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The Venue, August 8, 2009

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The Venue
This concert took place at The Venue, which is located in the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Indiana. The Horseshoe opened in 1996 as the Empress Hammond, and became the Horseshoe Casino in 2001 when Jack Binion purchased it. Harrah's became the new owner in 2004. A major renovation was completed in 2008, and this is when The Venue was added.

Up until 2008, the Horseshoe had a traditional boat on site for gambling. When they did their renovation, they removed this boat and installed a new one that looks like a building. Under Indiana law, a casino must not only be on water, it must be on a navigable vessel. So technically, this huge building could be unhooked from its moorings and sailed around Lake Michigan!

The casino complex consists of two large parking garages, one large gambling room, a few smaller rooms, several restaurants and a nightclub. The Venue opened in August 2008 with an inaugural concert by Bette Midler.

The Concert
This was an excellent and very enjoyable show! As with most casino shows, the full setlist was not played. Late Lament, Never Comes The Day and Lean On Me were left out, and there was no intermission. Apparently, this is done at the request of the venue....I guess they want everyone out of the concert hall and onto the floor, spending (and losing) money! I don't think I care for this practice, however. I feel a bit cheated.

The shortened show caused a bit of confusion when it came time to do The Other Side Of Life. Justin and John consulted with each other briefly, and Justin looked around with a perplexed look on his face. He asked, "Are we doing TOSOL?" They agreed amongst themselves that yes, they were doing TOSOL, and they launched into the song. I have a feeling they had intended to leave this one out, too, but lucky us! ....they kept it in.

Justin's voice sounded wonderful, as usual. He wiped his nose a few times, and his voice cracked a few times, so it's possible that he was coming down with one of his colds that he always seems to get when he's on tour.

At one point, when the audience was quiet and the band was just about to start another song, a guy in the center section about four rows back shouted out, "You guys sound absolutely awesome!" This got a round of laughter and cheers from the crowd.

During Graeme's introduction to Higher & Higher, he mentioned that The Venue had opened just one year ago that very night, with a concert by Bette Midler. Graeme remarked that the casino wanted a group of the same "stature" to play at the one-year anniversary, and then he looked down at his chest and gestured comically, as if something was missing!

The fog machines were definitely working overtime. They were turned on full-tilt during some of the slower songs, and they totally obscured any view of Bernie, Graeme, Gordy and Paul. The fog billowed around Justin's and John's legs before pouring over the edge of the stage to engulf the first few rows of the audience. It did make for some very beautiful lighting effects, however, such as heavenly light rays shining down through the fog.

The new graphics on the screen behind the band were very impressive. Periodically, a live camera view was shown on the screen, and sometimes it was made to swirl around with the psychedelic graphics. During Graeme's drum solo in Higher & Higher, the screen showed him playing in closeup, surrounded by cool sparks of lightning. During the very long standing ovation for Nights In White Satin, the camera panned the audience. At the end of the show, credits scrolled upwards on the screen.

Justin appeared to be in a good mood, and he was quite smiley. I enjoyed the new additions to the setlist, especially Driftwood and Justin playing the keyboard on The Day We Meet Again.

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