Colin Cowie on Cosmopolitan's Jay-Z/Coldplay New Year's Blowout: "Budget Was Not the Chief Concern"
Of anywhere on the planet, Las Vegas is known for its blowout New Year's Eve bashes. But taking the prize as the city's hottest-ticket events to ring in 2011—and some might also say the death knell of the recession—was a multiday program to open the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, topped off with a mashup Jay-Z and Coldplay concert. Working with the venue's director of entertainment and special events, Rehan Choudry, Colin Cowie oversaw the production.
"Budget was not the chief concern, not at all," said Cowie of the blowout. "I haven't had a budget to work with like this in a long time. What Chelsea Clinton's wedding did for families, giving people permission to spend money [conspicuously] again, this event will do for corporate event marketers."
The days-long event began with a welcome reception for the attendees—all staying in the new property, which opened to guests on December 15—on Thursday evening at the property's multistory Chandelier, a bar built to look like a towering crystalline chandelier. Guests then moved on to dinner at any of the property's signature restaurants from big-name chefs like José Andrés and David Myers, and then to club Marquee for a performance by Florence and the Machine.
The next evening, New Year's Eve, began with a luxe 7:30 p.m. caviar and Dom Pérignon reception billed as black-tie, which many female guests translated to sequins. Celebrities mingled amid the crowd, which then moved to dinner in a ballroom the production team had been building out for weeks. The formal, sit-down event for 1,300 involved recarpeting the ballroom and bringing in a complete custom installation including an elevated platform around the dining room and a round stage in the middle, where Florence again performed, as did Ben Folds.
Some of the tables—a mix of square and banquet—were clad in purple mirror, others in silver mirror. Peonies and dark purple calla lilies filled the space. Cowie called the look "very chic, very elegant, very sexy," and described the decor as the highlight of the weekend from a production standpoint. "The manufacture of the tables, the look and feel of the New Year's dinner—I didn't want people to feel for one second like they were in the dining room in a sea of tables. I reinvented the whole table experience with a really extravagant use of extraordinary materials. What you'd be doing for a dinner party for 50 to 60 people in your house, we did for over 1,000."
After dinner, guests moved upstairs to a 40,000-square-foot ballroom (the property's existing nightspots weren't big enough to accommodate the 2,300 concert guests), which Cowie's team built out into a full-scale nightclub. There were elevated V.I.P. areas, about 20 mirror balls in the middle of the dance floor, confetti canons galore, and a major stage for solo and mash-up performances by billed artists Coldplay and Jay-Z, who additionally brought on a host of guests including Beyonce and Kanye West that resembled a Grammy lineup.
Amid an overwhelmingly excited atmosphere, guests lapped up the show until 2 a.m., at which point many moved to Marquee—where more surprise guests like Rihanna took the mic into the daylight hours.
For the grand opening weekend, New York-based Strategic Group—the people behind Marquee, as well as Lavo and Tao—advised on and secured Jay-Z and Coldplay to perform on New Years Eve, as well as confirmed West on the day of the event and arranged for a private jet a few hours before. The collaboration was officially called "Viva La Hov featuring Coldplay and Jay-Z," and was meant to illustrate the resort's approach to creating a unique luxury experience. Revelers on the strip were also able to view the event by way of the digital marquee.
The next day, Cowie said, guests "rested their livers," and got ready for a big barbecue lunch on the pool deck, set with redwood tables, fiery barbecues, and ping-pong tables. The crowd was bundled up against cold air in the 30s, but kept warm with heaters and plush blankets—not to mention specialty hot toddies at the bars. Mavis Staples performed on a stage behind the pool. Other events during the weekend included daily catered brunches and hospitality suites for mid-day cocktails, plus a pair of New Year's Day workouts by celebrity trainer Jackie Warner, for those willing (not to mention sober and awake enough) to start their resolutions.
The production for the New Year's Eve weekend events began in June, which Cowie described as already late. "The production team was huge, massive—not to mention the logistics, V.I.P. services, arranging for all the guests to be met, gift bags in the rooms, check points, human arrows showing the way. I've really specialized in hotel openings, and it's something we do well," he said.
Of the event's style, Cowie said, "It all starts with the hotel. The hotel is completely on brand. There's nothing at all Steve Wynn or Encore or Las Vegas about the hotel. It's very urban, innovative, chic, boutique. So as a result we took the approach of doing something very tailored, tasteful, but not at all garish." The property on the Strip between CityCenter and the Bellagio has 2,995 rooms; a nightclub and lounge; 150,000 square feet of convention and banquet facilities; restaurants; a 50,000-square-foot spa, salon, and fitness center; 60,000 square feet of retail space; 100,000 square feet of casino; and three pool areas.
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