Friday, Oct. 16, 1998 | 9:52 a.m.
If only Brian Evans had been born three decades sooner.
Or if the trend for all things nostalgic of the swing and big band eras currently being embraced by Generation Xer's -- stylish zoot suits, swirling martinis and smoldering stogies -- had been in fashion during the mid-'80s.
Back then, while teenage Evans' friends were bopping to Culture Club and Aha, the Massachusetts native was singing the praises of his unlikely music idols Frank Sinatra, Bobby Vinton and Neil Sedaka.
"So I was always sort of on another planet than everyone else," Evans, now 27, recalls. The dark-haired crooner, who has opened for Lou Rawls, Dionne Warwick, Burt Bacarach and Frankie Valle, sings covers of Big Band classics as well original songs. He performs in the Desert Inn's Starlight Lounge nightly (dark Mondays) through Nov. 29.
Also as a kid, "I knew of places like the Desert Inn because that's where all of my idols used to play, so for me to play at the Desert Inn ... it's amazing to me.
The story of how he gained his own musical identity is equally as impressive.
At age 16, he and his mother, Helen, moved west to Los Angeles where Evans gave acting a shot, landing roles on television's "Beverly Hills, 90210," "Full House," and in the movie "Book of Love."
Last fall, Evans' hopped in a dilapidated car and headed north to Vancouver. Just past the Canadian border, to car's rear axle broke, and Evans ended up staying.
Meanwhile, he pressed a few CD's of his music -- Big Band songs he had recorded to give to friends -- and distributed them to local music stores where they flew off shelves, making his first offering, "Quite Frankly" (comprised largely of songs previously recorded by Sinatra), the No. 1 selling independent release in Canadian history.
Evans' second album, "Maybe This Time," followed last December and outsold its predecessor. "Brian Evans: Live in Toronto," recorded when he opened for Rawls earlier this year, was released this month. He is currently being courted with offers by major U.S. music labels.
So far, Evan's performances at the Desert Inn have drawn "a pretty good audience," he says. "Most of the comments I've heard from people are (that) they haven't heard this style of music in Vegas for 40 years."
But it's never really been out of earshot, he says. "Everything you're listening to on the radio was basically built on (Big Band music's) foundation ... and so much stuff has been built on that foundation that it sort of buried it for a while. It's always been there but it hasn't really gotten the attention that it should."
Evans, however, is not interested in becoming yet another voice in the current trend reviving the genre. "I don't want to be what's in because when you're in, eventually you're out," he says. "I never walked around my house with cigars pretending it was 1945."
Nor is he out to impersonate the late Sinatra, who he met once at a charity dinner in Beverly Hills. ("It was the pinnacle of my life," Evans says.)
Once, while performing, he recalls: "Somebody in the audience yelled to me, 'Sing 'Nancy with a Smiling Face,"' and I said, 'I can't.' The lady asked me why and I said, 'Because Nancy (Sinatra) is not my daughter."'
There is a two drink minimum, but no admission charge, for Evans' 9 p.m. performances. Call 733-4566 for more information.