More than 37 years after their breakup, the Beatles continue to pack in big audiences in this glittering city of casinos and gaudy showrooms.
The British band's simple, long-lasting message -- all you need is love -- doesn't seem to have lost its drawing power.
"LOVE," an exciting and inventive Cirque du Soleil spectacle built around the Beatles' music, has been one of the most popular shows in Las Vegas since its opening in June 2006 at the Mirage.
Tickets are not cheap, ranging from $76 to $165, but the show -- featuring acrobats, dancers and characters from Beatle songs -- sells out consistently.
"I've been telling people about it ever since I saw it," said John Ceglia, 46, a Beatles fan from Amherst who recently saw the show with his wife, Darlene. "It was spectacular ... eloquent and gorgeous. I was ready to buy another ticket and see it again, as soon as it ended."
Early this month, the "Fest for Beatles Fans" drew another 5,000 Beatles fanatics to the Mirage Hotel & Casino. They came from all over the United States to experience the "LOVE" show, listen to Beatle music, buy memorabilia and hear stories from some of the band's old cohorts, including the Peter & Gordon singing duo, former Paul McCartney sideman Denny Laine and the band's original drummer, Pete Best.
The faithful also heard some wonderful jam sessions and concerts, including a complete performance of the "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" album by an excellent Beatles cover band called Liverpool. The band even brought out a sitar for George Harrison's "Within You, Without You."
It was the 105th Fest for promoter Mark Lapidos, dating back to 1974. The next Fest will be held in Chicago beginning Friday with Gerry Marsden of Gerry & the Pacemakers, members of Lennon's first band, the Quarrymen and actor Victor Spinetti, who starred with the Beatles in "A Hard Day's Night."
Just what is it about Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Ringo Starr that make them so popular, nearly four decades after the acrimonious end of their musical partnership?
Billboard magazine, which charts the music industry, calls the Beatles "relentlessly imaginative and experimental" and "the greatest and most influential" rock band ever.
"[They] were among the few artists of any discipline that were simultaneously the best at what they did and the most popular at what they did," Billboard says in its band biography.
The band has had 20 No. 1 records, twice as many as any other artist, according to Billboard. When the "LOVE" soundtrack was released last year, it sold more than 2.8 million copies in America in its first month.
"There will never be another band like them. They changed music. They opened the doors for every other band," said Frank Pacheco, 55, who works for a communications company in Queens. "I first started to love music when I heard the Beatles. I became a drummer because I wanted to be Ringo Starr."
"The music is positive. It always makes me feel good," said Ellen Bueno, a teacher's aide from Los Angeles. "I've been going through some tough times in my life. I knew that if I came here to Beatle Fest, I'd feel better. And I do."
For those who truly enjoy the music, the "LOVE" show is highly recommended.
The 1-hour, 40-minute performance is an extravaganza of explosive sounds, puppets, clowns and jarring images that are difficult to forget. The Beatles' strange and colorful lyrics are just right for Cirque du Soleil's inventive interpretations.
"John Lennon would have loved this," I wrote in my notebook at one point in the show.
"I can't believe how cool this is," said a man sitting behind me.
Acrobats on ropes and trapeze artists soar through the air during the opening number, "Get Back," which concludes with a disturbing depiction of Liverpool buildings being bombed during World War II. Puppets and clowns constantly move in and out of the scenes.
During "Eleanor Rigby," a maniacal Father McKenzie preaches from a high pulpit. A tall, strange-looking man serves tea while another bomb destroys a piano during "I Am The Walrus." A little boy -- a young John Lennon -- bounces on his bed, playing a guitar.
While "For The Benefit of Mr. Kite" plays, we see a bizarre group of circus performers, some of them with no faces and heads that fall off. A man in a Ku Klux Klan outfit throws knives at a Jesus-like figure trussed up on a cross. Four gorgeous ballerinas gracefully float through the air on bungee cords during "Something."
Four young roller bladers in Beatle wigs perform extreme stunts during "Help." Huge floating jelly fish make audience members feel like they are underwater during Ringo's "Octopus's Garden."
The show has the full support of surviving Beatles McCartney and Starr, and the widows of Harrison and Lennon. The band's former producer, Sir George Martin, and his son, Giles, produced the music, combining pieces of different Beatle songs. Harrison, a longtime friend of Cirque founder Guy Laliberte', first suggested the partnership before his death in 2001.
"One of the unique things about the show is that it was totally designed around the music," said Jason Pritchard, the lead sound technician for "LOVE." "That includes the showroom, which was built especially for this show. We have speakers built into every seat, so people can feel the music."
On June 26, McCartney, Starr, Yoko Ono Lennon and Olivia Harrison attended the show to commemorate its one-year anniversary. McCartney and Starr triumphantly jumped onto the stage during "LOVE's" finale.
"For me, the whole thing was a magical experience," said Darlene Ceglia, a dance instructor and choreographer. "It was pure grace and movement. So much was going on at one time, it was hard to take it all in.
"At one point, I looked around me, and it was beautiful to see so many people of every age group, with these big smiles on their faces. Enjoying the Beatles."
If you go
For information about upcoming Fests For Beatles Fans: (866) THE-FEST, www.thefestforbeatlesfans.com.
For information about the "LOVE" show: (800) 963-9634, www.cirquedusoleil.com.
For information about the Mirage: www.mirage.com
For general Las Vegas tourism information: www.visitlasvegas.com