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September 1, 2014

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Lon Bronson strings it together in All-Star Band’s return to Smith Center

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Lon Bronson's All-Star Band

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The electric violin group Bella Electric Strings performs during the "Our Town for Newtown" benefit Jan. 6, 2013 at Railhead at Boulder Station.

It’s not easy to recall my first Lon Bronson All-Star Band Experience. Maybe it was in the haze of 1996-’97 at the Riviera (the dates might be off, along with the venue) or some time after on Fremont Street at the Golden Nugget. There have been so many wild nights with that crew, like the evening Penn Jillette hopped onstage (one of his many recurring appearances) for a rowdy take on “Come Together” at the now tragically closed Ovation at Green Valley Ranch.

And the night, rather recently at Railhead in Boulder Station, when a woman in the audience seemed to be summoning her Inner Spinner and put on a wildly inspired display of interpretive dance at the front of the stage. She was the string-free marionette, and we loved her.

“We’ve played a lot of places over the years. A lot,” Bronson says. “We have seen it all.”

Bronson is right about that. It has been a long and winding road for his powerhouse band to make it to Smith Center. The Lon Bronson All-Star Band has been tearing up the city on and off the Strip for 23 years, having been originally booked to play Le Bistro Lounge in 1990 by onetime Riviera Entertainment Director Steve Schirripa.

Bronson has been boomeranging around Las Vegas ever since, and soon after Smith Center opened in March 2012, he began peppering Smith Center officials about getting the All-Star Band a gig at Cabaret Jazz. The band finally debuted at the 240-seat venue on Sept. 25 and returns for a ramped-up sophomore appearance at 9 p.m. Tuesday.

Tickets for Bronson 2.0 are $25 (you can buy them by clicking the the Smith Center site), compared to $20 for the first performance for the band at Smith Center, but you get more show for those extra ducats, as Nina DiGregorio and her violin ensemble Bella Electric Strings are appearing with Bronson All-Stars on their second pass through Cab Jazz.

“The Smith Center is such a great building,” DiGregorio says. “I’m from upstate New York, and I think it rivals Carnegie Hall. Cabaret Jazz is such a great complement to Reynolds Hall. I know how excited Lon was when he played there (in September), and we’re going to have six and maybe more members of Bella play the show and add some new elements to it.”

The trumpet-wielding Bronson is notoriously laconic onstage and offstage, but he is a serious artist who has not taken these concerts at Smith Center lightly. Bronson’s is the first Vegas “show” band, or a full Tower of Power-styled lineup filled with a complete horn section, to play Smith Center. It was evident in the band’s first Cab Jazz show in September that Bronson was fired up about playing Smith Center, especially when he shouted, “Man, I am fired up about playing Smith Center!”

He still is.

“I felt like it was super-important for us to be recognized to be the first band to play there. We needed to step up and show we deserved to be the first band to play there,” he says. “We were just excited to be onstage.”

The band will pick from its regular setlist, with some surprises sprinkled about.

“We don’t want to go back and do the same show twice, and by bringing Bella in — who appears with us once a year — makes our sophomore appearance not just us,” Bronson says. “What can I say? It’s going to be phenomenal to play there again.”

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWiththeDish.

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