Last night, Italian blues singer Zucchero played his first Las Vegas gig in 15 years. He performed at House of Blues, an intimate concert venue inside Mandalay Bay.
To say this was one of the musical highlights of the year (for me) would be an monumental understatement. I own everything put out by Zucchero since his career first began in the mid-1980s, including his latest album release titled Bassa, which includes live sessions performed last year in Cuba with some of the best (and least-known) musicians in the world.
Zucchero, which means “sugar” in Italian (real name: Adelmo Fornaciari), brings it, and then gives it. He loves what he does, which is obvious from his two-hour sets and plenty of unexpected and unrehearsed impromptu show-stopping moments. There’s no lip-syncing in this show. It’s entirely authentic from start to finish. He’s not the best singer, or guitar player, or pianist, of course. But combine his passion with the gift of melody and he’s the real deal. At last night’s House of Blues show, he essentially performed every song we wanted to hear, then stayed for three encores.
Virtually unknown inside the United States, Zucchero is enormously popular over in Europe, especially his native Italy and throughout Eastern Europe. He’s performed duets with everyone from Luciano Pavarotti to John Lee Hooker (before they died, obviously). ZUCCHERO’S OFFICIAL WEBSITE
Last night, a group of us went to The Golden Steer.
Located west of The Strip on Sahara Blvd., The Golden Steer is Las Vegas’ quintessential old-world steakhouse. First opened in 1958, it was the regular hangout for members of the famed Rat Pack. Frank, Sammy, Dean, and their pals even had their own plush red-leather booth near the front entrance (which still remains the most requested table in the house).
As expected, the background music inside the dining room was exclusively from the mid-1950’s. The set list included popular tunes we’ve all heard countless times before on hundreds of occasions. Old-fashioned steakhouses, traditional Italian restaurants, and other upscale venues catering to older clientele (with money) usually pipe in a steady stream of these old standards as house background music, even though the legends who first performed the songs are long gone. A cynic might say these are songs by dead people for the dying.
There are places I remember,
all my life though some have changed.
Some forever not for better,
some have gone and some remain.
This is the story not so much of a band, as a building. A building with memories.
Take a ride on Amtrak’s Metroliner from New York City to Washington, D.C. After about a three-and-a-half hour journey you’ll pull into Union Station, a ten-minute walk from the U.S. Capitol Building.
Just as the train begins to slow down and coasts into the depot, an ugly rust-colored structure barely comes into view. It seems hardly worth noticing, except for the arches. Now blanketed in graffiti, it’s what we call an eyesore.
That shell of an old building along the eastern wall of the Washington rail yard deserves a better fate than it’s been given. Instead, it’s a victim of urban blight and gross neglect, forgotten a long time ago by just about everyone. Now it’s an empty tomb, barren except for the ghostly memories of what happened inside fifty years ago on the night of February 11, 1964.
Zarkana is the latest production in Cirque du Soleil’s wildly-popular global franchise which combines extraordinary acrobatic feats with live original music and the art of dance.
Playing two shows nightly Thursday-Monday at the Aria in Las Vegas, ticket prices range from $81 to $176, with regular discounts given for locals (just show a Nevada drivers license for a 25 percent discount). Marieta and I saw last Friday night’s show, which was two days after Christmas.
The auditorium is aptly named the Zarkana Theater and is magnificent, with plush comfortable seating. There isn’t a bad seat in the house. Moreover, the newly-designed theater is easily accessible from parking and exits, a rarity for high-dollar shows on the Las Vegas Strip. Everywhere else it’s like the primarily objective is to pull patrons inside the casino and then make it as confusing as possible to get out. Like they want you to gamble, or something. But I digress.
”While the show’s producers claim Spears is singing along with backing tracks of her own voice, there was little evidence Britney sang a note live.”
Rolling Stone (Online) on Britney Spears’ debut show at Planet Hollywood on December 27, 2013
We all knew this moment of horror was coming. Like pending doom.
It was just a matter of time before image finally superseded reality. Just a matter of time when lipsynched lyrics and dance-infused schlock kicked the art of live performance to the curb. After all, they’ve already faked the National Anthem at a Presidential Inauguration. So, fooling a bunch of ass-kissing sycophants with comped tickets at a casino should be super easy.
And wearing the jackboots, gyrating behind all the smoke and mirrors, is none other than pop princess Britney Spears, who according to at least two sources DIDN’T SING A SINGLE NOTE ALL NIGHT LONG in her hit-and-miss-and-miss-and miss debut show at Planet Hollywood, which premiered last Friday night. That’s right, citing overnight reviews by Rolling Stone (SOURCE LINK) and the Los Angeles Times (SOURCE LINK), every vocal pitch from Spears’ glossy lips was probably prerecorded. Oh, it sure looked like she was singing live — given she was hitched up to a microphone headset and mouthing the suggestive lyrics like a pro. Believe what you want. As they say, fools rush in.