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October 23, 2014

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Upcoming CD is Goss’s ‘Life’ work; ‘Rock Vault’ makes great voices choices

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Leila Navidi

Matt Goss sings during sound check during rehearsal with Nevada Ballet Theatre at the Smith Center in Las Vegas on Wednesday, May 2, 2012.

Strong by the Gossy

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Victoria Justice, David Copperfield, Ryan Rottman and Jeff Beacher at MGM Grand.

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Matt Goss backstage at Royal Albert Hall in London on Oct. 21, 2011.

The Kats Report Bureau at the moment is the media center at the Mayweather-Canelo welterweight title bout. On the way in, I knifed through hundreds of fight fans milling around the MGM Grand lobby and all around the casino floor and walkway to the Grand Garden Arena. They seem quite happy and freely spending money on such items as $70 Mexican flag boxing gloves and $30 Golden Boy Boxing T-shirts.

There is a refreshing absence of strife so far, and I hope we can keep it that way.

One person I bumped into walking toward the arena: The esteemed Jeff Beacher, who still hasn’t formally announced the opening date of his new “Beacher’s Madhouse” spectacular, which is overtaking the old Crazy Horse Paris theater at the MGM. At one point, Beacher’s website noted a New Year’s Eve show in Las Vegas, but that post has been dropped. The show is scheduled to continue performing at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel through NYE, and there is no official information about the move to MGM Grand.

Originally, MGM Grand President Scott Sibella said the show was targeting a Labor Day opening, which of course never came about.

So, on Beacher, we wait. Elsewhere, we rake:

• Caesars Entertainment has once more extended the residency of Matt Goss at Caesars Palace, lengthening his tenure at the cozy/crampy Gossy Room through March 1. As he’s continued to sign these incremental extensions, Goss has been busy recording what is supposed to be a killer album, “Life You Imagine.” As the title implies, it’s a themed release with songs speaking to the life you might imagine for yourself. Or, for His Gossomness, if you like. The CD (or album, or download, whichever) is out Oct. 14 and was engineered by studio and guitar great Pat Thrall at Studio at the Palms. Thrall is a mad genius, if “mad” is to mean “extremely energized.”

The first single from “Life You Imagine” is “Strong.” Other songs include such stage favorites as “Evil,” “When Will I Be Famous,” “The Day We’ve Met,” and “Lovely Las Vegas,” (featured in a landmark video recorded a while back at the hotel). “All About the Hang” is a highlight; and that title was nearly the album’s title.

The album has been about three years in the making, produced by Ron Fair – and if you think Thrall is passionate, spend some time with Fair – and is a result of Gossy’s characteristic artistic focus. "Life You Imagine" should be a worthwhile spin of thoughtful, expertly executed contemporary music. That's a novel concept, right?

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While on the mend, Donny Osmond has been performing at Flamingo Las Vegas with this assortment of canes.

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Marie Osmond makes a happy mess of it on the sixth anniversary of Donny and Marie's show at Flamingo Las Vegas.

• Donny & Marie celebrated their sixth anniversary at the Flamingo last week. Two photos taken, independently, of the duo are utterly priceless: Donny with his Cane Collection (six in all, including one topped by a pink flamingo) and Marie after smashing her face into the black-frosting anniversary cake. Donny Osmond, as noted here a while back, is recovering from surgery to repair a torn tendon in his right gluteus maximus. Marie is recovering from her frosting-blackened teeth.

‘Raiding the Rock Vault’ at LVH

Howard Leese, center, performs with other band members during song rehearsal for Launch slideshow »
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The band in "Raiding the Rock Vault" at LVH wears Las Vegas Wranglers jerseys during "Hotel California" on Sunday, June 23, 2013.

• The gents in "Raiding the Rock Vault" are picking up some healthy buzz over the guest vocalists they’ve dropped into the show from time to time. Especially impressive has been Mickey Thomas of Starship, who at age 63 can still reach the high notes seemingly without effort. Up next is Jon Anderson, late of Yes; and Lou Gramm, late of Foreigner. Anderson is onstage at LVH Sept. 20-24. Gramm is up Oct. 18-22. The show has also added some distinctive Las Vegas flavor by bringing Stephanie Calvert, a regular in Starship and a busy singer around town (including in “Tony N’ Tina’s Wedding” at Paris Las Vegas) to sing with Thomas; and KKLZ 96.3 DJ and bongo specialist (at least, in Tommy Rocker’s Conched Out outfit) Mike O’Brian to the stage.

The overarching strategy of inviting guest vocalists to the production might not have led to a significant boost in ticket sales, as “Rock Vault” writer and performer John Payne says, but it does increase the show’s artistic credibility and horsepower. “Rock Vault” is showing more human bodies in the theater, mostly through positive word-of-mouth accounts, and that is never a negative development as those who have seen the show spill out and talk up the performance to fellow rock fans.

The show has also recently been thumping its chest over the positive reviews posted on TripAdvisor, a website where anyone can post their opinions about shows, restaurants, hotels and such. Remarkably, “Raiding the Rock Vault” is currently No. 4 on the site among all Las Vegas attractions, trailing only Dig This, Battlefield Vegas and “Jersey Boys” and ahead of the driving attractions at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. A total of 465 reviews of the "Rock Vault," have been posted, 430 of which are “excellent,” 25 “very good,” nine “average” and one – a solitary reviewer – chimes in with “poor.”

That person is certainly not Bryan Adams.

As for what star singers remain on Payne’s wish list for the show, how about: Billy Idol, Sammy Hagar, Michael McDonald, Peter Frampton and Ann Wilson of Heart (that band’s guitarist, Howard Leese, is already in the cast). The great “get” is Steve Perry, long of Journey and more recently of … no one.

“That would be the ultimate,” Payne said. “I have no idea if he has any inclination to get back in the business, but if he wants to do something that’s not a full show, to get his toe in the water, we’d love to have him.”

And if that were to happen, “Raiding the Rock Vault” would likely win a unanimous decision on TripAdvisor.

• The famed Rush Lounge is undergoing a renovation. Rush is where, years ago, I met Frankie Moreno, Joshua Bell, Graham Russell of Air Supply and Elvis impressionist Harry Shahoian (rare is it that you see that quartet in the same sentence, let alone the same hotel-casino lounge). I believe Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss was in there one night, too. He loved the Golden Nugget.

This teetotaler spent many rowdy evenings enjoying the scene with drunken lounge crawlers and the occasional Las Vegas Philharmonic string octet, as LV Phil players used to weave into the lounge after their shows at UNLV’s Ham Hall. In a couple of weeks, the place will be bigger and more open to the casino. You can play video poker and blackjack in there, too. But not bingo. It’s a bingo-free zone, and God bless ’em for that.

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Keith Thompson hosts Composers Showcase at Smith Center.

• Late into Wednesday night’s 9/11-themed Composers Showcase at Cabaret Jazz at Smith Center, a voice from the crowd called out to Keith Thompson, “Keith! Thank you for tonight!” It was Clint Holmes, who had long earlier been heard from after performing the song he wrote with Pat Caddick the day after the attacks of 9/11.

We’d been talking of that time in the lead-up to the themed show, remembering the incredible show of support from the Las Vegas entertainment community after that tragedy. Wayne Newton led a variety show featuring every star performer in Las Vegas (or, just about) at Mandalay Bay Events Center. The performance opened with Newton, Holmes, Frankie Scinta and Earl Turner singing Neil Diamond’s “America.” It was a wonderful time, a sold-out show the likes of which we might never see again.

For Wednesday, Thompson built a show that was at once powerful and poignant, each performer drawing from their reflections from that horrible day. Thompson, co-founder of the Showcase and music director of “Jersey Boys,” lived in New York on Sept. 11, 2001. He recalled watching the news on TV that morning and shutting off the coverage just before the first jet struck the World Trade Center. Soon, his answering machine – “Remember those? To screen your calls?” he said from the stage – and listening to family members calling from such places as Nashville, Mississippi and his hometown of Enterprise, Ala., and asking,“Is everything OK up there? You all right?” then Thompson turned on the TV to see the horror unfolding, which he could also see from his front window. He then introduced his own composition, “Freedom’s Foundation,” performed at high volume and aptitude by the Plaza headliners and former “Phantom – The Las Vegas Spectacular” cast members Bruce Ewing, Randal Keith and Ted Keegan. If you weren’t moved by that performance, you were likely made of wood or asleep.

There were so many fine performances that night it’s almost unfair to single draw any from the collective. But standing out in my mind at the moment are Holmes (as always, with Jeff Neiman on piano); Martin Kaye of “Million Dollar Quartet,” Uli Geissendoerfer, who hosts jazz happenings at Dispensary Lounge; Vita Corimbi in a full-blown TSA uniform (and if there ever a Composers Showcase All-Star Team, Corimbi is the captain); Savannah Smith of “Vegas! The Show” with the very underappreciated Las Vegas singer-songwriter Adam Knaff on an acoustic tune called “Mayday Mayday”; “Ka” music director Richard Oberacker backed by a the Firenze Strings, led by Celine Dion’s first-chair violinist, Becky Ramsay, and featuring Tianna Heppner-Harjo, Jennifer Massey, Lindsey Springer, Hanna Suk, Geri Thompson and Moonlight Tran. We’re always reminded at the Composers Showcase of how many great string players live and work in Las Vegas. You look around the room and they are everywhere. A lot of great pianists, too, and we close this note by reminding that Philip Fortenberry is back with his one-man show “The Man at the Piano” at Cab Jazz at 7 p.m. on Oct. 7.

So many haps. Really, just follow me around and you’ll have a pretty good time.

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

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