Everyone in Las Vegas is familiar with the magician and speaking half of Penn & Teller, Penn Jillette. Far fewer have witnessed the Jillette that plays electric bass in an “American Atheist” T-shirt, his curly hair freed from the constraints of his slicked-back ponytail. It’s no surprise, then, that the Bunkhouse filled last Friday as Penn and his No God Band performed a benefit show for the Rebel Secular Student Society.
The NGB has quite the pro lineup: vocalist Sarah Lowe and guitarist Jimmy McIntosh from Jersey Boys, drummer Lon Bronson from his Lon Bronson All-Star Band, keyboardist Mike Jones, also part of the Penn & Teller production, and vocalist Heather Henderson, a SoCal-based performance artist. They played 90 minutes of rock ’n’ roll classics, with the lyrics rolling, karaoke-style, on a Teleprompter (just in case). But even that crack group couldn’t overcome the Bunkhouse’s rough sound; in that setting, after 45 minutes of “You Shook Me All Night Long” and “Viva Las Vegas,” even the best performers tire the ears.
Then again, being serious was never a concern for Jillette, who will perform again at a private party for attendees of the Amazing Meeting, an annual conference on science, skepticism and critical thinking. “What this conference lacks is stupid. It’s serious and slides and PowerPoints,” Jillette says. “[But at the party], no one can complain about the language [or] the lack of content. There will be obscenity, there will be scantily clad people, there will be bacon, there will be donuts, you will learn nothing.” If it’s anything like Friday, it should be a great success.