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October 22, 2017

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Paul Shortino reclaims Duke Fame for AMC; Human Nature says, ‘Hey, we can jam with Philharmonic’


Tom Donoghue /

The Venetian headliners Human Nature attend the grand opening night of The Jacksons in “Rocktellz & Cocktails” on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014, at Planet Hollywood.

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Carmen Shortino and Paul Shortino arrive at Mark Shunock’s “Mondays Dark,” benefiting Nevada SPCA, at Vinyl on Monday, Jan. 20, 2014, in the Hard Rock Hotel.

At this writing, The Kats Report Bureau is a longtime favorite, the counter at Fuel Cafe Express at the Hard Rock Hotel. When this place was a Starbucks outpost, I wrote about the opening of the new Joint, columns about The Killers and Paul McCartney opening the music hall, right from this very spot.

This is not far from Vinyl, where Andrew Dice Clay performs regularly, and he’ll have a (leather) vested interest in the Oscars on Sunday night. Oscar winner Cate Blanchett, with whom Dice was cast in Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine,” is the favorite to win Best Actress. Also set to perform at the room that feels like a cozier version of the Joint is Tom Green, with his multimedia standup show running March 7-10.

Tonight, the scene is Broadway Rocks Vegas, a collection of Broadway-styled entertainers playing in their respective offshoot bands. Graham Fenton of “Jersey Boys,” Martin Kaye of “Million Dollar Quartet” and Justin Mortelliti of “Rock of Ages” are all set to play. Fenton is at the front of this effort, which is boosted by my buddy Bart Torres of 99.7 The Highway Vibe. Torres professes to be “The Voice of Vegas,” but he might want to talk to Jimmy “The Voice” Hopper about that title.

Fenton is debuting his band, A Million Pieces, a troupe we might well be hearing more about soon. Mortelliti is performing with “Rock of Ages” musicians, and Kaye is flying so low. Er, solo. Should be a pretty cool thing.

More from an uncommonly busy VegasVille scene:

• AMC is working on a documentary on the 30th anniversary of the classic, and peerless, rock satire “This Is Spinal Tap.” One of the rockers who appeared in the film, Paul Shortino as Duke Fame, is among those to be interviewed. A film crew is talking to him Friday afternoon at LVH Theater. The story goes that Shortino heard about auditions for the film one morning in L.A. and was the first individual to show up to read for the part. He was so good that he was offered the role instantly, winning a part in which the character appears onscreen for less than three minutes and says exactly nothing.

That’s a genuine stretch for the powerfully extroverted Shortino, who nonetheless still owns the Duke Fame persona (which he can perform if you ask nicely), and the white jacket he wore in the movie, too. Otherwise, he’s dressed in the rocker gear of “Raiding the Rock Vault” at LVH, and the documentary producers want to capture footage of the performance for the movie.

• Anyone with the Las Vegas Philharmonic charged with linking the symphony with a popular and highly proficient vocal-dance act on the Strip, take note: The guys from Human Nature at the Venetian would love to sing with the L.V. Philharmonic sometime, preferably the holidays. The foursome has performed symphony concerts many times, most notably with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in their original home city in Australia.

There might be some contractual issues to untangle (Venetian brass might not approve of their Sands Showroom stars playing a ticketed show at the Smith Center), but the guys can make this happen pretty seamlessly. As H.N.’s Phil Burton says, “We already have the charts. We can do a two-hour concert, no problem.”

• Franky Perez and his new band, The Dirty, debuted at Fizz in Caesars Palace on Thursday night. The band pumped out Perez-manipulated covers of songs such as “Maps” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs, “Royals” by Lorde and the mash of Kanye West’s and Stevie Wonder’s “No Church in the Wild” and “Superstition,” respectively. The horn-backed band is headed for Rocks Lounge at Red Rock Resort on alternate second Thursdays of every month beginning March 13. They might perform some “sneak hits” at Fizz over the next few months and build toward playing regularly Saturdays at Rocks in June.

• We have to rein in our enthusiasm — rein it in, I tell you! — on Melody Sweets’ planned appearance with “Million Dollar Quartet” at Harrah’s.

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Singer/actress Pia Zadora, center, poses with cast members, from left, Martin Kaye, Scott Hinds, Justin Shandor, and Benjamin Hale following a guest performance in "Million Dollar Quartet" at Harrah's Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014.

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Cast members perform in "Million Dollar Quartet" at Harrah's Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014. From left, Martin Kaye as Jerry Lee Lewis, Justin Shandor as Elvis, Scott Hinds as Carl Perkins, Josh Jones on bass, and Benjamin Hale as Johnny Cash.

Sweets was scheduled to appear tonight at the end of the performance singing Janis Martin’s 1956 rockabilly number “My Boy Elvis.” But a show rep says an undisclosed scheduling conflict has postponed the number to be performed by the vaunted Green Fairy of “Absinthe.” The cast of “MDQ” wants her in the show, no question, and when she’s rescheduled, we’ll write some sentences reporting such.

• On the topic of the city’s pre-eminent, 1956-based musical, the role of Elvis is now in the hands of Justin Shandor. He replaces the Vegas cast’s original Elvis, Tyler Hunter. The swing is Cole (the cast’s pre-eminent, single-named performer), who also appears as the swing for Johnny Cash when Ben Hale is off. Kristen Hertzenberg begins her run as the swing for Felice Garcia (Dyanne) this week. The role of Roy Orbison will be played by … wait. No Roy Orbison.

• On the topic of great live Vegas performers, Killian’s Angels performed a couple of rip-roaring sets at Brendan’s Irish Pub at the Orleans on Friday and Saturday nights. Mandolin-brandishing frontwoman Beth Mullaney says the band is attempting to reconstruct the sort of fan base that made it one of the city’s more popular bands seven to eight years ago. The Angels’ next shows at Brendan’s are March 7-8, from 9 p.m.-1 a.m. It’s a topnotch, free-admission, drink-it-up and dance-it-up experience.

• A sign that the Composers Showcase is soaring is the Wednesday performance at the Smith Center’s Cabaret Jazz is just about sold out. These performances are selling out regularly, as co-founder Keith Thompson has found the formula for success — which is a stable and suitable venue and strong buzz about the performances.

The lineup Wednesday is stacked. Joining Thompson on the list of composers are notables such as Michael Brennan of “Le Reve — The Dream” (the Showcase’s other co-founder), 11-year-old “America’s Got Talent” phenom Anna Christine, guitar master Mundo Juillerat, ultra-talented singer-songwriter Adam Knaff, longtime Showcase standout Christopher Lash, “Ka” music director Richard Oberacker, “Ka” artist and musician Sami Saula, the Vegas band BFD and jazz vocalist Geoffrey Tozer.

Up March 12 at Cab Jazz is excitable showman Jim Caruso and his side-kicking pianist, Billy Stritch, for the return of the open-mic Cast Party. Performers have been lining up for weeks to be in that show. It’s a killer thing, as they say at … both showcases.

Still on the topic of great live Vegas performances, over the weekend I caught three acts that were groovy in their own distinctive manner: Good Vibrations, The Beach Boys tribute show, soared in two VIP performances at Railhead at Boulder Station. (Skeptics will need this repeated: VIP performances at Railhead in Boulder Station). The band played 4 and 6 p.m. shows for select Station Casinos customers, and the shows were boosted by the appearance of my friend Billy Hinsche, who toured with The Beach Boys for years and also was a member of Dino, Desi & Billy (he was Billy in that lineup). You need to keep your radar up for Good Vibrations (which I caught with my friend Clint Holmes), as they have a tough time getting gigs anywhere in the West but are huge on the East Coast. Makes no sense, really.

Meantime, over at Carnival Court at Harrah’s, I caught the rocking, German-influenced (but not German in fact) ’80s novelty act The Whip Its. Fronted by Stephanie Calvert of Starship, and also “Rock Vault,” The Whip Its play Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 6 p.m. To gauge the band’s comedic sensibilities, Calvert’s leather-cloaked, crop-wielding character is named Ivana Hump. Her brother is Dieter (of “Saturday Night Live’s” Sprockets fame), and there is a high complement of adult humor in this act — especially for an afternoon show. One line that an be recited, from Dieter, after a fan inexplicably shouted, “Lindsay Lohan!”

“Maybe Lindsay Lohan can get a residency here so she can also lip sync for $380,000 a show!” Dieter called out. Not sure, exactly, to whom he was referring …

Also, we must note The Guilty Pleasures, the city’s pre-eminent yacht rock tribute act, which played Mizuya Lounge at Mandalay Bay on Sunday night. Fronted by Vegas sax player Jon Celentano, dressed as Michael McDonald, the band navigates through “What a Fool Believes,” “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)” by Rupert Holmes and “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing” by Leo Sayer. The show is as shticky as a caramel factory, with drummer Captain Anton Neil (say it fast) noting the band’s sponsor, Old Spice.

“Nothing says ‘I’m over 40’ than the fragrance of Old Spice,” the Captain says. “Available at Aisle 9 of Walgreens, ladies and gentlemen … mostly gentlemen, I see.”

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The grand opening night of The Jacksons in "Rocktellz & Cocktails" on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014, at Planet Hollywood.

• A great red-carpet exchange (and great exchanges on the red carpet are as rare as … well, women at a Guilty Pleasures show. But a good one unfolded at The Jacksons’ red carpet before the brothers’ media performance Saturday night. Marlon Jackson, who is a really funny individual, took questions from an OK Go film crew.

“What songs are you going to be singing?” Jackson was asked.

“Wait — name a few. Lemme see what you know,” Jackson said.

“Um … ‘ABC’?” the interviewer said.

“Yes, we’ll do ‘ABC.’ What else?” Jackson said.

“Um … you put me on the spot!” the interviewer said.

“Hey, you’re trying to put me on the spot!” Jackson said.

“OK, I know how it feels now!” the interviewer said. “But we’re excited to see the show.”

And Jackson said, “So are we!”

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at

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