- Brody Dolyniuk, Tara Palsha
We’re a long way from the Railhead.
Brody Dolyniuk spent more than a decade cranking out classic rock tunes at such Vegas haunts as the Railhead at Boulder Station, where a couple hundred devotees would thrust their fists skyward to such jaunty gems as Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train,” AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" and Van Halen’s “Hot For Teacher.” Dolyniuk and his band, Yellow Brick Road, build a rock-solid following by toiling at the Railhead, Ovation at Green Valley Ranch, the Suncoast Showroom and Rocks Lounge at Red Rock Resort.
You never know who would show up to see Brody fire up the old-time rock ’n’ roll — years ago I ran into Jackson family patriarch Joe Jackson at a YBR show at Rocks Lounge. Anyone could just amble in, because the shows were free and lasted about three hours. Sometimes longer.
But those days are gone, like George Thorogood’s bourbon bottle. Dolyniuk’s story represents one of the more remarkable runs ever in the city, the rare instance where a performer willfully leaves town despite having earned steady work.
After a 14-year-run in which YBR did what it did better than any band in the city and never lacked for a gig, Dolyniuk bolted Vegas for a new home in Lake Forest, Calif., near Irvine and Mission Viejo. That was in June 2011. After spending nearly 20 years in the city, Dolyniuk finally found the summer climate too extreme and needed a break from the environmental discomfort Vegas presented, despite a busy performance schedule most entertainers would envy. As shows cratered on and off the Strip, YBR played three nights a week, at least, at decent-sized venues throughout the city.
In the months leading to his departure, Dolyniuk had shopped an inventive and highly entertaining rock ’n’ roll impression show titled “Brody’s World,” performing it a half-dozen times at Ovation, but never found an investor who would back the production. So he left, ceding the YBR front-man role to soaring vocalist Kelly Christian and moving to a cooler locale and focusing his creative energy on Windborne Music’s touring orchestral tributes to Queen and the Who.
But Vegas keeps tugging Dolyniuk back, and Friday night he performs what is likely his most significant gig, ever. Certainly it is his biggest show in this city. Dolyniuk is resurrecting the "Symphonic Rock Show" at Reynolds Hall at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts. A 30-piece orchestra filled with the city’s top players, assembled by trumpet great Lon Bronson and violin hotshot Nina DiGregorio, will back Dolyniuk and the original YBR four-piece backing band (for info, hit the Smith Center website).
It’s the third such orchestral-rock performance for Dolyniuk. The first two, in July 2011 and again in April of this year, were staged at Henderson Pavilion. The shows drew very well, as YBR’s fans remained loyal and relished the chance to hear Led Zep, Boston, Queen, Rush, Pink Floyd, Journey and AC/DC boosted by a full symphony.
But those shows were mere rehearsals for what Dolyniuk has planned for Friday.
“This time, we are way more prepared, and I am way more pleased with the team I have assembled,” Dolyniuk said in a recent phone interview (he will also be the guest on Friday’s episode of “Kats With the Dish” at 8 a.m. Friday on KUNV 91.5-FM). “The production value will be much improved, and we’re working on some new material, compiling the best of the two shows and adding a couple of new songs.”
There will also be a bit of pyrotechnics involved, or as Dolyniuk describes, “some minor pyrotechnics.” The new songs will be those by the Stones and Journey.
Dolyniuk was one of the first artists to bring classic rock to Vegas hotel-casinos, finding an eager accomplice in Station Casinos Vice President of Entertainment Judy Alberti.
Dolyniuk says fans of YBR share his feelings for classic rock. “There was something magical from 1965-1985, in that 20-year period. There were more great songs in that generation than in any other, and that’s why they stand the test of time. We were one of the first bands in Vegas to ask, ‘Why isn’t this being played live? It took us a while to get that to happen, but we did make it happen.”
But Dolyniuk is finished with performing full-time with YBR — at least at this moment. He remains the band’s manager but has no desire to return to the types of venues he frequented for more than a decade in Vegas. He is far more interested in more grandiose surroundings.
“The Smith Center is a whole new level of class in Vegas,” he says. “It’s added a higher level of culture to what has been a mundane scene, the DJ and nightclub environments.”
The most significant challenge is convincing longtime YBR fans to pay between $27 and $85 for tickets to see a performer who played for years free of charge (the top ticket price allows entrance to an meet-and-greet after-party with Dolyniuk, YBR and some of the orchestra musicians). Even the shows at Henderson Pavilion were inexpensive, just $15.
“I think it’s priced right,” Dolyniuk says. “The first two shows, we were practically giving tickets away, but we are in the right price bracket.
“We’re providing our fans an incentive to plan ahead a little, get dressed up and have a cool night enjoying the best musicians we could find performing this type of music.”