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September 17, 2014

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‘Raiding the Rock Vault’ opts for Payne relief

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Mona Shield Payne / Special to the Sun

John Payne and Robin McAuley perform with other band members during rehearsal for “Raiding the Rock Vault” in the LVH Theater at LVH on Wednesday, March 6, 2013.

‘Raiding the Rock Vault’ at LVH

Howard Leese, center, performs with other band members during song rehearsal for Launch slideshow »

Given that “Raiding the Rock Vault” takes its musicians and audience members on a rocking traipse through time, John Payne might dial up any period before May 18.

The man who helped envision, co-wrote, co-conceived and headed up the production “Raiding the Rock Vault” at LVH has been formally axed from the show. Payne, the band’s guttural-voiced, bass-wielding frontman, has been canned by “Sir” Harry Cowell, his onetime friend and the show’s current producer.

“We can confirm that John Payne is no longer with ‘Raiding the Rock Vault,’ ” read a statement issued by what is described as “the show.” Payne was suspended indefinitely beginning May 18; his firing reportedly came down a week ago.

There has been no formal explanation of the personal and professional chasm that formed between Cowell and Payne, but the issue is most likely a business dispute between the two centering on the show’s financial issues.

Payne said via text that he has no comment. The statement issued today talks of “an updated, permanent lineup” to be announced soon, but what is “permanent” in the “Rock Vault” subculture is open to interpretation. Payne wasn’t permanent, obviously. Nor was original guitarist Tracii Guns, shown the exit in December.

The artist stepping in for Payne is a highly respected rocker, Hugh McDonald, a bass master who has played with Bon Jovi, Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band, Alice Cooper and Cher’s backing band.

Along with McDonald, the updated, official lineup of “Rock Vault” as it stands at this moment (with their parenthetical affiliations): Howard Leese (Heart), Robin McAuley (MSG, Survivor), Doug Aldrich (Whitesnake, Dio), Paul Shortino (Rough Cutt, Quiet Riot), Jay Schellen (Badfinger, Asia), Andrew Freeman (Lynch Mob, The Offspring) and Michael T. Ross (Lita Ford, Hardline).

Leese also is now the production’s music director. The show’s two female vocalists, who alternate in the production, are Carol-Lyn Liddle (late of the production show “Masters of Rock” at the Riv) and Stephanie Calvert (Starship).

Absent, of course, is Payne, who has recorded and toured with Asia and had talked optimistically of starting up “Vault”-themed shows across the country and even internationally — “Raiding the Country Vault,” and such. Cowell and he, along with Grammy Award-winning producer David Kershenbaum, effectively conjured up and wrote the script for the show.

“Raiding the Rock Vault” opened at LVH in March 2013. After stumbling at the box office late last year, “Rock Vault” has gained momentum to match strong critical acclaim and audience response (Payne and the band members are forever trumpeting their high marks on Trip Advisor), though the show is still not likely to be generating enough ticket revenue to survive without the continued investment of the hotel.

But as has been reported here and elsewhere, LVH is about to change ownership and be overtaken by David Siegel’s Westgate Resorts and turned into a timeshare property. One can only hope that Siegel is a big rock fan who appreciates abrupt chord changes.

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

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