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September 1, 2014

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Q+A: Cameo singer Larry Blackmon talks L.V. Soul Festival, Pacquiao, Cyrus and red codpiece

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Larry Blackmon is the founder and frontman of Cameo.

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Cameo Word Up!

Larry Blackmon, the founder and lead singer of Cameo who is headlining Saturday’s Las Vegas Soul Festival at the Thomas & Mack Center at UNLV, continues to tour because he loves it, as do the band’s longtime fans.

“It is our duty to treat them to a good show,” Blackmon said. “We treat every show as if it is our first show. We play it with the same excitement.”

R&B and funk band Cameo, who formed in the early 1970s and whose hits include “Word Up!” (with the memorable video featuring Blackmon in a bright red codpiece), “Candy” and the 2001 Mariah Carey collaboration “Loverboy,” are the headliners of the festival that also includes Tony Toni Tone, Con Funk Shun, Lenny Williams, Next, The Dramatics and Ray Goodman & Brown.

The charming and polite Blackmon, 57, who founded Atlanta Artist Records (which branched out to include Atlanta Artist Productions and Atlanta Artist Management) on Wednesday talked over the phone ahead of the concert about Saturday’s Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley rematch, the red codpiece and Miley Cyrus.

So what can fans expect from you as the headliner of the Las Vegas Soul Festival this Saturday?

A good dose of Cameo and the energy we bring to a live show instead of hearing us over the radio. We want the audiences to really enjoy themselves. This festival has an interesting lineup.

Do you ever get tired of playing your big 1986 hit “Word Up!”?

No, never. It’s what the audiences deserve. It is our duty to treat them to a good show. We treat every show as if it is our first show. We play it with the same excitement.

I have to ask, even though it’s been 28 years: What was up with that red codpiece you were wearing in the video?

That’s our costume! The codpieces were sewn on by our costumer Bernard Johnson, God bless his soul; he is no longer with us now. When we filmed the “Word Up!” video, he brought over a box along with my wardrobe, and I got the surprise of my life (laughs).

It’s what the audiences want, so I can’t take it off. I should have it sewn on my everyday clothes (laughs)!

Do you own it? It’s a music history relic.

Yes! How would I not? Who would want to own it after all these years of me wearing it (laughs). It’s part of the Cameo genre, and we want to give audiences what they want.

OK, enough codpiece talk: Have you been to Las Vegas before?

Oh, yes, several times.

What do you like to do when you’re in Las Vegas?

I like to look at all the hotels, stop at a few and throw a few dice around. I enjoy the buffets. But it’s very rare that we have time to do anything. I’m looking forward to this performance and an extended stay of two to three days.

Are there any shows you’re hoping to see here in town?

I was just asking a friend about what shows are in town. I think Robin Thicke is there this weekend and the Manny Pacquiao fight, but I’m working.

What’s your prediction on the fight?

Pacquiao is going to win. He really won the first time. But Timothy Bradley is a worthy opponent. He has impressed me since that last fight. I’m going to try to see the fight somehow.

Who are some of your favorite artists out there right now?

Miley Cyrus is quite interesting. She is a true entertainer and obviously is not doing it for the money. I don’t find her naked thing appealing, but I like what she’s done with her artistry. There is a chemistry in her material and her performance.

What are some of the projects you’re working on right now?

We’re currently working with Eric Benet and Cee-Lo. It’s an exciting time.

Final thoughts?

We appreciate our Cameo fans. They have been with us for a long time. We consider ourselves the urban Rolling Stones, if I may be so bold. We tour year-round because we find what we do exhilarating — our hearts are in it.

The Las Vegas Soul Festival, featuring Cameo, Tony Toni Tone, Con Funk Shun, Lenny Williams, Next, The Dramatics and Ray Goodman & Brown, is at the Thomas & Mack Center at UNLV on Saturday. Go to the UNLV website for more information.

Don Chareunsy is senior editor for arts and entertainment of the Las Vegas Sun.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

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