Wednesday, July 1, 2015 | 1:57 p.m.
It’s uncanny. I swear that it was Aerosmith rocker Steven Tyler. Doubly confusing, I swear that it was Celine Dion. In neither case, however, was it “the real thing.” It was their amazing doubles with extraordinary lookalike and soundalike skills.
For years, I’ve been reticent to write about so-called tribute impersonator shows. I’ve never thought of them as bona-fide entertainment. Call me a snob, but it’s never been my cup of tea.
My attitude changed completely, though, when I saw the all-new “Legends in Concert” at the Flamingo. I went primarily because I love the music and sound of Barry White, who died 12 years ago July 4, and, although I’d met him, I’d never seen somebody impersonate him.
Barry’s sexy soul and silky orchestrations and his distinctive bass-baritone voice stole the charts with hits in the 1970s including “Never, Never Gonna Give Ya Up,” “You’re the First, the Last, My Everything” and “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe.”
His real-life double Jourdan Carroll in “Legends” has Barry down to a T. His voice is just as silky and deep and gets the same swooning reaction from the ladies. I was even singing along.
This live re-creation coupled with an amazing Elisa Furr as Celine Dion and an incredible Chris Van Dahl as Steven Tyler made “Legends” a stage-show spectacular. Brian Brigner, CEO of “Legends,” told me that the brand has spent a considerable amount on a refreshing upgrade.
Now with concert-quality sound, live five-piece band, sexy dancers, state-of-the-art sets, theatrical lighting and signature video production, “Legends” audiences receive top-draw entertainment.
Jourdan performs four numbers, including “Love’s Theme.” Chris performs two medleys of six songs, including “Dude Looks Like a Lady,” and Elisa belts out five Celine hits, including “Power of Love” and “My Heart Will Go On.”
The show also stars amazing Elvis performer Dean Z with six rocking numbers and Jason Jarrett as Michael Jackson complete with “Thriller,” “Billie Jean” and “Smooth Criminal.”
This is a solid collection of great tribute artists on one stage — highly professional and dedicated and perfectly voicing these idols. “Legends” is one of the longest-running shows in Las Vegas history and after 32 years is still voted the No. 1 tribute show on the Strip.
It’s not just the stunningly similar appearances to the superstars; it’s also the pitch-perfect live vocals and signature choreography that make up the complete winning package.
Each artist uses his or her own voice with the band’s brilliant interpretation of the original music. Add costumes, special effects and four attractive female dancers and two strapping male dancers, and it’s akin to watching the actual stars’ shows.
Chris as Steven is such a double that it is impossible to tell him apart from the real rocker. Steven came to the show and was dumfounded to watch his impersonator. They’ve become such good friends that their families vacation together.
Steven has even provided Chris with vocal-and-dance technique advice. Chris has the pouts, struts and kicks and tosses the twirling mic so spot on, you swear it’s Steven himself. His head-over-heels acrobatics are the crowning touch.
Celebrities including Shania Twain, Kenny Rogers and the late Michael Jackson have dropped by to see themselves being portrayed onstage. It was October 1998 when Michael in signature black hat and dark sunglasses quietly slipped into Booth 206 at Imperial Palace to watch the show. Since his death, mom Katherine Jackson has often visited to watch her son’s tribute artists.
Elisa as Celine has always impressed me with her good looks and amazing voice. It’s just as high-note emotionally powerful as Celine’s, and if you closed your eyes, you’d believe you were across the strip at the Colosseum listening to the Canadian superstar songbird at Caesars Palace. Add Celine’s mannerisms and wardrobe, and Elisa delivers the entire package. Bravo and beautiful!
The show opens with Jason as Michael, and he’s got the “Billie Jean” Moonwalk in perfect sliding step. Six backup ghouls from the graveyard add to the “Thriller” segment.
Before the finale with the entire cast rocking the stage and the Strip with “Viva Las Vegas,” it’s the mandatory Elvis double. Dean Z is perhaps the best Elvis impersonator onstage in Las Vegas, so there was no expected inner groaning.
Dean smoothly moved from the swivel hips of “Hound Dog” and “Jailhouse Rock” to a quieter, live-jam solo session with guitar and two of the band taking audience requests of Elvis favorites, including the softer “Love Me Tender.”
Dean was the winner of the Graceland-authorized 2013 Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist competition — and rightly so. Priscilla Presley and Lisa Marie Presley should have hired him as the opening Elvis act in the theater at Westgate Las Vegas where the new Elvis exhibition resides.
I was genuinely surprised. “Legends in Concert” is a night of thoroughly enjoyable entertainment. For more than three decades, it has entertained more than 6.6 million with some 18,500 performances. Global versions on tour have played to more than 30 million in 15 countries on five continents.
“Legends” began life in 1983 at Imperial Palace — now the Linq Hotel — with a limited six-week engagement. Once started, though, it never looked back, and there are now “Legends” shows from Branson, Mo., to Waikiki Beach in Hawaii and onboard two Norwegian cruise line ships.
Here in Las Vegas at the Flamingo, there are 11 shows weekly, with Fridays dark and only one performance on Tuesdays.
Robin Leach of “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous” fame has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past 15 years giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.
Follow Las Vegas Sun Entertainment + Luxury Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.
Transport yourself to the opulent and excessive Roman Empire at Caesars Palace. But the ever-changing Caesars Palace is far from ancient. The hotel and casino is constantly raising the bar for what visitors can expect in a Vegas resort experience.
Caesars Palace features 3,348 rooms and suites in five towers, including the new luxury boutique Nobu Hotel and Restaurant, which opened Feb. 4, 2013, in the totally remodeled Centurian Tower. Caesars features 129,000 square feet of gaming space, including the Strip’s largest poker room and a 250-seat sports book. Other amenities include about two dozen restaurants, a four-level shopping mall, four pools, a spa, Pure and Poetry nightclubs and Pussycat Dolls.
Dining options include restaurants from world-renown chefs Guy Savoy, Wolfgang Puck, Bobby Flay, Gordon Ramsay and, on Feb. 4, 2013, Nobu Matsuhisa.
You never know what characters you’ll run into at Caesars with regular performers like Jerry Seinfeld, Bette Midler, Elton John and maybe even the emperor himself.