Cue the curtain, San Diego — it’s showtime!
Every week, the region’s casinos play host to major musical acts, beloved tribute bands, vintage favorites, nationally known comedians and global entertainment stars, drawing thousands of fans to the resorts’ ample arenas, intimate theaters and outdoor stages.
In the coming weeks alone, San Diego audiences can choose from appearances by Sting and Shaggy, Lee Ann Womack, Ken Jeong, Carlos Mencia, Ken “Babyface” Edmonds, Boz Scaggs, Paul Anka, Patti LaBelle, Aaron Lewis, Trevor Noah, Jon Pardi, O.A.R., Ramón Ayala, Paula Abdul, Billy Ocean, Fitz and The Tantrums, Lonestar and Los Tigres del Norte.
“It’s constantly growing, (and) it’s constantly expanding,” said Brian Cronenwett, the entertainment manager for Pechanga Resort & Casino, about the concert scene at area casinos.
Among the amenities offered by today’s modern casino, including spas and golf courses, few have the dazzling, popular appeal — or reach — of a headlining performance.
“Entertainment brings people to the property who have never been here, and for our core customers, they tell us it’s a reason for them to come back, so it works both ways,” Cronenwett said. “It brings people back to the property, and it introduces people to the property.”
The entertainment options at nearly every casino in the San Diego region are pretty much non-stop, with live music at bars, lounges, nightclubs, gaming floor stages, comedy clubs and performance areas.
But at the six area casinos sporting major theaters — Casino Pauma, Harrah’s Resort Southern California, Pala Casino Spa & Resort, Pechanga, Sycuan Casino and Viejas Casino & Resort — concert-goers will find new or recently upgraded venues outfitted with state-of-the-art sound systems, arena-worthy stage lighting and various audience-pleasing perks.
At Viejas Casino’s Concerts in the Park, for example, there are five bars: one in each direction and one in the middle to keep the lines from getting too long, said Anthony San Pietro, Viejas’ vice president of entertainment and advertising.
San Pietro said attendees have been pleased with a particular change made this year at the 2,500-seat outdoor concert area.
“We’ve got much wider, much more comfortable folding chairs now. The industry standard is 15 inches and ours are 20 inches,” he said. “We had gotten complaints about (the smaller ones), so we sacrificed seating to make people more comfortable. They’re much wider and deeper and the rows are wider. We lost a few hundred seats, but we’re OK with that if people are happy.”
If seeing a show at a casino — and maybe grabbing a bite and hitting the tables while you’re there — sound like just your ticket, here’s a guide to the larger concert venues.
Venue: Pauma Pavilion
That’s the ticket: Pauma’s brand-new, year-round entertainment pavilion has 300 more seats than the older tent it replaced and an all-new sound system.
Featured upcoming performance: Ramón Ayala, the multiple Grammy-winning Mexican norteño legend who is known as “The King of the Accordion.” (Sept. 14; 8 p.m.)
More information: casinopauma.com/entertainment
Harrah’s Resort Southern California
Venue: The Events Center
Seating: 2,200 for a fully seated show; 3,000 general admission, with a riser
That’s the ticket: Harrah’s Resort SoCal features a L’Acoustic audio system, which focuses sound coverage directly on the audience, and jumbo 16-by-20 foot 4K resolution screens.
Featured upcoming performance: Sting & Shaggy, an island-inspired musical mash-up featuring the British genre-crossing star and the Jamaican singer. (Oct. 16; 8 p.m.)
More information: harrahssocal.com/events
Pala Casino Spa & Resort
Venues: Starlight Theater (outdoor) and Pala Events Center (indoors)
Seating: 2,451 (Starlight); 2,200 (Pala Events Center)
That’s the ticket: Pala’s new Tourmaline pool complex has two private, VIP luxury cabanas right off the Starlight Theater stage that can be rented during performances, offering prime access.
Featured upcoming performance: Comedian Ken Jeong, best known as the hilarious Mr. Chow from “The Hangover” series, is a real-life doctor who currently co-stars in “Crazy Rich Asians.” (Sept. 22, 7:30 p.m.)
More information: palacasino.com/entertainment
Pechanga Resort & Casino
Venues: Pechanga Theater and Pechanga Summit
Seating: 1,200 (Pechanga Theater); 3,000-plus (Pechanga Summit)
That’s the ticket: The 40,000-square-foot Pechanga Summit, part of the casino resort’s recent $300 million expansion, also hosts sporting events such as championship boxing and MMA that broadcast live on HBO, ESPN, FSN, Spike TV and other networks.
Featured upcoming performance: Trevor Noah, the South African comedian and author of “Born a Crime,” recently scored his first Emmy nomination as host of “The Daily Show.” (Dec. 14, 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.)
More information: pechanga.com/entertain
Venue: Live & Up Close
That’s the ticket: The ultra-intimate venue, which offers Club Sycuan members 20 percent off tickets bought at the Live & Up Close box office, will be joined by a significantly larger event space in 2019 when the resort’s expansion is complete.
Featured upcoming performance: Fitz and The Tantrums, a six-member, L.A.-based indie pop group that the Los Angeles Times said “is the kind of band that communicates best in concert.” (Oct. 12, 8 p.m.)
More information: sycuan.com/events
Venues: Concerts in the Park (outdoor) and The Oak Ballroom (indoor)
Seating: 2,500 seated, 3,500 general admission (Concerts in the Park); 1,040 seated, 1,700 general admission (The Oak Ballroom)
That’s the ticket: The two performance spaces have both been recognized with “Orchids” for design excellence by the San Diego Architectural Foundation (SDAF).
Featured upcoming performance: Lee Ann Womack, the country songstress with the purest pipes this side of Nashville, brings her melodic take on Americana to San Diego. (Oct. 12, 8 p.m.)
More information: viejas.com/entertainment
Casino-chella: Concerts in the desert
It’s cooling off (somewhat) in the desert and that means it’s time for the casino entertainment season to heat up. Three casino resorts in the Palm Springs area offer top headliner acts at their entertainment venues. Here’s a look.
Agua Caliente Casino Resort & Spa
This full-scale resort boasts a top-of-the-line venue, The Show, with 2,057 ultra-comfy luxury seats.
Coming up: Luis Miguel (Sept. 7, sold out); Mel Brooks (Sept. 29); Sting & Shaggy (Oct. 12); Toby Keith (Oct. 27); Don Henley (Nov. 2); Johnny Mathis (Nov. 17); José Feliciano (Dec. 6) and Penn & Teller (Dec. 7).
Details: 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage. (760) 321-2000. hotwatercasino.com
Fantasy Springs Resort Casino
The golf resort hosts major acts on a grand scale at its 3,500 Special Events Center.
Coming up: Martina McBride (Sept. 8); TLC & En Vogue (Sept.15); Boz Scaggs (Oct.19); Christina Aguilera (Oct.24); Rascal Flatts (Nov. 2); Diana Krall (Nov. 3); Paula Abdul (Nov. 17); Brian Setzer Orchestra (Dec. 21).
Details: 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio. (760) 342-5000. fantasyspringsresort.com
Morongo Casino Resort & Spa
The hard-to-miss 27-story casino resort has a relatively intimate showroom, located in the ballroom, with about 1,050 seats.
Coming up: Australia’s Thunder From Down Under (Sept. 6-7); The Mavericks and Los Lobos (Sept. 14); Boy George and Culture Club, The B-52s and Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey (Sept. 28); Cheech & Chong (Nov. 16).
Details: 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon. (951) 849-3080. morongocasinoresort.com