less untouched since its 1999 debut—drawing veteran and emerging artists just like it did back in the day. 

As he presented a proclamation marking the anniversary date—March 2—as “House of Blues Day” in Las Vegas, Clark County Commissioner Michael Naft channeled what the gaggle of press, fans, and employees gathered in front of the box office were already thinking: It’s so strange being here during the daytime.

Twenty years. In this town, that’s ancient. Yet, every time we get close to those doors, we feel young again. So, to mark the occasion, we spent a few minutes reminiscing about House of Blues’ history, a few of our favorite shows, and the random moments we can remember. Here they are, in no particular order.

Bob Dylan christens the stage, with an assist from Bono

That’s right. For those who weren’t her for the grand opening, the freewheelin’ Bob Dylan was among the first to perform when House of Blues Las Vegas opened on March 2, 1999. Dylan would have been enough, but in a legendary moment, he beckoned U2 singer Bono to the stage, creating a memory that those in attendance will carry with them forever.

Welcome to the Foundation Room

House of Blues Las Vegas was actually a three-fer when it opened, giving us the lounge, B-Side, and the best views of the city, courtesy of the Foundation Room. To this day, the cocktail venue and nightclub at the top of Mandalay Bay remains one of the most popular photo spots in Las Vegas, and it’s all thanks to House of Blues.

The Killers kill

Back when The Killers played House of Blues in September 2004, they weren’t The Killers just yet. Hot Fuss had just dropped that summer and they’d spent more than a year touring the world on the success of “Mr. Brightside” and “Somebody Told Me.” The House of Blues show was a big one, giving new fans and longtime loyalists a chance to see Brandon Flowers and company on a big stage. For a lot of us, it was the first time we saw the Killers. We still talk about that show, and it’s been 15 years.

That time a random girl kissed us on the dance floor

This just came out of nowhere. We don’t know who she was or if she was doing it on a dare, or whatever. But it happened, and it’s a good story.

The Blues Brothers play House of Blues

Not all of us are old enough to remember Dan Aykroyd and the late John Belushi debuting the Blues Brothers band on Saturday Night Live. Some of us aren’t even old enough to remember the movie (and no one remembers Blues Brothers 2000). But a few of us were in the crowd when the band joined in the grand opening festivities back in March 1999.

That time our friend bailed from the show early

Rich didn’t feel like hanging around all night, and he wasn’t much of a dancer, so he split. This was back in 2001 before we all had cell phones, so there was no way to get hold of him. Fortunately, upon arriving home at around 2 a.m., there he was, passed out in the grass in front of the apartment, not caring that the sprinklers were on.

Berlin does an acoustic version of “Take My Breath Away”

You know what it’s like when the band doesn’t play their biggest hit. It’s maddening. It’s even more maddening when the band – in this case, 80s new wavers Berlin – play their biggest hit as an acoustic number. Come on, Berlin.

That time we partied on the dance floor with Vince Vaughn

This was pre-Old School Vince Vaughn, so he hadn’t done his big comedies yet. But there he was, dancing right next to us on the dance floor. Nice guy. Hung around for a little bit too.

‘Mandalay Mondays’ was too much to handle

You might remember this. In the late Aughts, Mandalay Bay introduced “Mandalay Mondays” as a way for locals to experience all of its nightlife venues without long lines or cover charges. This was back when Rum Jungle was still a thing, and we could get access to a hidden lounge above the stage level at House of Blues. Needless to say, there was a lot of alcohol flowing.

2003

Honestly, that whole year is just a haze, which is a tribute to how fun we had at House of Blues.

The legendary Roots crew plays House of Blues

Wait, we do remember seeing The Roots at House of Blues sometime during the summer of 2003. This was back when they touring in support of Phrenology, way before they became Fallon’s house band. Hearing “The Seed 2.0” live is still fresh in the head, even if the rest of the show is not.

Carlos Santana settles in for a Vegas residency

This was a huge get for House of Blues. “An Intimate Evening with Santana: Greatest Hits Live” debuted in 2012 and has been one of the city’s longest running residencies. The 71-year-old keeps coming back for more, with shows booked through mid-November of 2019. Tickets to see the legend—and you should see the legend—can be purchased via the House of Blues website.

Boogie Knights fill our desperate need for disco

Las Vegas, despite its diverse lineup of resident headliners, just isn’t courting fans of the disco genre. There was a time, however, when disco tribute band Boogie Knights owned the Saturday night stage at House of Blues. Those were nights to remember. We did a little dance. We made a little love. We pretty much got down those nights, and they are missed. 

Dokken plays ‘Dream Warriors’ for a legion of Freddy fans

Don Dokken played House of Blues in 2008, and the only thing you need to know is that the setlist included the iconic 1987 single “Dream Warriors” from A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. It was, for lack of a better phrase, a dream come true for Freddy Krueger fans.

That time we grabbed the mic for ‘Dancing with Myself’

This is another random memory. On a Saturday “80s Night” at House of Blues, some DJ from some radio station was making his way through the crowd, chatting up people with a microphone while Billy Idol’s “Dancing with Myself” played throughout the venue. When he approached us, we just grabbed the mic and sang the rest of the song without a care in the world. He was nice enough to stand there and let us finish. That’s something we’ll always appreciate.

The real Billy Idol reclaims the microphone

Not long after Carlos Santana set up shop in House of Blues, Mr. William Idol signed on for a residency. It felt right, considering people likely wanted to hear “Dancing with Myself” from the man himself, and not some pretty boy cover artist.

Remember the pop-punk Aughts?

Bob DylanCarlos Santana, and Billy Idol are icons of rock with music catalogs stretching back to the 60s. But anyone who was a regular at House of Blues during the early Aughts remembers the parade of pop and ska-punk bands that would come through town. Sum 41Fenix TXSave FerrisLess Than Jake—basically any band with a song featured in one of the American Pie movies. There’s just something about that era that always brings a smile to our faces. Doesn’t ring a bell? Press play on “I Feel Fine” by Riddlin’ Kids (August 2001 at House of Blues) and you’ll remember.

That time Jerry tried to sleep it off in a bathroom stall

Some guys can’t handle Vegas, even if they live here. After a long night at House of Blues—circa 2007, maybe—our pal Jerry decided he’d had a bit too much to drink. Being a responsible adult, he wasn’t going to drive home, and decided the best course of action was to sleep it off in a bathroom stall near Red Square. That was a good plan, for a couple of minutes, anyway. Security soon came knocking and escorted him to a cab, so he could spend the night in bed rather than hunched over on a toilet seat.

Chromeo arrives, and P-Thugg can’t get in

In October 2010, electro-funk duo Chromeo played House of Blues Las Vegas. As our friend Oskar and I waited at the entrance, Patrick "P-Thugg" Gemayel walked by, trying to get through. A security guard, who didn’t recognize him as a member of Chromeo, stopped him. We pleaded with the guard, “Dude it’s P-Thugg, let him in!” Eventually, the guard relented, and Chromeo went on to play one of the best shows we’ve ever seen at House of Blues Las Vegas.

That time we snuck into a VIP balcony for Nas

In August 2008, Nas played House of Blues in support of his famous “untitled” album. My buddy Jay and I had tickets, but when we arrived we found a line stretching all the way to the Mandalay Bay sports book. As we both liked to boast that, “we don’t wait in lines,” we decided to try another way in. We went through a side door near the entrance (don’t try this kids, there’s way more security now) and found ourselves wandering the back offices and hallways of House of Blues, until we stumbled upon a door that led to a VIP balcony above the stage. We looked down, and there was Mr. Nasir Jones himself, doing that “Hip Hop Is Dead.” On the other side of the stage, we could see Kelis and Nas’ entourage in another balcony. We were sure that someone would see us, and it wasn’t long into the show when a cocktail waitress opened the door and said, “I didn’t know anyone was up here.” We thought we were busted, until she asked, “What can I get you to drink.”

We were home free.