First, let me say that Carlos Santana was great: wonderful band, awesome rhythm section (all three of them), fine lead singers, and of course the man himself on lead guitar. Santana is the most relaxed performer I've ever seen on stage, leading to a continual game of "where's Carlos right now?" as you look for the velvet shirt, the cap, and the red electric guitar. He wanders around and stops to play wherever he is when his next lick is due, occasionally exchanging a high five with another musician. And the lighting designer is a damn genius. You couldn't really see Santana clearly from halfway back, but the video monitors did continual close-ups of him (and the others) - his face is mellow and warm, and totally focused on his music.
Now let's talk about the venue: the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. The concert was in "The Joint," their performance venue (recently upgraded, according to the web site). I agree with their hype about the sound system and the lighting, both were excellent; but the web site raves about "seven VIP luxury suites and a prestigious VIP level." Don't think this implies any sort of luxury for the schmucks down on the floor. We sat in folding chairs (cheap folding chairs), locked together to make a row. Worse, the peon who numbered the chairs in our row (in chalk, by hand, on the underside of the seats) couldn't count; our tickets were for seats 4 and 5, and the seats in our row were numbered "3 4 6 7...," so they effectively sold us a non-existent seat. The ushers on the floor finally got everybody settled in, and the seats really were quite good, except for the six-foot dude in front of me who spent almost the entire concert standing up and grooving. Fortunately the two video monitors gave a continuous if disjointed view of the stage action.
I brought earplugs with me. I can't imagine why I didn't think to take them to the show. I think my hearing has largely recovered.
No place that seats 4,000 people can realistically be described as "intimate."
I give points for effort to the casino staff on the ground, but my overall impression of the place was of poor maintenance and tacky patrons. The bathrooms were dirty; one of the handicapped stalls in one bathroom had been out of order so long they'd removed the door and were using it to store cleaning supplies. The other "handicapped" stall was barely wide enough for a walker or wheelchair, and had not been cleaned since someone puked in there, despite the fact that the restroom had an attendant.
Now for tacky patrons: I've never seen so many cheap hookers - obviously cheap hookers - in one place in my life, even on earlier trips to Las Vegas. (We usually go to shows in the higher class casinos.) Even on MacArthur Boulevard in Oakland. Waiting for the valets to retrieve our car was a runway show of the latest in 5 inch stiletto heels, micromini skirts, and push-up bras. Oh, and thongs. They had a sign on the door saying "dress code after 6 PM." Given what we saw before, during and after the show, I shudder to imagine how people dress before 6 PM!
Another plus for the casino staff on the ground: when the valet captain saw my sister's walker, she jumped our ticket to the front of the line, saving us probably 40 minutes. But the valet staff was edgy in the extreme, and tonight - 2 days later - we found out why.
They were being busted. The police raided the casino that night: narcotics and prostitution, in an area somewhat oddly called "Rehab" ("the ultimate Vegas pool party"). As we tried to drive away (it must have taken us 10-15 minutes to clear the casino driveway), we saw medical techs, and assumed somebody'd had an accident; but we also saw a K-9 unit, which isn't usually dispatched to an accident. But it sure is dispatched to a drug bust!