By Alex Lloyd Gross
Parx Casino has always had entertainment. From tribute bands to comedy shows at Parx 360. However, a brand new music venue opened tonight inside the casino. It’s called the Xcite Center. It’s an entertainment venue on steroids. The band Chicago was asked to headline the opening night and boy did they ever. The evening started with a ribbon cutting, that included members of the band coming out to help cut the ribbon. As they entered the casino, the band members shook a few hands but spent less than 10 minutes at the ribbon cutting. It was a short ceremony. It’s a large intimate room. While that makes no sense, it is the best way to describe it. Think Keswick Theater with no upstairs. This place seats just under 2000 people.
As the 8:00 PM showtime neared, the hall was less than a quarter of the way full. People were outside in the new poker room, or at a nearby television, watching the Philadelphia Eagles trounce the Falcons. After the nail biter of a game, the room filled quickly. by 8:05 PM the show had started. There would be no opening act. This was Chicago, right in front of the crowd, in Bensalem. This was a pure greatest hits show. “Feeling Stronger Everyday”, “Beginnings” “Saturday Afternoon In the Park” were all played. The show lasted 90 minutes.
Chicago were on a multi level stage, with the second tier reserved for drums and Keyboards. The Xcite center was developed for music and live shows. It has a built in stage with state of the art lighting. The sound system is clear. It’s just loud enough to be heard without walking out of the show with your ears hurting. As Chicago took care of business, staff were looking for for problems to be corrected later.. The only thing is, there were none. The ticket scanners worked fine, the staff was friendly and the view was decent. The only improvement would be to put the seats on an incline, so you are above the person in front of you. This was considered a “soft opening”.
Chicago have been around 50 years.This region is no stranger to them. They played many venues, some of them have since dissapeared. The Valley Forge Music Fair, The Spectrum, and most recently the outdoor place in Camden NJ which is still very much there. As members Robert Lamm, and Ray Herrmann took care of the respective levels of the stage, the rest of the band was spot on and tight. During the final numbers, the band invited the fans to come forward, and may did. As songs like “I’m a man” were played, the crowd was able to lean on the stage.
Band members walked over, shook hands with them and handed out guitar picks towards the end of the show. There was one encore 25 or 6 to 4.
Some things about the venue you need to know.:
No food is allowed in. There is no place to buy snacks or drinks inside the venue. You can leave, get your hand stamped and return. Places to eat and drink are inside the casino. Clean restrooms are located to the left of the building, looking towards the stage.
The staff is welcoming. Cameras with no flash are permitted. That may change depending on a individual artist. One casino up north employ gestapo tactics including shining flashlights on fans that take a cell phone photo. Fans have been ejected there. They get horrible reviews on social media. Not here. The people at Parx want you to come back and spend more money. They know you do that when you have a good time, and grabbing a photo from your seat is a sure fire way to show everyone what a great time you are having. Parx employees get that and work to insure guests have a good time.
If you purchase a meet and greet, there are rooms designated for that purpose. The merchandise and will call window is just outside the center, to the right. The Xcite Center is located in the rear of the main Casino, near Chickie and Petes. You enter the building, walk past all of the slots and table games and restaurants to get to the concert venue. After the show, you have to pass them by again in order to leave. People are hungry and will probably stop if the lines are not that long. A meal can cost about $10.00 up to about $100.00 depending on where you go.
As Chicago were closing their set, they wished Parx well and hope to come back. Upcoming shows include 3rd Eye Blind. Jim Breuer, Reba McIntyre, and Paul Rogers . You can go here to buy tickets or get more information.