Friday, May 4, 2012 | 6:05 p.m.
Lovely Las Vegas video
As a quintet of Nevada Ballet Theatre dancers nimbly stretched and lifted one another during an afternoon rehearsal at Reynolds Hall, a silhouetted figure materialized on stage right.
You couldn’t quite make out just who this sauntering gentleman was, or could you? He was wearing a well-tailored suit and, yep, a fedora.
It was the Gossinator.
Matt Goss is joining the NBT, for a night, during the Las Vegas dance company’s premiere performance Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts. He is performing four songs of his choosing in a segment NBT Artistic Director James Canfield has aptly titled “Four Songs.”
Canfield choreographed the pieces. Goss sings the quartet of original numbers, two of which he’s never performed live. The London-born singer/songwriter will be boosted by his burning seven-piece backing band from Caesars Palace and Music Director Ron Fair, who is playing piano and who also happens to be producing Goss’s upcoming album. The songs to be unfurled by Goss, in order, are “Song for You,” “All About the Hang,” “Mustang” and “Evil.”
The latter song, a favorite from Goss’s live show at the Gossy Room at Cleopatra’s Barge, will feature an octet of strings players from the Las Vegas Philharmonic. “All About the Hang,” a jumpy tune that speaks to our undying thirst for great companionship, might well be the title of Goss’s upcoming album. “Mustang,” too, is new. As Goss says from the stage, “It’s about letting someone go who you love and hoping they will come back.”
A half-dozen dancers perform to each number, their moves giving life to Goss’s lyrics.
“It’s really, really intense,” he said.
Goss so effectively immerses himself in Las Vegas institutions and traditions, you sometimes forget he does not live here. He’s a resident of Los Angeles, yet eagerly embraces Vegas as if he were born in the city during the heyday of the Rat Pack. His song “Lovely Las Vegas” seamlessly invokes the name of Howard Hughes and references Flamingo Road and Summerlin, as if written by a longtime resident. (The R-J's Doug Elfman and I happily appeared in the video of the song, which is embedded in this column).
Always a finely attired representative of Vegas swagger, Goss appeared onstage with the “Jubilee!” cast at Bally’s, during that production’s 30th anniversary show last year. Of course, he also was cast in Diddy’s Vegas-fashioned TV commercial hawking that famed Sin City nectar, Ciroc vodka.
The NBT-Smith Center appearance is particularly important for the ballet company and for Goss. It is not only NBT’s first performance at the new performing arts center, but also launches its 40th season. The appearance reinforces Goss’s affiliation with the city and allows him to perform in front of nearly 2,000 people (the show is about sold out at last check) who might not venture to the Gossy Room for late-night shows Fridays and Saturdays.
Goss says he has been blown away by the Smith Center’s architecture and design effects.
“I’m genuinely in awe that every little detail is so deco,” he said Thursday afternoon during an interview in the Reynolds Hall Star Room. “It’s like walking into the ’30s. I walked in and looked at the ceilings and the fixtures, and it’s just insane. Even the trash bins are deco, and you would think they don’t need to spend money on trash bins being deco, but here they have.”
The quality of acoustics, too, impresses Goss.
“I just played Royal Albert Hall (in October), and you come up with a venue like this, and it is world-class, without question,” he said. “Sonically, I think it’s up there with the best venues I’ve played in my life. You can hear every single little nuance, the timbre in your voice, in that venue. It’s immaculate.”
That Goss is performing in Reynolds Hall at such a landmark event is owed to his friendship with Canfield. Goss has attended the past two NBT Black and White Galas (honoring Priscilla Presley and Eva Longoria as its most recent Women of the Year), and Canfield has twice seen Goss perform at Caesars. Originally, the idea was to build an entire performance around the Goss number “Firefly,” but Canfield has instead choreographed the lengthy “Four Songs” piece near the end of the opening performance.
“It’ just a thing where he called and left a message and didn’t think I would call back, but I did,” Goss said. “We ended up having a chat that week. He’s very emotional, in the best way, and he listens to every word in every lyric.”
Away from the performance, Goss and Fair are about two weeks from the midpoint of recording the new Goss album. He’s planning on taking most of the month of June off from performing at Caesars, saying he’s in need of some physical and mental down time.
Last moth, Goss lost his pet bulldog, whom he refers to as “the infamous Alfie.” Alfie was 11 years old when he was put down at Goss’s home two weeks ago.
“He was in my arms when he died at my home, and it was … yeah, super-intense,” Goss said. “It’s strange. The show must go on, but you sometimes feel like -- on a personal level, it’s been a challenging few months for me, in several ways. At the end of the day, I am a singer, and that’s the thing that gives me my peace.”
And as the Vegas ballet company has found, marrying that voice to the highest form of dance can be a beautiful thing.