You cannot go to Las Vegas without seeing a magic show, an illusionist, some high-profile legerdemain –this is the conclusion after having had dinner accompanied by a celebrity magician even I heard of back in Europe without following casting shows like America’s got Talent: The famous Shimshi jumped acrobatically around the stage, played mind games with the audience and took pieces out of his assistant – in tidy cubes, the audience ate while watching after all. This half-an-hour performance was an appetizer though embedded in a corporate meal and we can only imagine how much better Shimshi would have been on his own stage, at his own show during an evening dedicated to him. We have developed a taste for more – more mind-blowing action, more astonishment and for this reason we decide to see Criss Angel, the Mindfreak.
Even without being a frequent TV viewer I have heard of him and as I spent the first night in Las Vegas in his residence hotel, the pyramid-shaped Luxor with its own Sphinx and Egyptian-style obelisk, I know where to head to. The Luxor and the Bellagio, where I am now, both belong to the same hotel chain and the concierge provides me with a tidy print out of all shows happening in Vegas this very week – it is probably the most useful piece of paper I have received while being here. Even though Criss Angel does two evening shows on most days, he has also two well-deserved days off each week so feel free to be flexible when wanting to see a show in Vegas (but do not be too spontaneous). I got stung the night before when I decided after dinner to see the late performance of Cirque Du Soleil’s water circus show O in the Bellagio but had to learn that this was one of two days a week where no performance takes place.
Talking of the Cirque: Criss Angel and the Blue Man Group share a flyer with Cirque Du Soleil’s permanent five shows here in Vegas – besides O and Zumanity (which I reviewed here a couple of nights ago) are also playing the Michael Jackson homage One, Mystère, KÀ and the Beatles tribute show Love of which I saw the making of on DVD only earlier this month.
The Luxor hotel is on the other end of the hyperactive Las Vegas Strip and this means only a short taxi journey. We have underestimated the traffic lights though and could not be more on time tonight, therefore we do not spend too much time in the lobby admiring the decoration: Displayed are fantastic motorbikes which you almost expect Lady Gaga to morph out, beautifully crafted show costumes in which you imagine Edward Scissorhands or Alice Cooper. Cages and cobwebbed chandeliers hang from the ceiling.
Inside, the red curtains are surrounded by top-hatted rabbits of matt-golden and rusty copper clog work and a huge clock showing thirteen hours. Its Victorian neo-gothic style would fit well into a film based on the computer game Alice: Madness Returns by American McGee (of which I am secretly waiting for years) – both the top hat and the rabbit are established symbols for magic shows and we are indeed reminded of both the Mad Hatter, the March Hare, maybe also of Donnie Darko. On each side of the stage is a balcony and an e-guitarist on each will add well-suited heavy metal riffs to the evening.
While the audience find their seats a video introduces us to the spectacular career path of Criss Angel, beginning with child hood home videos in which first magic tricks are being performed, him visiting Houdini’s grave and mastering the art of the famous escapologist with footage of him breaking the world record for human time under water with newspapers reporting on H20dini, followed by countless prizes and TV shows, his stunts always attracting crowds. MTV seems to be involved a lot respectively and mostly responsible for generating Criss Angel’s massive, loyal fanbase – they call themselves Loyals. The signature illusion is the hover lift in which people are literally moved up freely and the Luxor advertises Criss Angel’s Mindfreak show with him hovering above its illuminated pyramid in a beam of light.
The intro is followed by a comedy warm up of Mexican wannabe trickster Maestro and his sloppy assistant Fifi who are not getting tired of making fun of the Blue Man Group who are also performing in the Luxor pyramid (upstairs, next door to Starbucks, a strip club and the hotel’s own wedding chapel).
Then Criss Angel arrives on stage and welcomes the audience (his second performance today) and I have rarely come across someone so charismatic on stage; please, call me a Loyal immediately.
There is heavy use of wind and fog machines today, lots of pyro technique, lasers and a whole crew of sparsely dressed, ridiculously good-looking assistants and dancers in fabulous, sometimes scary costumes and masks.
We see the classic variety tricks included in every magician’s repertoire: The doves, the cards, the coins, the escapes… but here everything is on steroids like in a high-budget wrestling mega event with emo nightmare aesthetics.
There are standing ovations in the middle of the show and all of a sudden Criss Angel stands next to us, appeared from nowhere and the whole theatre gasps. I feel like I want to pass out, I am seriously that excited.
Through the set the audience is given a break with a video accompanied with a less noisy performance, but this is by no means less emotional – the Johnny Crisstopher Children’s Charitable Foundation collects money to cure to raise awareness of pediatric cancer, providing funds for research, treatment, and ultimately a cure. The film is a tear jerker but an honest one, and I do not believe anyone is unmoved by it, especially after having spent almost a week here in this crazy, plastic, hysterical city in the middle of the Nevada desert, this Disneyland for adults with no worries other than a stolen (or admittingly possibly misplaced) purse, including luckily only cash and easily cancelled credit cards.
Criss Angel claims that his show Mindfreak will be hosted in the Luxor for 10 years in October – and that he will afterwards do something else somewhere else. I see the thought bubble hovering above my head, hoping that this includes a tour stop in London.
The next morning I am taking a helicopter ride above the Gran Canyon – I have never been in a helicopter before and did not see much of Nevada from above on the flight to Vegas; hypnotized by the almost Martian landscape I am thinking about Jim Morrisson, Winnetou, photographer Peter Lik, Playmobil, dinosaurs and of course the meaning of life. But my thoughts repeatedly drag to last night: How did Criss Angel walk in the air? I am mindfreaked. And loyally yours.
***** out of 5 stars
Mindfreak Live! by Criss Angel was the resident show at the Luxor Resort until October 2018 and has now moved within Las Vegas.
For more about his charity work visit https://crissangelhelp.com/
The tickets were bought on the day at the Bellagio hotel with the guest loyalty card M Life Rewards: I paid for Criss Angel Mindfreak Live! for seat 25 in row M $106.25 (total).