Cirque du Soleil — Love
I had last week the privilege to attend a Cirque du Soleil show in Las Vegas — Love. Featuring the music of a little British act known as the Beatles juxtaposed with the acrobatics, stunts, and choreography that Soleil is known for, the show was an elaborate and surreal production that this post will not do justice — some experiences are best lived.
Vegas as a destination is unlike any other. The vast neon jungle that the town was once known for has been slowly replaced with a more luxurious tilt, although if neon jungle is what you’re looking for I’m sure it can be found there — true of most desires I suspect. The thing that grabs me about the Vegas strip is how every inch of space, every sight, sound, smell, and experience is a feat of engineering and intention. There are no accidental features of a top tier casino, everything there has a function or purpose; meant to entertain, arouse, distract, and manipulate a tourist’s pocketbook. Of course the end goal is bottom line profitability, but I don’t think we should fault the town for that, after all the Vegas lifestyle is a natural byproduct of Capitalism with a capital C. I would worry if the Vegas style of experience economy was a staple of every city, but having a concentrated focal point for the industry of sin affords a kind of outlet or pressure relief valve for those who dare I say might actually benefit from a brush with decadence here and there.
It is a fortunate aspect of human nature that not everyone is equally drawn to the basest instincts of gambling and addiction, for if we were then the Vegas strip would be nothing more than a long line of video slot machines in a giant warehouse, bells and whistles whirring as the bovine couples from Montana slowly pour quarter after quarter into the hungry slots. There are many spouses, children, and friends of the avid gamblers who just don’t see the appeal of feeding their hard earned coin into the addiction algorithms for purposes of a few brief adrenaline jolts — it is these more refined tourists that we have to thank for all that Vegas has to offer, for the architects must cater to not just the gamblers but those they travel with as well. If gamblers could just lift their eyes from the slot machines for a few minutes, they might find the potential to share a more memorable vacation experience: a gourmet meal, a concert, a comedian, a roller coaster, an arcade, a swim, a world class art gallery or two, a surreal circus act, a night on the town, or perhaps even a little romance.
Thus it is that Vegas offers shows and productions of the highest caliber, such as is the case with Cirque du Soleil — Love. It is appropriate that the music of the Beatles has a home in this town, for Vegas has long been a kind of retirement community for top tier artists who have grown weary of touring. Elvis had a long running show in Vegas, as have other mainstream pop stars such as Brittany Spears, Penn & Teller, or Carrot Top. Cirque de Soleil is also a fitting venue for the music of the Beatles, for while the band gave us Lucy in the Sky and Sgt Pepper, some of the earliest MTV style music videos, and let’s face it transformed popular music to one with more heart and soul, Cirque is quietly facilitating a similar revolution to the “circus” performances in the US. The Ringling Brothers are probably rolling in their graves.
There are many “mashup” artists who have attempted to remix the Beatles over the years, some are actually quite good, but I know of no other case in which the Beatles have authorized a remixing of their original tracks for purposes of mainstream performance or commercial sale as was done with Love. That they allowed it here demonstrates that they they are fully behind this production and I suspect may have even had a word or two about how it was presented.
The stage and venue was a surreal one (I’m probably using that word a lot in this post, I know of no other more fitting, Dali would have felt right at home). There are no perfect seats in the audience, every one had some obstruction of view or different perspective, a good reason for repeat viewings actually. The stage was in center of a tall arena if I had to guess probably seating around 1,000, and there was no shortage of lights, screens, or quirky features. Even those in the audience were pretty quirky.
Through the show you almost get a picture of what it may have been like for the life of the four at the height of the mania. The screams of rabid fan base, the faces fading into masks amid the throng of thousands surrounding, the balance of psychedelia and emotion, the strange and surreal repetitive moves of the performers — picture someone doing “the running man” — running in place to the beat of the music — but as a cartwheel instead of a running motion — how is that even possible? A VW Beetle going through a surprising transformation during a day in the life. A blackbird’s slapstick comedy routine (Really? You made a slapstick routine out of blackbird?). Surreal costumes and props. The crowded stage, each performer with their own personality and characteristics. So much going on that one is never able to take it all in at once, forced to pick an aspect to focus on otherwise getting lost in the eye glaze of distraction (squirrel!). Some theater sized gimmicks that were awe inspiring, the floating bedroom to name one. Some, such as light projections onto the floor simulating movement, less impressive. Hey Jude’s breakdown refrain frustratingly short.
It’s poorly named show because it’s not about love at all. It’s a show about four young men finding themselves in an extreme circus like environment and how they adapt, make a little music, and somehow find the whole world singing and dancing along in the process. Yes there was a love song or two on the set list but they were easily as surreal as other elements in the show. Picture a man and women swinging high in the air with no net, the woman performing acrobatic moves and holding on to him by a thread. And I still don’t see how you can make a slapstick routine out of blackbird.
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