Sunday, Aug. 11, 2013 | midnight
He asks, “Can we do one more song? Would that be OK?” You have to say, “Yes!” because you would hate to break the heart of Tommy Ward.
This kid’s a modern-day Sal Mineo, or maybe the Frankie Valli in a high-school production of “Jersey Boys.” Someday, he actually might be cast in such a role.
But for today, Tommy Ward and his band, Swayed, are Las Vegas Academy prodigies who balance impressive musical advancement with a refreshing throwback attitude. It’s a group of teenagers you might find bounding into a One Direction show, except when One Direction was at Mandalay Bay Events Center last weekend, this crew was busy playing Stratosphere Showroom.
We figure Ward and Swayed are the youngest opening act ever in town, which is both highly likely and difficult to verify. Nonetheless, they are quite young to be on a Vegas stage. Ward, the singer, is 17, and all band members are younger than 20. The lineup is bassist Breanna Shen, pianist Jason Corpuz, guitarist Alec Zeion and drummer Anthony Braun.
How a band of LVA kids winds up at the Stratosphere is the result of a songwriting class being taught by hotel headliner Frankie Moreno and his brothers Tony and Ricky. After one of these classes, Ward told the Morenos he had a band that was performing at View Wine Bar & Kitchen at Tivoli Village.
The brothers came away impressed, and Frankie began working with the band in regular rehearsals to tighten their playing and polish their stage act. He then contacted Louie Anderson to set up a visit to the Stratosphere to see Ward sing mid-show, and Anderson subsequently invited the young singer to fill in as special guest on his opening night at the Plaza.
Moreno has since shifted the band to a permanent, show-opening spot every night from Wednesdays through Saturdays. It is no coincidence Ward is playing a set of mostly Moreno originals.
“We want to try to solidify a commercial sound with an older vibe,” Ward says, sounding a lot like his mentor. The band works three of its own collection of original songs (there are six altogether) into their 15-minute opening segment.
“The next step is to record,” Ward says. “We are always working toward that goal.”
Though just a few shows into its new role, the band is generating some excitement among their friends in Las Vegas. Moreno’s show recently changed its ticketing strategy to an all-ages performance.
“We actually have fans who follow us,” Ward says, flashing a smile that would look great on billboard someday. “They take photos of us. It’s so cool.”
Yes, it is. It’s the kind of cool you never outgrow.
It is virtually impossible to be anywhere in Las Vegas and miss the Stratosphere. It towers 1,149 feet above Las Vegas and is the tallest observation tower in the United States. The casino itself is 55,784 square feet and contains 950 slot machines, 120 game tables and 2,427 hotel rooms.
Of the hotel's 2,427 rooms, 909 were recently remodeled into Stratosphere Select rooms.
The Stratosphere is mostly known for its rides at the top of the tower. The Big Shot, located at the 113th floor, torpedoes riders up 160 feet using compressed air. X-Scream is a teeter-totter perched at the top of the observation deck — if that wasn't scary enough, the coaster arm flings the riders out 27 feet over the edge of the tower. Guests looking for something more sedate can just hang around the 107th floor and simply look at the scenery.