At down'a Shore venues, less is more

Steely Dan (that's Walter Becker on the left, Donald Fagen at right) will face just 1,600 fans in the acoustically superior Circus Maximus Theater at Caesars.
Steely Dan (that's Walter Becker on the left, Donald Fagen at right) will face just 1,600 fans in the acoustically superior Circus Maximus Theater at Caesars.
Posted: May 16, 2014

THE SEA, sand and saltwater taffy used to be the big lures to the shore. Now the major attraction is often the chance to see your favorite club or concert headliners "up-close-and-personal" in a smaller and oft-times more comfortable venue than you'll find the artists playing here in Philly.

A perfect case in point, playing both towns within days? Take, please, Big Act in a Smaller Room Lady Gaga. The dance-pop monster lorded last night at the 20,000-seat Wells Fargo Center. Come June 28, Gaga lands at the Boardwalk Hall Arena, which holds, at most, 13,800. And, yeah, the former A.C. Convention Hall is the very largest (and oldest) venue at the Jersey Shore town.

Love the hipster jazz-rock of Steely Dan? Last summer the dudes hit the Mann Center, to play for 4,700 fans under cover and about as many stuck outside in the pouring rain (very sorry 'bout that.) Come Sept. 12, you could be reeling in the years with Messrs. Fagen, Becker and Co. at Caesars Atlantic City, playing the acoustically perfect Circus Maximus Theater, which boasts just 1,600 seats.

And you know how cool it seemed that soul-pop balladeer John Legend is playing our Kimmel Center next Tuesday, in the posh, 2,500-seat Verizon Hall? At the Shore, come May 25, the smoothie's squeezing no more than 1,000 warm bodies into the sonically sweet Music Box at the Borgata, the town's best concert treat.

Casinos have ways of luring big acts to smaller rooms. If the bookers are gambling sorts (ha!), talent might get paid more (in cash or chips) than in Philly on a per-head basis, based on the expected visitor "drop" at the tables and spending in restaurants and on hotel rooms.

Sometimes a casino will conjure up other methods for an act to score. After Legend's show in the Music Box, his swimsuit model-wife Chrissy Teigen will make a special visit to the resort's MIXX nightclub to "host" a Memorial Day Weekend dance party. Take whatever you think that appearance is really worth and multiply by a thousand.

Another ego boost that shore rooms can provide is a guaranteed full house. Does former teen star Avril Lavigne still have the rage and rant appeal to fill the 3,700-seat Borgata Event Center on June 27? Trust us, if she doesn't move the tickets, the Borgata will distribute the extras gratis to deserving gamblers (and, yeah, most of her fans are over 21 at this point.) How about Peter Frampton? It's been 30-plus years since "Frampton Comes Alive" and his Bicentennial JFK Stadium triumph. But at Harrah's Showroom, 1,300 warm bodies are all he needs (and will surely get) to put up a "sold out" sign.

Here's what's up and hopping in A.C.'s primo concert venues. Start marking your calendar.

Boardwalk Hall 13,700 seats

Comfort level: Not awful. Folding chairs are padded.

Acoustics: OK "arena" sound, some reverb toward the top.

Amenities: Plenty of toilets and food stands.

Coming attractions: Lady Gaga, June 28; Michael Buble, July 12; Queen with Adam Lambert, July 26; KISS and Def Leppard, Aug. 2; Cirque Du Soleil's "Varekai," Aug. 20-24; Aerosmith and Slash, Aug. 31.

Borgata Events Center 3,700 seats

Comfort level: Decent sight lines in center sections of the ultrawide, flat-floored (front) and raised-rear venue.

Acoustics: Good.

Amenities: Don't have to wander far for bathrooms, lobby bar.

Coming Attractions:Il Divo, tomorrow; Russell Peters, May 24; Carlos Santana, June 13-14; Hall & Oates, June 20; Avril Lavigne, June 27; Counting Crows and Toad The Wet Sprocket, June 28; Kevin James, July 5; John Mellencamp, July 6; Crosby, Stills & Nash, July 12; Jeff Dunham, July 13 (matinee and evening); Keith Urban, July 17; John Fogerty, July 19; Wayans Bros., July 20; Darius Rucker, July 25; George Lopez, July 26; Jim Gaffigan, Aug. 16 (two shows); Chicago and REO Speedwagon, Aug. 22.

Borgata Music Box 1,000 seats

Acoustics: Arguably best in town.

Comfort level: Stepped-up, bowled-in seats assure a fine view from all locations.

Amenities: Near bathrooms, lobby bar.

Coming Attractions: Anthony Jeselnik, tomorrow; Monkees, May 23; Billy Gardell, May 24; John Legend, May 25; Wanda Sykes, May 31 (two shows); Fitz & the Tantrums, June 6; Chris Robinson Brotherhood, June 7; Mark Birbiglia, June 28; truTV Impractical Jokers, June 28; Dennis Miller, July 11; Gary Clark Jr., July 12; John Hiatt & The Combo and Robert Cray Band, July 18; Jim Jeffries, July 19; Art Garfunkel, July 25; The Fray, July 26; Lewis Black, Aug. 1-2; Howie Mandel, Aug. 22;

Caesars Atlantic City 1,600 seats

Comfort level: Seats as comfy as your easy chair.

Acoustics: Shouldn't miss a thing.

Amenities: Nearby bathrooms - a good thing given the beverage service at seats.

Coming Attractions:Chelsea Handler, May 25; The Band Perry, May 31; Terry Fator, June 7; Diana Ross, June 20; Ringo Starr All-Stars, June 21; Steely Dan, Sept. 12.

Mark Etess Arena at Trump Taj Mahal 9,000 seats

Comfort level: Spartan. Best on the floor if you stay centered, better on raised bleachers in the rear (not to the sides).

Acoustics: Plenty of overhead speakers blasting.

Amenities: Nearby bathrooms, two bars.

Coming Attractions: Phil Vasser, June 14; Yakof Smirnoff, June 26; "The Voice" Tour, July 5; Sugar Ray, Blues Traveler, Smash Mouth and Uncle Kracker, July 26; Rod Stewart, Aug. 23; Travis Tritt, Sept. 13.

Golden Nugget Showroom 500 seats

Comfort Level: Plush theater-style seating.

Acoustics: Even-tempered.

Amenities: Pretty close.

Coming Attractions: Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, May 23; BJ Thomas, Gary Puckett, June 21; Gordie Brown, July 4-6, 9-13; Chazz Palminteri "A Bronx Tale," July 12; Bobby Vinton, Aug. 9; Aaron Lewis, Aug. 30.

Harrah's Showroom 1,300 seats

Comfort level: Posh.

Acoustics: Good.

Amenities: Lots of bathrooms, big garage.

Coming Attractions:Penn & Teller, tomorrow; Paul Reiser, May 22; Smokey Robinson, May 24; Tom Cotter, May 29; The Purple Experience: Prince Tribute, June 5; Trace Adkins, June 7; Who's Bad: Michael Jackson Tribute, June 12; Jeff Foxworthy, June 13; Real Diamond: Neil Diamond Tribute, June 19; Divas Las Vegas, June 21-22; Brass Transit: Tribute To Chicago, June 26; Isley Brothers, June 27; Bob Newhart, June 28; Peter Frampton, July 6; Le Noir . . . The Dark Side of Cirque, July 9-27; Straight No Chaser, Aug. 2-12; Michael McDonald and Toto, Sept. 6.

House of Blues at Showboat 1,100 person capacity

Comfort level: Gotta stand downstairs; for seating, head to the balcony. Small stage requires neck craning from some viewing angles.

Acoustics: Cranked to 11.

Amenities: You'll never be thirsty again.

Coming Attractions:Neon Trees, tonight; Little Big Town, May 24; Billy Idol, May 31; David Alan Grier and Tommy Davidson, June 14; George Thorogood, June 19; Summerland tour with Everclear, Soul Asylum, Eve 6, June 21; Huey Lewis and the News, July 11; moe., July 20.

Revel Ovation Hall 5,500 seats

Comfort level: Feels like an intimate, Vegas-style event space, with raked balcony seats offering a great view even from the back row.

Acoustics: Can hear a (bowling) pin drop.

Amenities: OK, although exit strategy via escalators is slow.

Coming Attractions:Bill Cosby, tomorrow; Death Cab for Cutie, May 25; Morrissey, June 6; Avett Brothers, June 7; Live, June 20; Pat Benatar, July 5; Sublime plus Rome, July 11; Prince Royce, Aug. 30; Gipsy Kings, Sept. 5.

Revel: The Social 700 capacity

Comfort level: Intimate two-level theater/lounge with circular design.

Acoustics: Loud.

Amenities: Bars everywhere.

Coming Attractions:The Wailers and Rusted Root, May 24.

Tropicana Showroom 2,000 seats

Comfort level: "Broadway style" theater.

Acoustics: Top rate.

Amenities: Where they should be.

Coming Attractions: Blondie, May 24; Blue Oyster Cult, May 31; Theresa Caputo, June 28-29; Burton Cummings, July 5; Dana Carvey, July 11; Dom Irrera, Aug. 2; KC & the Sunshine Band, Aug. 16; Creedence Clearwater Revisited, Aug. 23.



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