Photo Credit: Harry Benson
Paul McCartney welcomed old friend Ringo Starr to the stage at the O2 Arena in London during a massive 40-song set of McCartney, Wings, and Beatles music. Starr rocked away on “Get Back,” along with Rolling Stones guitarist Ron Wood, helping make the night memorable for thousands of fans.
McCartney continues to tour, hitting the US in 2019 and playing the Talking Stick Arena in Phoenix, AZ Wednesday, June 26 at 8:00 PM. Starr will be close by in March (21st, 8 PM) when Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band play at Harrah’s Resort SoCal The Events Center, Valley Center, California.
The rockers have a storied history with gaming and casinos, having played an early date in Las Vegas that required police and security guards from Phoenix to help quell the screaming crowds. Their pending arrival hadn’t looked promising, but oh, how things changed as their concert dates drew near.
The Legend of Las Vegas and the Beatles
According to legend, booking agents approached the Sands, Dunes, and the Flamingo about sponsoring the Fab Four, but they weren’t too interested in throngs of teenagers in Sin City. Fortunately, Stan Irwin down at the Sahara casino knew about the Beatles and took a chance. He planned to have them play in the Sahara’s Congo room, but soon realized they would need a lot more space than the 600-seat room offered.
Instead, Irwin arranged to have them play two shows at the Las Vegas Convention Center; 7,000 seats in the rotunda and another 1,400 in the balcony. Prime tickets were $5.50 with the balcony spots going for $2.20. The show sold out easily.
The Beatles’ chartered plane arrived hours early at McCarran Field to fool their fans, but word of the 1:45 AM flight on August 20, 1964, spread like wild-fire. By the time the Beatles arrived at the Sahara, there were thousands of fans, mostly teenagers, nearly surrounding the hotel-casino.
The Beatles were able to use a back entrance and service elevator to get to their suite, but their plans to take their limo around the city and cruise The Strip ended. Instead, they spent their hours before the first show sitting in their room.
Sahara management was kind enough to deliver plenty to eat, and as only could happen in Las Vegas, a pair of slot machines were brought to the room to entertain the four musicians. Getting them back out of the hotel for that evening’s show presented another challenge, performed by dozens of police officers with riot sticks and bullhorns.
The show itself was a huge success, setting the stage (sorry) for many future concerts by other big-name acts in Las Vegas. As for the Beatles, they managed to get out of town without any disasters, but the show in Las Vegas was much like others to come. Future gigs sold out, but there was so much screaming that the musicians themselves couldn’t hear their instrumentation or voices.
The Beatles never played Las Vegas again, doing their final concert at Candlestick Park in San Francisco just over two years later before becoming a studio-only band. Can we blame them?
George Harrison put it best, saying “Every city we went to there was some kind of a jam going on and police control, and people threatening to do this and that, and [us] being confined to a little room or a plane or a car.”