Saturday, April 3, 10:20 p.m.
A wise young man recently told me that he yearned for the days when guys and their dolls would dress up to go out on the town, would really do it up right and put the life into Vegas’ nightlife scene.
So I did just that. I spent three hours primping to my ’50s-doll best, grabbed a guy, and arrived at that wise young man’s new showroom for a throwback night out befitting the Viva Las Vegas rockabilly weekend.
Caesars Palace’s venerable Cleopatra’s Barge—one of the oldest remaining features of the hotel—has been renovated for U.K. singer-songwriter Matt Goss, who now rocks the boat every Friday and Saturday night with an experience that starts out as a seated, ticketed show and ends as a nightclub-style party, with everyone on their feet, dancing till 3 a.m.
Goss had called it “a sense of occasion,” this purposeful approach to giving one’s presumably hard-earned night out more meaning than it has had of late. And that is exactly what I got while presenting my ticket to the host, who showed me to a tiny, lamplit, granite cocktail table, tended by a beautiful young lady in an evening gown.
The Barge (née Nero’s Nook) is in fine form tonight. In fact, she probably hasn’t looked this good since she opened in the 1970s. The ship-shaped lounge and nightclub that opens onto a major casino artery now sports new red carpeting, the only element of the renovation Goss was aware of before the big reveal.
The existing stage was expanded— four feet back and two forward—to accommodate Goss’ seven-piece band and two backup singers. The ship’s mast was removed, as was the canopy over the VIP area; the resulting room seats 165 on three tiered seating levels. Anything overly Egyptian-themed was either removed or is simply covered with crimson drape during the show. The boat’s hydraulics have long since copped out, so they simply rest in peace. “The barge still rocks,” jokes Read Scot, Caesars’ entertainment director, “but we’ve got a whole new swing.”
Doors open as early as 8:30 p.m. for eager “Gossy-ites” to snag the prime seats. Showtime is officially 10 p.m., but really that means 10:20, 10:30—whenever Young Blue Eyes says its go-time. Then the lasers fire up and the band assembles. Last to arrive is Goss, ever-dapper in a surely bespoke suit, trim and leaping right from his promo photos plastered all over Caesars. Gone, thankfully, is the somewhat corny “Gossy Air” intro (a signature cocktail now instead).
The low stage allows Goss better interaction with the crowd, which often includes greeting such colleagues as Jersey Boys’ Rick Faugno. The Dirty Virgins—“Dur-eee,” as Goss says; backup dancers choreographed by the show’s producer/Pussycat Dolls founder Robin Antin—are always a treat, especially now that they can reach all parts of the showroom to methodically molest audience members without issue.
The show consists of about 11 songs, including originals “Evil” (recently remixed by Dave Aude), “Firefly” (remixed by Paul Oakenfold), and Goss’ happiness manifesto “Just for a Change,” as well as covers imported from his show’s first iteration at the Palms, and his latest work, “Lovely Las Vegas.”
Not everything can be perfect right out of the gate: Carefully paired footage streams behind and above the stage on a wall that could actually really use a screen. Goss might also consider injecting more banter between songs. His self-deprecating English humor and overly-proper flirtiness (“If you’re feeling this song, ladies, feel free to remove an article of clothing …”) is part of the fun and—as my guest pointed out—witty repartee was a Rat Pack staple.
When the show ends, the DJ immediately continues the music. There is no cover now, so new faces stream in, lured by Justin Timberlake and the Goss remixes. Goss and Antin both stick around for the party, which centers mostly around the U.K. Gossy-ites getting their moment with The Man. When my own moment comes, I use it to let him know I did it his way.