Las Vegas is home to many of the best musicians and performers and in the world.
These artists play shows night after night on the Las Vegas Strip. Casino showrooms are loaded with great singers, guitarists, piano players, trumpet players, backup vocalists, string players, and drummers.
But let’s face it. Playing the same set of songs night after night gets old pretty quick. No matter how great the show is, these are supremely-talented performers with creative minds. Everyone needs to break the mold on occasion.
Incredibly, several of Las Vegas’ top musicians — virtually all of whom play the expensive headliner shows at the biggest casinos — gather from time to time and put on an impromptu jamming session. Led by longtime bandleader and trumpeter Lon Bronson, his “All-Star Band” often has a dozen or more of the best session musicians in the city on a single stage.
I mean, where else can you see a show with a ten-piece horn section in a showroom that holds a couple of hundred people?
The band sure isn’t doing this for the money.
That’s because — the show is free.
That’s right — FREE.
In a throwback to the good old days of yesteryear when Las Vegas casinos really understood the entertainment business, when they packed their lounges with some of the best acts in the world and then invited everyone to flood in and enjoy the party at no cost (aside from the added gambling revenue), Stations Casinos has decided to revive that old formula.
Writer’s Note: This is the conclusion of a three-part series. What follows are the two WORST pop-rock performances I have ever seen.
SECOND WORST ROCK PERFORMANCE OF ALL-TIME — BOB DYLAN AT PLANET HOLLYWOOD IN LAS VEGAS — 2006:
It’s hard to believe, but Bob Dylan actually won a Grammy for “Album of the Year” for the rubbish that was piled onto the stage during the first and only time I ever saw him perform live in concert.
He was FUCKING AWFUL.
For the 90 or so minutes I had the misfortune of being in his presence, Dylan was disinterested. Disconnected. Arrogant. Thoroughly unprofessional in every sense. There is not one positive thing I can say about this dismal experience, except seeing the EXIT sign on my way out. That’s right. I walked out. It was a maddening waste of time and money.
The venue was Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas — an almost-perfect arena to see one of America’s last true musical icons.
Mike Paulle (the great poker writer) got us two premium seats in advance. Right before the lights when down and the show was to begin, Mike leaned over to me and revealed how special this moment was in his life — that he just wanted to be there as if completing some kind of pilgrimage. Mike was there to pray to the Zimmerman god, raise his hands high into the air, and say “thank you” to the great Dylan for all the magical music that had been given to him, his generation, and the world over five decades.
Indeed. This wasn’t so much a rock concert as it was a pagen moment of worship.
As things turned out, we ultimately discovered that we’d been worshiping a false god all along.
I’m a changed man.
Moments ago, I thought I knew what to write today.
I thought I knew what to say, and how to say it.
Then, via Facebook, my longtime friend Scott Byron tuned me onto Lee Jones’ personal website and his narrative remembrance of seeing Bruce Springsteen in concert for the very first time. Whatever illusions I had about writing amatuerish music commentary and reviewing concerts has now been shattered.
Check out Lee Jones’ very moving and heartfelt reflections after seeing Bruce Springsteen perform in London a few months ago. It’s an awesome recollection and just as good a written report of the experience. Perhaps I identified with his review more than others, since (like Lee) I’ve never actually seen Springsteen perform live — which I’m told automatically disqualifies me from even thinking about creating a “best of” list. LINK: LEE JONES’ REVIEW OF BRUCE SPINRGSTEEN CONCERT IN LONDON (2012)
Admitedly humbled by Lee’s impressions of that seemingly legendary performance, allow me now to launch into something completely different. As pomised, today I’ll be sharing my most disappointing concert experiences. This list applies exclusively to pop/rock acts. I shall cover lesser-known performers, international music, and Las Vegas shows at another time. You won’t want to miss my “best and worst” of the Las Vegas shows. In fact, I can’t write to write that one.
But first — before proceeding, I’d like to ammend yesterday’s “BEST SHOWS” list with a few additions. That list was created in a few hours. Inevitably, I knew I’d forget at least a show or two when I looked at the list again the next day — which is precisely what happened.
Overlooked from that list was Stevie Ray Vaughn, the late blues guitarist from Dallas. I’ve seen Vaughn perform with his band Double Trouble on three occasions — twice at the Wintergarten in Dallas and once in Washington, D.C. That show in the nation’s capital was special. In 1986, he played at the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Hall located on Constitution Avenue, right next to the monuments. Perhaps it was the surreal backdrop — the venue where all the military bands perform. But Stevie Ray took the stage and put on a set that was magical. One image comes to mind. You know how every concert there are police officers working security. I had bad seats to that show and was situated next to a crowd of D.C. police officers (needless to say, given the setting, this was probably the only drug-free rock concert ever). The cops couldn’t help themselves — they were jamming to the music. I’ve never seen that before — not for U2, not for The Who. But D.C.’s finest were enjoying that performance every bit as much as the crowd. If you love blues guitar as I do, this was one of the best concerts ever made even more memorable by the intimate setting.
We don’t necessarily move to great music. To the contrary.
Great music moves us.
I think most of us – at least those of a certain generation — think of music as a sort of “soundtrack to our lives.”
I love music. To me, music is not just heard. It’s experienced. It’s emotional. Music is felt.
Indeed, the greatest music moves us. It transforms us from one state of consciousness to another. At certain points in my life, I’ve heard powerful pieces of music and then afterward thought of myself as a changed person after hearing the composition. That’s the power of sound.
I swear — I’m not making this up.
A few days ago, a story appeared in the Las Vegas Review-Journal about a so-called “superstar DJ.”
I know. I had to do a doubletake on that one, too. “SUPERSTAR DJ.”
He reportedly earned $2 million last year.
Just in case you don’t get it — a “superstar DJ” is a personality (I cringe at the notion of celebrity) who is invited to a special event — usually a hot nightclub opening or swim party — to come in and (hold your breath) spin records.
That’s right — spin records. As in pop a few LPs on a turntable and pump up the volume.
Which begs the first question — wouldn’t it be a helluva’ lot easier to just load up a few CDs, hit the “play” button, and watch the dancing begin? In the ecstasy-laced fantasyland of velvet ropes, VIP lines, and $22 cocktails, you think anyone in these high-priced insane asylums would know the fucking difference?
So, like I said — the “superstar DJ” shows up on a busy Friday or Saturday night and plays club music. You know what I’m talking about — that inpenatrable thunder of batshit with the bass turned up so fucking loud your eardrums explode. You know, that techno-jizz created by pre-programmed software. You know, that mindless industrial gunk played so goddamned loud you can’t even hear the person next to you screaming in your ear. Then again, maybe that’s the appeal.
I’m told these clubs are little more than meat markets. How anyone actually picks up someone in one of these places is a complete mystery. I mean, what’s a the typical opening line, “What a nice girl like you doing in a shithole like this?”
Stick with me. There’s a punch line coming.