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October 30, 2014

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Rod Stewart kicks off run at Caesars; Tao throws back a fifth

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Justin M. Bowen

Rod Stewart performs at The Colosseum in Caesars Palace on Nov. 6, 2010.

Say this for the show Rod Stewart uncorked at The Colosseum in Caesars Palace on Saturday night: It’s refreshing to attend a production at the 4,100-seat showroom and not feel compelled to count costume changes.

Stewart kept his stage show pretty close to the vest, even without in fact wearing a vest, occasionally leaving his nine-piece backing band to poof his hair and throw on a new jacket. Sometimes he was simply unkempt, probably by design, with the shirttail of his skinny black tie looped loosely around his neck and his white dress shirt hanging haphazardly from his black slacks. He started with a slick gold blazer-and-tie combo. The fuchsia jacket and yellow shirt was as close as Stewart would come to emulating the wild costume designs worn by Cher, who leaves The Colosseum in February.

Rod Stewart at The Colosseum

Rod Stewart performs at The Colosseum in Caesars Palace on Nov. 6, 2010. Launch slideshow »

How the 65-year-old Stewart appears, and how his show is staged, is of particular importance because this run of shows that closes in November is a test of sorts to see if Stewart is an apt resident headliner at The Colosseum. Elton John is the artist closest to Stewart in terms of genre, style and sales (not to mention age) to have performed regularly at the hotel. Elton’s show was buoyed by grand theatrics in the form of the David La Chappelle-produced video footage that splashed across the showroom’s daunting LED screen.

In this greatest-hits performance, Stewart used that screen, too, to show off some of the footage and photos of his 45-year career. A smaller video board hung in front of the permanent screen, showing Stewart performing live and producing a pretty cool 3D effect. But this show, as it is, is primarily about the music, and Stewart dutifully churned out hit after hit even as his voice faltered from time to time (he even laughed at the end of “Reason to Believe,” when he summoned the high note to close the song, and it was just not there).

But the man is hard-wired to entertain, there’s no argument, and he’s recorded a laudable catalog of hits since the late 1960s. This is the type of show where everyone in the showroom -- and it seemed about at its 4,100-seat capacity -- knew every song. Just go to any list of Rod Stewart’s greatest hits, and you’ll find what was played.

In the mix were certifiable crowd-pleasers “Young Turks,” “Downtown Train,” “Reason to Believe,” “First Cut Is the Deepest” (accompanied by an animated video of a young man, who seemed to be Stewart or maybe the song’s original author, Cat Stevens, slicing his cheek with a straight-edge razor), “Every Picture Tells a Story,” “Maggie May” and “Hot Legs.” “Sweet Little Rock ’N’ Roller” was a highlight, and “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” was the highly anticipated one-song encore.

Only once did Stewart dip into his “American Songbook” material, for Cole Porter’s “I Get a Kick Out of You.” Stewart was right when he said that, in concert, the standards are a difficult mix with his rock hits. We also could do without a drum solo in a Rod Stewart concert.

As a rock frontman, Stewart is still sprightly for any age, especially 65 (one moment to applaud was when he announced that his wife, Penny, is six months pregnant). He still shakes his tush for the audience and even shows off his athletic prowess. The night was in part to pay tribute to the Celtic Football Club, of which Stewart is a longtime fan and supporter (the team is noted in “You’re in My Heart”). A former footballer himself, Stewart joyously booted a couple dozen soccer balls into the crowd -- and if you think baseball fans jostling for foul balls was a competitive experience, you haven’t seen Rod Stewart fans tussling over soccer balls. Once, Stewart reached the second-level balcony, an impressive athletic feat akin to watching your father dunk a basketball.

It was a fun show, and expectedly so. But Rod Stewart, as a long-term headliner, at Caesars? By the end of the month, we’ll know if relying on his enormous library of hits, and his forever young personality, can carry off that assignment.

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The Tao power team: Jason Strauss, Rich Wolf, Noah Tepperberg and Marc Packer.

Tao -- now!

I’ve always been reluctant, notoriously so, to visit Las Vegas’ theme park-sized nightclubs. I’ve never been a big club devotee. It’s almost as if I have to get psyched up before walking into one of these places, the same way Ray Lewis yelps and dances to fire himself up before taking the field for a Ravens game.

But I have always been bowled over by Tao at The Venetian, ever since it opened five years ago and PR rep Maggie Feldman walked me through the $20 million, 40,000-square-foot, Asian-themed party haven. It was an awesome venue then, and still is, as it celebrated its fifth anniversary Saturday night. It was actually the 5-year, 2-month anniversary, but no matter.

Observing the activity at Tao is a unique experience, even without any celebrities to boost the attendance to more than 7,500 revelers per night, which is approximately what Kim Kardashian drew to her birthday party last month. Walking through Tao is like, “Look! Over there! It’s two women enjoying high tea and light conversation! And they are disrobing!”

On Saturday night, the club was atwitter with visits from Katrina Smirnoff of “Dancing With the Stars,” Jack Osbourne and Brittny Gastineau. All were celebrating some level of New Development in their lives. Smirnoff is engaged to Cardinals pitcher Brad Penny. Osbourne turns 25 on Monday. Gastineau is 28 on Thursday.

The club was, and has been, doing impressive business. That’s the message from managing partner Jason Strauss.

“I think last year, the telltale signs we look at show we’re totally on the upswing,” Strauss said during a phone interview Friday. “The Venetian occupancy rates are up. We don’t see any time where, even during the week, the hotel is not at 80- or 90-percent capacity. “Convention business is up 10- to 30-percent from last year, our corporate event business is up. When the world crashed, that’s what I saw go first. But now the conventioneers are out in force.”

And by the looks of the jammed Tao crowd Saturday, a lot of those conventioneers are interested in pounding dance music, dazzling design effects and, of course, women enjoying high tea.

Wayner set for ‘Wait Wait’

“Fallout: New Vegas” voice artist and re-christened film star Wayne Newton continues his multimedia onslaught when he appears on the NPR news quiz show "Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me" on Nov. 18 at Paris Las Vegas. The Wayner is taking part in the “Not My Job” segment, where the guest takes a three-question test on a subject far afield from the guest’s own career. Example: Madeleine Albright was once asked about the history of Playboy magazine.

The show is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Nov. 18 at Paris Theater. Tickets are $50, $75, $100 and $150. The Vegas show, hosted as always by Peter Sagal and judged by Carl Kasell, airs the weekend of Nov. 20 on 550 NPR member stations across the country, including KNPR 88.9-FM in Las Vegas. Air times are Saturdays at 10 a.m. and Sundays at 1 p.m.

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Liane Hansen, far left, and Jennifer Cornthwaite, far right, in an impromptu confab at The Beat.

And speaking of NPR …

Serendipitously, Brian Paco Alvarez and I were interviewed by NPR’s Liane Hansen, host of “Weekend Edition,” on Friday afternoon. This unfolded at The Beat Coffeehouse at Emergency Arts on Fremont East.

Hansen dropped in, unexpectedly, on the business during her week of reporting about Las Vegas for an upcoming installment of “Weekend Edition” to air either Nov. 14 or 21. She’d just interviewed Mayor Oscar Goodman and was seeking some ground-level material from those who do business downtown. She found Jennifer Cornthwaite, who along with her husband, Michael Cornthwaite, runs The Beat and manages Emergency Arts.

It was totally out of the dark to suddenly hear Hansen’s voice cutting through “The Eagles Greatest Hits” playing on The Beat turntable, so we quickly turned and saw Hansen seated across from Cornthwaite, asking all about downtown redevelopment and the seedling businesses sprouting on Fremont East. So she waved us over, as a couple of Las Vegans who might have something interesting to say about Las Vegas.

This means, of course, Paco spoke a lot longer than I. It was Hansen’s first visit to the city, and she was wowed by the glare of The Strip, the quirky history piece that is “Jubilee!” and all the action on Fremont East. Interestingly, she said the news outside Las Vegas makes it seem as if the city has been in far worst financial trouble than it actually is. With recently renovated El Cortez standing across the street, she said that she has seen a lot to be optimistic about, today and for Las Vegas’ future.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at twitter.com/JohnnyKats.

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