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September 17, 2019

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Star trek from Clint Holmes-Santa Fe to Frankie Moreno is Uber-eventful

2015 Keep Memory Alive Gala

L.E. Baskow

Entertainer Clint Holmes attends the 19th annual Keep Memory Alive “Power of Love” gala for the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health honoring Andrea Bocelli and wife Veronica Bocelli on Saturday, June 13, 2015, at MGM Grand Garden Arena.

Frankie Moreno’s ‘Under the Influence’

Frankie Moreno’s “Under the Influence” on Saturday, April 23, 2016, at Planet Hollywood. Launch slideshow »

Clint Holmes at ‘Georgia on My Mind’ Tribute

Clint Holmes with Kirk Whalum on sax in “Georgia on My Mind: A Tribute to Ray Charles” on Friday, Feb. 28, 2014, at Reynolds Hall in the Smith Center. Launch slideshow »

There is a saying in my VegasVille universe that helps keep all this activity in perspective. It is, “What could possibly go wrong?”

This phrase, always recited facetiously, came to mind Saturday night as I was riding in a Cadillac SUV on Interstate 15 toward Planet Hollywood from the M Resort. This vehicle was crucial to my logistic strategy in high-tailing it from the Clint Holmes-Santa Fe & The Fat City Horns show at the M to Frankie Moreno’s opening of “Under the Influence” at Planet Hollywood Showroom.

This vehicle also was the wrong vehicle to be carting me to Planet Hollywood, Planet Krypton, the real Hollywood or anywhere else.

How this happened: I ordered an Uber ride from the M Resort just as the Holmes-Santa Fe show was ending at M Pavilion. I had timed this ride request to allow enough time to make the Moreno show just as it was starting. This strategy was flawless … until the moment I ducked into the wrong vehicle.

The Uber ride was to be a Toyota Corolla. The driver notified me of his arrival time, which was slightly late but not so late as to cause me distress. That would happen later. As we were texting, a black Cadillac SUV pulled up and parked, its driver calling out, “Planet Hollywood?”

“Right here!” I shouted and walked toward a motorcar that was obviously not a Toyota Corolla. But not having taken Uber too many times, I believed that it was possible the driver entered the wrong vehicle in the app. I did not believe it was possible that I was entering the wrong vehicle.

We cruised toward Planet Hollywood as I sipped from a complimentary water bottle. As we approached the Russell Road exit, my text flashed with the message, “Sorry for the delay. I am here.”

“Wait — I am already on my way to Planet Hollywood,” I responded.

“OMG,” the driver texted.

“I am in the wrong Uber!” I called to the Cadillac driver.

“This is not an Uber,” the driver said, looking at me in his rearview mirror with a look of deep concern. “This is a hotel car.”

“Oh!” I said, nonplussed but still committed to reaching Planet Hollywood. “Is it possible for you to just drop me off somewhere on the Strip?”

We worked it out, and I was delivered happily to Planet Hollywood. In VegasVille, these things can happen, though I had not considered this type of upheaval as I raced across the urban landscape on a rare night where three of the city’s very best acts were performing almost simultaneously — and two of them onstage at the same time.

These were a pair of great shows that nonetheless dealt with unplanned issues.

Anticipated for, oh, the past decade, the Holmes-Santa Fe production brought serious vibrancy to the M Pavilion. Holmes retold the story about how he hooked up with the band initially for his 6 1/2-year run at Harrah’s. He’d just left Golden Nugget after a short run ending in the fall of 1999 and caught Santa Fe at the lounge at Palace Station. Fearing he’d not be able to afford a band of that size, Holmes’ then-manager told him, “You can’t afford not to have that band.”

The merger of Santa Fe’s power — 16 pieces led by bandleader Jerry Lopez and boosted by Holmes music director at Cabaret Jazz, Jeff Neiman — and Holmes’ vast range as a vocalist produced fantastic moments. Holmes fired up “What’s Going On,” the Marvin Gaye cover, saying, “Unfortunately, this song is as relevant today as it was when it was released,” which was 1971.

Holmes revived his three-minute version of “West Side Story,” racing through the entire production with just the percussion backing of Pepe Jimenez and Gabriel Falcone. He performed choice selections from Michael Jackson (“Human Nature”), Bruno Mars (“When I Was Your Man”), James Taylor (“You’ve Got a Friend”) and Billy Joel (“Just the Way You Are”).

A few originals peppered the set, including “At the Feet of Belafonte” and “Rendezvous,” both inspired by Holmes’ youth in Buffalo. And for the first time in about 10 years, Lopez and he teamed on their own composition, the spirited “Canta Con Migo,” where Holmes read from a lyrics sheet and asked Lopez, “I sing the English parts, right?”

We also were treated to an unannounced appearance by a Pip, Bubba Knight of Gladys Knight and The Pips, who joined for an audience sing-along of “Mr. Bojangles,” the Sammy Davis Jr. classic.

The night was more than an artistic success. It also drew more than 2,000 attendees to the 2,500-capacity venue; I was informed reliably just before the show that the performance had totally sold out, a boon especially to Santa Fe’s Monday night shows at South Point Showroom (the healing is at 10:30 p.m., folks).

But the show was not without a hiccup. Late in the set, Neiman received word from hotel brass that the performance was “running long.” This was about 8:20 p.m. Holmes was clearly surprised to know this, and Neiman’s arched eyebrows indicated that he was a little stunned, too.

Thus, a pair of late numbers were cut from the original run order, a bummer of an outcome that prompted Holmes to say, “We’ll make sure you get back into the casino so you can gamble.” He later said he’d not remembered ever being told during a show that he was running long, and I can’t recall an instance in Las Vegas where a headliner was warned while onstage about the show’s running time.

What could possibly go wrong? Losing track of the clock, I guess.

The happening at Planet Hollywood was to be a “soft” opening for Moreno’s “Under the Influence” production in the run-up to his formal premiere May 5. But Moreno has never quite understood the point of “previews,” figuring that if the show is open, it’s open.

But the concept of previews is to fine-tune a production, and Moreno and his team will be glad for that opportunity. This is far and away the most technical armament Moreno has ever had to work with, each number a production unto itself.

The original “I Gotta Have It” opens backed by video image of a .45 and the song’s lyrics on the screens above the stage. “Diva” is the set for the Shelby Cobra held over from “Peepshow” days in that theater, with Lacey Schwimmer — in the “Dancing With the Stars” costume she wore during Moreno’s appearance on the show in 2012 — dancing atop the car.

“Biggest Fan,” another of Moreno’s many recent originals, is backed by a series of superhero images (including the letters “FM” in a Superman crest), and the mood is dialed back — in a nifty piece of pacing — for the piano-only “Some Kind of Love.”

Of course, covers are folded into the show, often blending with Moreno compositions. He runs through the Elvis-in-Las Vegas classic “Suspicious Minds.” “Eleanor Rigby” is played with a violin video accompaniment — Moreno’s current band has no strings — and the penultimate song is another great cover, “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

The investment of Base Entertainment is fairly splayed across this show. Eight new video panels hang above the stage, a new sound system has been installed, and Moreno plays a rotating piano — one of three grand pianos in the show — in his closing flurry, which features the rollicking Jerry Lee Lewis number “Wild One” and another Elvis rocker, “Heartbreak Hotel.”

This number requires a bit of gymnastics, and Moreno is currently curtailed by a disc injury. He told his opening-night crowd that he was wearing a back brace, in effect playing injured. He also routinely pointed out all the gizmos around the stage, like a kid with a collection of new toys, saying, “Doesn’t this look great?”

It’s a far distance from Rush Lounge at Golden Nugget or Ravello at M Resort or Lounge at the Palms. This is a real production, and what Moreno has gained in wizardry comes at a cost of some of the nuttier, even illicit, moments of those lounge days.

But expect Moreno to become comfortable in the middle of all this technology. He did manage to call out for a cocktail, and an audience member sent a triple shot of Crown Royal to the stage. Moreno took a few drinks during the performance, which seemed only fitting. What could possibly go wrong?

Nothing insurmountable, even when the trip takes some unexpected turns.

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