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High Roller passengers to be tied in knots; Carlos Santana snares Las Vegas great; Cheaza fails to tackle Richard Sherman


John Katsilometes

The High Roller observation wheel at the Linq as seen during a hard hat tour Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014.

The High Roller

A High Roller observation wheel pod as seen during a hard hat tour Jan. 22, 2014. Launch slideshow »
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A High Roller observation wheel pod as seen during a hard hat tour Jan. 22, 2014.

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The High Roller observation wheel at the Linq as seen during a hard hat tour Jan. 22, 2014.

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Jon Gray, vice president and general manager of Caesars Entertainment's Linq development, speaks before a construction tour of the project Tuesday, July 29, 2013. The $550 million shopping, dining and entertainment district will be anchored by the 550-foot-tall High Roller observation wheel. The project's first phase is expected to open in late 2013.

The Kats Report Bureau is one of our first TKR remote outposts, the Beat Coffeehouse on Fremont East. The Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black” is crackling on vinyl over the pub’s sound system as we look at the sun setting in the distance across Sixth Street.

I want it to turn black, as Mick says.

Let us proceed, with some sitar-driven raking:

• The High Roller is expected to open in March, if not sooner, at the Linq on the Strip, which cuts between the Quad, Harrah’s and Flamingo. The cabins on the 550-foot-tall attraction are to be outfitted with video screens and highly refined Hi-Fi stereophonic sound (to borrow a phrase used long ago by Zenith). As many as 40 people can inhabit one of these Star Trek-ian orbs, with 12 of those folks seated on padded benches.

Linq overlord Jon Gray said this afternoon that his staff receives at least one request a week for what is called a Wheel Wedding, and that number is fast approaching 100. This is with the opening of the High Roller to the public at about two months away (my estimation, which might actually be accurate). A portable bar can be rolled into the cabin space for services, and the Linq can furnish a reverend and flowers, too. The events center at the High Roller also is taking reservations for receptions.

“We even have an annulment center, in the basement, if you want out of your marriage in, like, three hours,” Gray says, joking (you almost got me there). He was working at the Palms in the days of Britney Spears’ infamous 55-hour wedding to high school sweetheart Jason Alexander in 2003. He obviously banked that episode.

The Linq also is entering the suddenly busy field of outdoor concert venues by hosting Keith Urban and Rascal Flatts for the Academy of Country Music Party for a Cause festival April 4-5. Those artists are headlining the two-day event, all of it outside, also featuring Joe Nichols, Jerrod Niemann, Thomas Rhett, Chris Young, The Cadillac Three, a trio of ACM New Artist of the Year nominees, and more artists to be announced.

The Linq venue, in the shadow of the High Roller, already feels much akin to the Lot across from Mandalay Bay and operated by MGM Resorts. That was the location of the daytime iHeartRadio Music Festival, where in September Miley Cyrus debuted “Wrecking Ball” for a crowd of about 25,000. That’s also what is expected for the ACM party, though the full capacity of the Linq venue can exceed 60,000, and Gray is already talking about holding multiday music festivals, sporting events (including polo) and such gatherings as mass annulments. We kid, of course.

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Pepe Jimenez plays with the Carlos Santana band in Guadalajara, Mexico, on Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013.

Carlos Santana in Guadalajara

Carlos Santana in Guadalajara, Mexico, on Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013. Launch slideshow »

• Carlos Santana plucked one of the great musicians in Las Vegas to replace his longtime drummer, Dennis Chambers. That artist is Pepe Jimenez of Santa Fe & The Fat City Horns and Frankie Moreno’s band, who is joining Santana tonight through Feb. 1 during Santana’s latest run of performances at House of Blues in Mandalay Bay. With Chambers regarded as one of the finest percussionists in contemporary music (the fact that he played with Santana reinforces his reputation), why did Santana feel the need to shake up the lineup?

“Well, sometimes it’s just time to make a change, and I felt like it was just time to make a change in energy,” Santana said in an interview last week. “We were looking for different musicians, Pepe’s name kept coming up, and when he came and played, I knew that he represents who we are and what we needed right now. I love looking at his eyes and his smile because he’s really happy being here, you know?”

It helps that Jimenez is a fantastic player and a great showman.

“Very few bands pay you to actually play beyond what you actually know and give it up. Most bands pay you to look like a mannequin out in front of Macy’s, and they just coast,” Santana said. “I don’t pay my musicians to pose and to sustain and just hold something for me. I’m a grown man. You don’t need to hold time for me. I need for you to embellish and complement and make the most genuine and passionate face you have and create the most beautiful music. It’s all about energy, you know?”

And of Jimenez, Santana says, “I love Pepe’s energy. I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

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"Peepshow" star Cheaza arrives at the Las Vegas premiere of the movie "Lovelace" at Planet Hollywood Sunday, Aug. 4 2013.

• There is at least one link between the hyper-energized, over-modulating Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and Las Vegas. That link would be the esteemed Cheaza, formerly of “Peepshow” who is embarking on all sorts of solo projects these days, including repeated trips overseas to perform in Europe. Cheaza and Sherman have been friends for quite a while, a reality she verified by showing me a photo of the two together several months ago after a performance of “Peepshow.”

Exactly half of that photo is attractive.

I happened to be sitting with Cheaza at Skye Dee Miles’ show at Tropicana Lounge on Friday night, and I said to her, “You need to make sure Richard Sherman does not make it to CenturyLink field Sunday. He needs to be detained, somehow. We can’t have him on the field during that game.”

The “we” in this request being the San Francisco 49ers, as I am a huge Niners’ fan to the point that I refer to “them” as “we.”

“No way!” Cheaza said. “I am not ruining the dream!”

Well, we know what happened. Sherman made a great play, and the first tweet I sent was to Cheaza, saying, “He got us.” This was before Sherman burst into his WWE monologue with Fox sideline reporter Erin Andrews. Sherman has been known to, how we say, run his mouth, but Cheaza says he is a very wonderful and humble person. But that didn’t prevent him from texting her hours after the game with, “Tell your friend that’s why you don’t want me to show up.”

Whatever. The guy made a great play. He popped off. Big whoop.

‘Mondays Dark’ Benefits Nevada SPCA

Mark Shunock arrives at his “Mondays Dark,” benefiting Nevada SPCA, at Vinyl on Monday, Jan. 20, 2014, in the Hard Rock Hotel.
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• Mark Shunock raised $10,000 for the Nevada Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals during his latest “Mondays Dark” event at Vinyl in the Hard Rock Hotel. The casts of “Million Dollar Quartet,” “Evil Dead: the Musical” and “Rock of Ages” helped Shunock in his third such charity show, which focuses on a different organization each time out. Also up were Felice Garcia of “MDQ,” Melody Sweets of “Absinthe” (in quite an inventive and kitty getup) and the suddenly ever-present Cheaza. Who else? Travis Cloer of “Jersey Boys,” and Ben Stone and Jasmine Trias. Great performers, all.

And some big ups to the night's music director, “Rock of Ages” associate conductor and Santa Fe keyboardist Dave Richardson for dealing with an instrument that kept slipping from its stand. Richardson is a famously even-tempered guy, but he looked like he was about ready to go off on someone. Fortunately, he held it together and helped deliver a really entertaining night. Shunock and his monthly showcases are a terrific addition to the Vegas scene.

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