Thursday, April 30, 2015

Farewell to a classic...The Riviera

This month the Riviera Hotel & Casino celebrated its 60th Anniversary. Next month it closes down for good. The lights go out at noon on May 4.

After outlasting its neighbors the Stardust, Frontier, and the Sahara, I thought the Riviera would manage to stick around a little longer. Long enough to see the opening of Resorts World across the street and whatever it is the Fontainebleau is going to be after it's someday bought and finished. But it wasn't to be. The Riviera will be replaced with more convention facilities.

The Riviera 1950's,

The Riviera Hotel & Casino opened in 1955 and was the first high rise type hotel and casino on the Las Vegas strip. Liberace was the headliner for several years. There were three major Riviera based shows over the past sixty years that had extraordinarily long runs...Splash, An Evening at La Cage, and Crazy Girls

The other day my sister and I went to pay one last visit to the Riviera. Over fish & chips at the Wicked Vicky Tavern we tried to recall our favorite memories of this classic property. Turns out we didn't have many, except a few in the 1990's because the Riviera had not been a major player in town for many years. Although I always liked it, the Riv had no real identity amongst the newer giants of the strip. In fact a lot of people didn't even realize this piece of old Vegas was still around.

Wishing Michael the bartender well. He worked at the Riviera 27 years.

Even though it's sad to say goodbye to this grand old lady of the Las Vegas strip it's also true that it was time for the Riviera to go. To prosper there must be change. Las Vegas learned this the hard way in the late 1980's, and has never forgotten that lesson.

Riviera Hotel & Casino  Las Vegas ...1955 - 2015

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Set List

Remember albums? Oh I know they're still around in digital and CD form but these days many people just buy individual hits instead of entire albums so they never actually hear all of the songs their favorite artists record. 

So I was intrigued when I saw there was an upcoming series of performances called The Set List, to be held at Vinyl at Hard Rock Hotel. Three highly revered Las Vegas based female vocalists and various members of the Blue Man Group's band were planning to perform an entire album from start to finish, and that was the whole basis of the show. 

The Set List vocalists Cian Coey, Rockie Brown, Anne Martinez & Niki Scalera   Photo by Richard Brusky

To kick off this series they chose Alanis Morissette's  "Jagged Little Pill," a Grammy Award winning and internationally acclaimed album originally released in 1995. 

"Jagged Little Pill is not just a great rock album. There are these really huge and impactful songs on there that deal with everything from religion to politics to women in ugly relationships." 
 -Niki Scalera, on The Morning Blend

Niki Scalera, Photo by Richard Brusky
The show opened with Broadway and Las Vegas Philharmonic performer Niki Scalera belting out "What I Really Want."....During this opening track I sensed the singers and band really got what this album is about. Their interpretation was true to the style of the music and meaning of Alanis' compilation but with more of a funk rock version than the original.

Next up was Anne Martinez with "You Oughta Know," a song about the aftermath of being tossed aside by the love of your life. Best known as a Hard Rock resident artist and lead singer of Jubilee, Anne conveyed powerful vocals and a balance between angst and anger, with a rock 'n' roll Shakira style vibe.

Anne Martinez, Photo by Richard Brusky
Local rock star Cian Coey then took her turn with the ballad, "Perfect." Her voice has a rock opera style which I love, poignant but strong. She then segued into "Hand in my Pocket,"...harmonica and all. This song resonated with me when I first moved west 20 years ago, leaving my life behind in search of a new one.

Then they all joined together for "Right Through You." Niki next railed through "Forgiven," then the trio shared "Ironic," taking turns with some of the verses.

Cian Coey by Richard Brusky
Toward the end of the production singer Rockie Brown showed up, and blew us away with "Uninvited." Finishing the show just like the album, all four ladies brought it home with a stunning a cappella version of "You Oughta Know."

I spoke with Andrew Wright, who created and directs this series and he told me....."The Set List is my new baby and so far has been a great experience. Audiences get to hear some of the greatest albums performed live in their entirety by top performers from the Las Vegas strip. The performers get to be creative and have fun with the albums we all grew up on, and the events raise money for Vegas Valley based charities. We’re able to go back to our roots and immerse ourselves in why we love music. Our musical director is Vincent Verderame from The Blue Man Group."

As for me, I loved The Set List, and the mix of talent, execution and spontaneity. What's next for the series? It's July 9th, Bon Jovi's "Slippery When Wet," in its entirety.

The Set List is presented by

A portion of the proceeds on April 8 benefited Shade Tree, 
"Sheltering Women, Children & their Pets"

Anna Wendt Copyright 2015