Hard Rock Hotel officials weren’t kidding when they said that the New Year’s Eve performances by Guns N’ Roses were something of a test to see if the band could withstand a longer series of shows at the Joint.
It was made official today that Axl Rose’s latest incarnation of GNR will play a dozen shows -- wait, make that a dozen “mind-blowing shows,” as the news release promises -- from Halloween through Nov. 24.
Halloween revelers note: The Oct. 31 debut date wouldn’t interfere with the hotel’s plans to host the “Fetish & Fantasy Halloween Ball,” which is set for Oct. 27, the Saturday before GNR takes the stage.
Two events have helped set the stage for this rock-residency staging. One was GNR’s roaring appearance on New Year’s Eve weekend. The band Rose has amassed is terrific; during the NYE performance, Hard Rock Hotel Entertainment Director Paul Davis sent a text saying that guitarist Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal was the best musician to appear onstage at the Joint in 2011.
In those two nights, Dec. 30-31 specifically, GNR played for a total of six hours for 8,000 fans. Fears about Rose behaving in any weird sort of way (leaping into the crowd and causing a fracas, for instance) were allayed after the band's triumphant performances.
Rose’s new version of GNR features none of the original members who vaulted to rock’s highest pantheon (and pantheon is a word used almost exclusively by rock-music critics) with “Appetite for Destruction.” Rose nods to the band’s great original formation by approving “Appetite for Democracy” as the name of the dozen-show showcase.
Along with GNR’s well-received appearances, the Joint was host to February’s Motley Crue residency, which also was a stretch of 12 shows by a band that has a similar career arc as Guns N’ Roses. The Crue shows sold well enough to encourage Davis and Hard Rock’s booking partners, AEG Live, to pursue another short-term residency.
The Hard Rock has already unveiled plans for renovations throughout the hotel, with the new 650-capacity music venue Vinyl set to open Aug. 24 with electronic band Julien-K lifting the lid on the club. Additional seating and a new menu are featured at Mr. Lucky’s Cafe. The Ainsworth bar-restaurant is taking over the hotel’s former sports book space, the chic eatery Culinary Dropout is scheduled to open in a couple of weeks, and a new restaurant with an Asian concept (menu and decor is what that means) is in the late-planning stages.
Also, around the time chatter surfaced about the GNR booking, speculation at the property has focused on another mini-residency -- this one featuring Kid Rock. He has nothing on his tour schedule past Sept. 2 and is a good fit for the venue’s size and rock ’n’ roll theme. Nothing verified on this possible undertaking by the Joint, but why not? He’s got the name for it.
• Celine Dion deftly dealt with a technical glitch in her 100th show at the Colosseum in Caesars Palace on Sunday night. The mechanical platform that slides her pianist, Claude “Mego” Lemay, to center stage failed to operate properly. Dion looked offstage, toward stage right, and said, “It’s OK. Don’t stress,” then turned to the audience and announced, “We are having a technical difficulty. You know how sometimes you have a wardrobe malfunction? Well, this is not a wardrobe malfunction.” Dion’s voice is so spellbinding, it puts you in a mood where stuff goes wrong and you really don’t care.
Tacking on her 4 ½-year run with “A New Day …,” Dion has performed more than 800 shows (823 after Sunday’s performance) at Caesars. The hotel used the 100th show to announce 29 additional performances from Dec. 28-March 16. As her masterful 100th show reinforced, Dion sets the standard for greatness among Strip entertainers. You don’t need to own a single Dion song to appreciate her sizzling James Bond medley (especially with her 31-piece orchestra soaring through “Live and Let Die”) or the fail-proof “Titanic” classic “My Heart Will Go On.”
As Dion sang that show-closing number, encircled by a sheet of water, I turned to the couple sitting next to me. The man rested his hand on his palm, smiling slightly at the stage. The woman leaned forward, her hands folded in front of her face. By the end of the song, she was in tears. I got chills just watching these two, and that, folks, is the mark of a great entertainment experience.
• Tara Palsha, the principal dancer in “Vegas! The Show,” has been taking voice lessons recently, the idea being that she will begin singing in public. As in, onstage with musicians playing behind her. For real. We got a taste of what that would be like over the weekend.
With Bill Fayne joining on piano, Palsha sang onstage for the first time Saturday night at the Dispensary, a cool jazz hang on East Tropicana and Eastern. Swaying slightly and singing in a lilting voice, Palsha carried home the Rodgers and Hart classic “Ten Cents a Dance” to energetic applause. She’s building toward an appearance with Fayne at his shows at Suncoast on Saturday and Sunday nights.
The vocal group 5th Avenue, featuring fellow scenester Jerry Jones, also is on that gig. That’s how musicians put it -- on that gig. The show is a tribute to the compositions of Rodgers & Hart, and also Rodgers & Hammerstein, with Robin Vincent, Lou DeMeis, Denise Clement, Jay Joseph, Richel Kompst, Gail Bennett and Jay Allen joining the show. Tim Bennett (“Disney’s The Lion King”) is directing, with Palsha and Andrea Avruskin choreographing. All are friends of Bill and have performed around town for years.