Justin M. Bowen
Published Saturday, Oct. 3, 2009 | 2:33 p.m.
Updated Saturday, Oct. 3, 2009 | 7:19 p.m.
The allure of these rollicking Slash & Friends concerts brings to mind the imperious message from old late-night TV pitchmen: “How do we do it? Volume, volume, volume!”
Quality, quantity, high spirits and jacked-up amperage made for a late-night carnival at Bare Pool Lounge at The Mirage late last night, a showcase that spilled into the morning with an after-party at Jet. The all-star rock ’n’ roll exercise hosted by the former lead guitarist of Guns N’ Roses summoned the old (dueling iconic guitarists Rick Nielsen and Joe Perry), bold (Courtney Love, tossing aside typical stage protocol to read lyrics to the gender-unspecific “20th Century Boy”) and beautiful (the wholly captivating Nicole Scherzinger, the leather-and-lace encased frontwoman for Pussycat Dolls).
The show was part of The Mirage’s lengthy 20th anniversary celebration, a point in time that will be marked officially on Nov. 22 and will be trumpeted in earnest on that weekend. I am led to believe there will be cake and punch.
As for the latest SlashFest, it hardly mattered that over the past few weeks, the event’s lineup experienced more drops than Terrell Owens during last Sunday’s Bills-Saints game (Rob Zombie, Jason Bonham, Tommy Lee and announced emcee Kiefer Sutherland were among the fall-out boys). The show drew ample star power anyway, and of course the requisite oddities, such as an onstage visit from Slash’s wife, Perla. The stormy spouse and Slash’s apparent voice of reason strode onstage in a beaded black corset adorned with long tassels over each side of her chest, snug black shorts and lace stockings. All dolled up, in other words. She then quoted a dead woman, Anna Nicole Smith, by asking, “How do you like my BAH-dee?”
We like it just enough! But not so much to offend Slash, the evening’s BFF.
Following are more “hooky” riffs from a crisp and loud evening in VegasVille:
*The vocalist for much of the evening was Las Vegas native Franky Perez, whose look has matured to the point where he looks like the father of the guy who released the promising “Poor Man’s Son” in 2003. The last time I’d seen Perez perform was that year when he opened for Lynyrd Skynyrd at The Orleans Arena. He roared through “Whipping Post” that night, and again last night, along with AC/DC's “Highway to Hell” and Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs.” Dressed entirely in black, shedding the shades and jacket in favor of a tank top late in the show, Perez obviously relished performing with the high-level stars like Perry, Nielsen, Slash, Matt Sorum and Duff McKagan, who swapped spots on the stage over the two-hour show. At one point, he asked if anyone was from Las Vegas (a few among the crowd of about 650 cheered) and then he gave a call-out to his alma mater, Bonanza High School. Not your typical rock-show moment, eh? In the late stages, Perez also wore what appeared to be an old red-and-blue Las Vegas Stars hat from about 20 years ago.
It was fun watching Perez work it out onstage again. There was a time when he was at least as promising an artist as The Killers. It’ll be interesting to see if he can, as we say, parlay this fortuitous gig into something he can sustain.
*The Joe Perry Project opened the show and performed a song Aerosmith ignored during its visit to the MGM Grand Garden Arena a couple of months ago, a reggae version of “Dream On.” Perry said that version of the song was requested by an individual who booked the band to perform during a cruise, and Perry’s response was something like, “Forget you, cruise boy,” but it was a pretty cool rendition.
*Jot down Scherzinger’s name on that list of performers you don’t want to follow. She’s an exotically beautiful, easy-on-the-eyes, hard-on-the-ears performer able to share the stage with anyone (just in the past month, she’s appeared with both Gossy-Goss and Slash). By the time she finished with a full-force take on “Whole Lotta Love,” Love walked to the mic and said, “I just got my a** handed to me. I’ve gotta follow that?” Give Love credit for conveying that revelation, at least. She’s no dummy.
*Anyone clamoring for a meltdown by Love came away disappointed. She sipped from a glass filled with orange fluid and produced a lyric sheet to make it through “20th Century Boy,” a move I’d seen only once before, when Pink unfolded sheets of lyrics for “Rock and Roll” during the opening-night party at Empire Ballroom four years ago. But Love still has that haggard-sexy act pretty much perfected. She might not look or sound great each time out, but no one looks or sounds quite like her. At least, no one famous.
*Notable jams: Nielsen, who should be our next mayor, played on the full-group effort of Cheap Trick’s “Surrender.” Perry returned for “Toys in the Attic.” Sen Dog of Cypress Hill joined Perez on a blistering “Walk This Way.” McKagan and Sorum (who seemed to be in full, stroppy revelry by the time he hit the stage late in the show) joined Slash in a mini-Guns ’N Roses reunion for “It’s So Easy” (which I’ve always felt would make a great ballad) and an everyone-in-the-pool “Paradise City” to finish the show.
*Captured in the audience: Famed Vegas real estate magnates Jim and Glynda Rhodes, the embattled but unfailingly spirited couple who have had a rough year, laden with a bankruptcy filing and a scuffle with Nevada Cancer Institute over donations promised but not delivered. But the two looked fine last night, tanned and trimmed and chatty. They’ve been to Wimbledon and the Australian Open this year, and rock fan Glynda has seen Kid Rock four times in 12 months. Also spotted, Jeff Beacher (who is bringing a version of “Madhouse” to The Mirage in January) and prominent Las Vegas attorney John Momot, who defended Sandra Murphy in the Ted Binion murder trial, among many notorious Vegas cases.
The night ended with Momot, actually, as we happened to be walking out of the hotel together. I loudly asked, “What have you been up to, John?” and he said, “I cannot hear you!” Understood. I’ll catch him later, post-ringing.
Click HERE for Robin Leach’s story on Vegas DeLuxe that includes a photo gallery by Denise Truscello.
Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at twitter.com/JohnnyKats.