Jennifer Lopez promised she'd give us all that she had.
The Vegas residency frontier is an entirely different landscape now more than ever. Céline Dion paved the way for artists like Elton John, Rod Stewart and Bette Midler to perform routinely before a younger generation followed suit. Now, Vegas boasts residencies for Britney Spears, Bruno Mars, Pitbull and Jennifer Lopez, who kicked off her highly-anticipated All I Have show Wednesday night at the Axis Theatre inside Planet Hollywood where Spears has performed her Piece Of Me show for the past two years and counting. Lopez's tireless energy will facilitate another shift already happening on the Las Vegas strip, drawing in a younger audience who choose to spend their hard-earned cash on a famous booty rather than at the craps table.
Caesars Entertainment execs gambled with a JLo show, and they won big.
The line extended passed Britney Spears' merchandise store, around the corner and then some.
Fans with tickets for the General Admission pit surrounding the "JLO" shaped stage lined up hours ahead of the scheduled 9 p.m. show time for a chance to get as close to their idol as possible. Two 20-something year old guys raced ahead of me to secure their position behind the metal gate bordering the stage. They traveled from Miami on Tuesday.
I marveled at their commitment, speaking before thinking: 'Wow, that's intense.'
'It's JLo,' they quipped back with a look of confusion.
It dawned on me then that Lopez's star power is substantial... solidified when Justin Bieber waltzed in.
Fans had two hours of bedazzled outfits, stylized choreography, lasers and real-talk from Jenny on the block to look forward to.
“Vegas, there’s a new girl in town,” she announced after the initial jitters wore off during the opening number, 1999's "If You Had My Love." In true Lopez fashion, she swapped one fur coat for another mid-song, simltaneously illustrating her love of performance-based luxury and a reason for activists to light up BreatheHeavy's social media channels with distaste. She catwalked into "Love Don't Cost A Thing" then jazzed up her rendition of "Lot of Livin’" from the Bye Bye Birdie musical.
Lopez disappears for a bit backstage to throw on a lavish, jewel-encrusted pantsuit and matching Yankees cap – a glamorous reminder of her past life in the Bronx. She journeys to center stage on a 6 subway train surrounded by her dancers and yells “representing the Bronx!," before plunging into "Get Right" then the Murder Remix of "I'm Real" alongside Ja Rule, who cleared his schedule to perform not once but twice on stage. Her Bronx section allowed a moment of rest during "Feelin' So Good" before launching into "Jenny From The Block" where she and her male dancers (wearing baseball jerseys) wielded sticks – batting pretend fly balls into the audience. Talk about a home run!
"Let’s change the mood," a breathless JLo declares while slipping into something more comfortable.
With the help of a quick shoe change on stage, Lopez is now wearing her next ensemble for the Burlesque leg of the show: a shimmering turquoise-colored robe hiding her barely-there diamond-bikini underneath. It's a roller coaster of sin while she air-humps and writhes around the floor during "I'm Into You" then somersaults and straddles a chaise lounge during "Girls" / "If You Had My Love." A three-minute romp-shaking for "Booty" is next.
Following the raciest cuts of the show is a somber lull, allowing Lopez to slow the pace and catch her breath after energizing the crowd for an hour. In a loosely-scripted moment with the audience, Lopez candidly reveals why she chose to record "Feel The Light" from DreamWorks' animated film Home, dedicating the song to her twins Max and Emme, or “my coconuts, as I affectionately like to call them.” She also details the decision behind her cover of Lee Ann Womack's "I Hope You Dance," recalling how dance allows her to feel free and yearns for her children to experience that, too.
Fans are reminded JLo is human during the emotional ballads section, but moments later are whisked back into her hyper-famous alternate reality of super stardom when the Funk and Latin sections ignite the stage. Ja Rule re-emerges on-stage for the "Ain't It Funny" Murder Remix before she trades him out with Ne-Yo to duet Debra Laws' "Very Special" then her ballad "All I Have." Lopez takes the mic and claps overhead during 2007's "Hold It Don't Drop It" then segues into two covers: Celia Cruz's "Quimbara" and Pablo Beltan Ruiz's "Quien Será." With the pedal to the metal, JLo rounds out the Latin section with "Let's Get Loud," complete with a barrage of Jubilee-inspired feather sets and serious booty.
Lopez is nearing the All I Have finish line, and she's kept good on her word. Great, actually. A sea of green laser lights bombard the theatre while two shirtless, built male dancers manipulate the beams as a clubby house mix blares through the million dollar sound system. It leaves audiences enough time to gaze in awe ahead of Lopez's return for her last Rave section. Striking one dramatic pose after the next, Lopez soaks up every last minute of opening night in "Tens" then urges the crowd to stand up and dance during the closing numbers. “I’m a fan of all types of music,” Lopez assures us, then sings "Waiting for Tonight," "Dance Again" and the show's finale, "On the Floor" with surprise guest Pitbull.
“I’ve been preparing for this my whole life,” Lopez said recently of the show. After realizing I unapologetically escaped my reality for an evening alongside 4000 strangers, I'd say Lopez's life's work paid off.
"Rockin' this business," indeed.