The extended Fourth of July weekend has taken The Kats Report train from The Smith Center for the Performing Arts to Tryst at Wynn Las Vegas, and, of course, America.
The band America, I mean. At The Club at Cannery.
It’s an action-packed weekend. As we brake, we rake:
• The Las Vegas Philharmonic’s concertmaster had to scramble just to make the stage in time for Thursday’s “Fourth With the Phil” show at Reynolds Hall.
De Ann Letourneau was at The Smith Center in plenty of time before the 7:30 p.m. show. That was not the problem. Before she took her position as the Phil’s first-chair violinist, she had a commitment at Symphony Park, during which she was to perform with Frankie Moreno as part of the outdoor party that started at 4 p.m.
That concert lineup also featured Ellie Smith (Miss Teen Nevada 2012, who later sang the national anthem to open the Phil show) and country artist Sam Riddle. Moreno followed Riddle, and by the time he hit the stage with his scaled-down band (with Letourneau wielding the fiddle), it was 7:15 p.m.
By then, many ticket-holders who had been enjoying the music on the lawn were headed for the indoor pops show that, naturally, was to include the Phil’s first-chair violinist.
The audience was seated at 7:30. Letourneau’s chair was the last to be filled, which is common at symphony shows as the concertmaster is the last orchestra member to take her position. What the audience didn’t realize is at that moment, Letourneau was running in high heels (too hot to take them off, she explained) across The Smith Center complex from the grassy Symphony Park stage to the Reynolds Hall dressing room. A security guard rushed up to her while talking into a headpiece, saying, “I’ve got her!” and led her into the venue’s side entrance.
After a quick change into a white top and black slacks, and carrying a water bottle under her arm, Letourneau strode to the stage maybe 10 minutes late. She turned her back to the crowd to tune the orchestra and let out a regenerative exhale, and it seemed the back of her hair was a little wet with sweat. Otherwise, she played it off expertly, which is what she does. But the sprint, that was a new number.
• The conductor for the “Fourth With the Phil” performance at Reynolds Hall is a person to watch, and not because he is so much fun to watch. Matt Catingub led the symphony’s pops presentation, a show steeped in patriotic songs fitting for the holiday and even a medley of TV sitcom theme songs (“All in the Family” linked to “The Love Boat” followed by “The Brady Bunch,” like that).
Catingub is a vastly talented, uber-versatile music director who can sing (he shared the stage with Clint Holmes and Kristen Hertzenberg on Thursday and fearlessly sang with both great vocalists), write charts and play the sax and other horns in the woodwinds family. Catingub is a pops specialist as the music director for the newly formed Glendale (Calif.) Pops Orchestra and Hawaii Symphony Orchestra Pops.
He toured with Rosemary Clooney and has arranged and composed for an array of artists, including Boz Scaggs, Kenny Loggins, Diana Krall, James Ingram, Toni Tennille, The Righteous Brothers and Toto. As the son of Frank Sinatra protégé Mavis Rivers and a Vegas resident, Catingub is an ideal figure to lead the Phil’s pops shows. He’s back in April for a Vegas-styled, standards-driven pops show.
L.V. Phil officials, who plan to fill its open music-director position by next May, also are figuring out how to grow the symphony’s five-concert pops series to give Catingub more chances to lead the orchestra. He’s a magnanimous conductor. His enthusiastic sing-along to such songs as the theme from “Happy Days” tickled the holiday crowd. More Matt, we say. He’s fabuloso.
• Nick Hissom turned 21 on Thursday in a characteristically demure fashion, celebrating his birthday and the launch of his single “If I Die Young” amid a wild entrance to Tryst at the Wynn. Hissom was led to the club in a line of cocktail waitresses and friends carrying LED-illuminated torches and those ridiculously oversized face signs you see at UNLV basketball games.
In the party were his stepfather, Steve Wynn, and mother, Andrea, along with his father, Robert. The Wynns barely broke stride, looping through the VIP section and making their way out of the club long before the birthday cake was delivered (deep into the party, a friend of Hissom’s happily smashed a large slice into his face). Earlier, a video message wishing Hissom a Happy 21st played on the video screen at Parasol Down’s Lake of Dreams.
Hissom met Claire Sinclair during that celebration, and nothing shakes up an already bubbly birthday party like the arrival of a Playboy Playmate of the Year. On Friday night, Hissom was back in celebratory mode at Surrender. Studies at Penn and more songwriting are in the offing for the multifaceted Hissom. But first, a nap seems in order. He's earned it.
• Before Saturday night, the last time I’d seen the band America — the only time, actually — was as the opening act for The Beach Boys during a show at University Stadium in Chico, Calif., in 1982. I was just a pup then, favoring Rush, AC/DC and Journey to this folk-rock acoustic act. I do recall it being very hot that day on the Chico State University campus, and it was hot again at Saturday’s show at The Club at Cannery. The Club has this indoor-outdoor setup that make the environment a lot friendlier, especially for those close to the stage, than watching a show entirely outside on a July night in VegasVille.
The Club is one of the city’s underrated venues. I’d seen its opening show in September 2004, headlined by Glenn Frey of The Eagles, and also ventured out to the hotel-casino off Craig Road and I-15 for performances by The Beatles tribute band The Fab and a show by Elvis impressionist Johnny Fortuna to celebrate the King’s 75th birthday three years ago.
Impressively, The Club was packed at its 3,000-seat capacity for America, with ticket prices ranging from $15 for stadium-styled seats at the back to $30 for the folding chairs up front. It helped that America “gets it,” delivering all of its famous songs (“Sister Golden Hair,” “Ventura Highway,” “Lonely People,” “Tin Man,” “Horse With No Name,” “I Need You,” “You Can Do Magic,” among them). The audience was thrilled. It was obvious that many in the house had grown up listening to those hits on FM radio. “Classic rock is the best music,” is how America co-founder Gerry Beckley termed the band’s music, to a big cheer.
Beckley looks like David Letterman and is a funny guy. He also talked of seeing The Rolling Stones on their recent tour. “I love that band, but man, there was a lot of running in that show,” Beckley said. “Maybe we should run more.”
Beckley and Dewey Bunnell have performed and recorded together since 1969 and have toured consistently since. They still play at least 100 dates per year. They are proficient musicians, and the core of their backing band has been together at least 35 years.
As I watched the crowd shuffle out of The Club, I felt most of these people lived in Las Vegas. Why would they spend part of their holiday waiting in a long line to watch a band that hasn’t had a hit in 31 years? Easy: Value. It was a fine show at a fair price. What a novel concept.