California Rocker

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Hammons Review: Sir Rod Stewart Makes A Knight To Remember in Knockout Caesars Palace Performance

By CRAIG HAMMONS

The curtain was drawn and anticipation was running high.  At 7:30 P.M. sharp the theme to The Magnificent Seven came roaring out of the public address system.  The curtains then opened to Rod Stewart’s band kicking into the Bar-Kays instrumental “Soul Finger.”

Rod then came prancing out on stage in his new leopard skin jacket to a thunderous round of applause and went right into “Having a Party.”  Now the mood was set for this evening of fun and foolish behavior. Rod didn’t miss a beat and went right into “Some Guys Have All the Luck” and “Young Turks” to make for a very energetic start.

Sir Rod Stewart lit up the crowd at Caesars - Photo by Craig Hammons for California Rocker

Sir Rod Stewart lit up the crowd at Caesars – Photo by Craig Hammons

Rod is doing residency here at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas before heading out on a world tour with Cindy Lauper that starts in the United Kingdom in May.  Rod welcomed the audience and said “We’re going to be here for the next 90 minutes so enjoy yourselves, ladies and gentlemen, it’s later than you think.”

A beautiful blonde sat down behind a very large gold harp and played the opening of “Tonight’s the Night.”  The audience knew this one by heart and sang along to every word.

Rod didn’t slow things down for long as he then paid honor to Chuck Berry who he had just learned had passed away earlier in the day.

Rod Stewart performed the classics at Caesars - Photo by Craig Hammons for California Rocker

Rod Stewart performed the classics at Caesars – Photo by Craig Hammons for California Rocker

“The first album I ever bought was Chuck’s Live at the Tivoli and I was never the same,” Rod said. “He was the founding father and you can hear his influence in every rock n roll band from my generation on.”

A picture of Chuck Berry flashed on the big screen and they went right into a rocking version of “Sweet Little Rock & Roller” with Rod working the stage like the true showman he is.

There was then a nod to Sir Rod’s recent knighthood before going into “Rhythm of My Heart” followed by “Forever Young” in which the crowd was signing so loud Rod gave it to us to sing all alone.   There was a percussion solo in the middle of the song which allowed Rod to slip off stage to make a costume change.

Rod and the band - Photo by Craig Hammons

Rod and the band – Photo by Craig Hammons

In true Rod Stewart fashion, in his band are beautiful and talented female violinists, harpist, mandolin players and three backup singers that keep the party going.  The impressive work from his male guitarist, drummers, bassist and sax player brought an age of freshness to these timeless classics.

Next up was a powerful and uplifting version of Tom Waits “Downtown Train” which, like many other covers he does, Rod made entirely his own.

Rod then decided to have a sit-down and brought the band to the front of the stage for an acoustic set starting with “The First Cut is the Deepest.”  He then asked “How many of you remember the Faces?” and the cheers rang out as they went into the Faces “Oh La La” off the Faces final album in 1973.   While they were are still seated it was time for Rod’s solo classic “You’re in My Heart” and the Van Morrison song “Have I Told You Lately” which Rod covered perfectly on his Unplugged and Seated album.

The three backup singers came back out center stage to shake it up to a rip roaring version of Ike and Tina Turner’s “River Deep, Mountain High.”   The band was tight and rolling down the river at full speed while the girls were dancing so hard Tina Turner would be proud.  Rod is a generous frontman who does put the spotlight on the band allowing them solos and the attention they deserve.

The one and only Rod Stewart plays Vegas before world tour - Photo by Craig Hammons

The one and only Rod Stewart plays Vegas before world tour – Photo by Craig Hammons

Rod now back out center stage with a new jacket and fresh pair of trousers played the song everyone grew up with the ever irresistible “Maggie May.”  Everyone was on their feet singing along when Rod decided to take a trip out into the audience.   He worked his way around the back of the orchestra section shaking hands, giving hugs and singing his heart out.   Once he got back on stage the band launched into “Stay With Me” and balloons fell from the ceiling and out came the soccer balls.  Rod at 72 still plays with a local soccer team and showed off his talent kicking some all the way up to the second level.

Sir Rodrick David Stewart played us the hits but saved one of his biggest for last “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy.”

The crowd loves Rod Stewart and he's still got the moves - Photo by Craig Hammons for California Rocker

The crowd loves Rod Stewart and he’s still got the moves – Photo by Craig Hammons for California Rocker

 

This two time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame honoree showed us after over 100 million records sold he still is very relevant and “forever young.”  Tonight was the night and everything was better than alright.  The curtain was closing but the energy still filled the room with the crowd screaming for more.

The curtain came back up and the band wished everyone a good night and went into the Guy Lombardo’s “Enjoy Yourself (It’s Later Than You Think).”   Rod Stewart gave us a selection of his hits, no American Songbook or new material just the songs we know in our heart by heart.

No Doubt, Metallica, Help Save The Day for Rock In Rio USA

Gwen Stefani No Doubt Rock In Rio © 2015 Donna Balancia

Gwen Stefani cheerleads at Rock In Rio USA © 2015 Donna Balancia

Weak Attendance, High Prices Mark Inaugural Rock In Rio Fest

Photos and story © Donna Balancia – LAS VEGAS – Gwen Stefani and No Doubt overcame a chilly reception from 30,000 attendees to open the inaugural Rock In Rio USA on a cold Las Vegas Friday night.

By the end of the first weekend performances Saturday night, Metallica warmed up a slightly larger crowd of about 50,000 and — like it or not — a new music festival was born.

Rock In Rio is 30 years old, but it’s new to the U.S.  And despite top headliners — Taylor Swift and Bruno Mars will perform next weekend — it looks like profitability may be further away than originally anticipated.

It was the luck of the draw for No Doubt to be Rock In Rio’s opener in the U.S., but Stefani was perfect in the role as punk cheerleader for the new festival, keeping the crowd energized. No Doubt came on at midnight.

The 45-year-old beauty and mother of three has developed more stage charisma over the years and she has boundless energy, running from one side of the audience to the other.  Her fans are devoted, wearing Stefani’s Harijuku Lovers brand clothing and perfume, and imitating her chic, mismatched clothing style.

Gwen Stefani of No Doubt - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Gwen Stefani of No Doubt – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

The first day of Rock In Rio USA was not easy. Stefani’s style and energy helped offset some organizational problems related to ticketing, transportation and weak opening-day attendance.

“I got my tickets for free,” said Sandra Halper of San Francisco who owns a condo by the specially constructed, $75 million “City of Rock” festival grounds, near the new SLS Hotel.  “They gave out a lot of free tickets to my condo association.”

Another festival-goer who was among the thin crowd on Friday at 4:30 p.m., said that she too, got her tickets for free.  “I work in the hotel business and they gave us bunch of tickets at work.”

It’s a smart strategy to give away tickets to the opening day of a new event, but it was not welcome news to those young concert-goers who spent their hard-earned salary for a $169 single-day pass, or a two-day entry for upwards of $250.

Another issue had to do with putting money on the wristbands. Rock In Rio is a “cashless” event and food, beverage and souvenir items are paid with the scan of a wristband that the wearer “tops off” at City of Rock or on the web.

“It’s easy to overspend when you take money from your credit card and put it on the wristband,” said Ed Pruitt, a local Las Vegas resident. “The beer costs $12 for one can. So you’re bound to put more money on your wristband at the festival. You can get carried away.”

Fehr Olvera of Mana - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Fehr Olvera of Mana – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Food and beverage items were not cheap and it was better to have more money on the wristband than less. But there was concern among concert-goers about getting back the money they didn’t spend.  Extra money left on the wristband after the event is finished is refunded for a small fee.

Then there was the will-call ticket debacle, as tickets were to be picked up at a will call window 1.7 miles from the festival grounds behind the Arco gas station near the Tropicana Hotel.  Called the MGM Village, it’s a parking lot and it was not marked, there was no signage.  A common theme was heard over and over again: “How come nobody at the hotels, or the taxi drivers or anyone knows where we’re supposed to pick up our tickets?”

For a festival that’s supposedly been more than a year in the planning stages, it seemed the local visitor board, hoteliers and transportation ambassadors were ill-informed on how to direct their concert-going guests. 

Commercials aired for VIP tickets on local radio, and will-call people said that ticket buyers were encouraged to have the tickets mailed directly to them for an extra $18.  Those who apparently didn’t pay the fee wound up lost and looking endlessly for the MGM Village parking lot, and then, its one entrance in the back. The VIP area is roughly 100 yards from the main stage.

But on a positive note, Stefani and No Doubt put on a great show, the cool 50-degree temperatures were a blessing in disguise as the crowd was packed in tight, and latin favorite Mana had the crowd pumped and singing along loudly.  Pretty Reckless and Smallpools gave the fans at the main stage strong performances, and Foster The People kept the other side of the field cranking.

Metallica

Metallica’s James Hetfield

“With Coachella, you really have to run around to see the bands you like,” said Cindy of Westchester, in Los Angeles, who bought Rock In Rio USA tickets as a birthday present for her son.  “But with this, I really liked that the bands don’t start until the other is finished.”

By alternating stages and staggering start times, festival-goers, in theory, can see all the bands playing during the day.  But if you go from stage to stage you probably won’t get anywhere near the first 200 rows of fans.

Exiting after the event, after 1 a.m., was orderly.  There was one entrance and that turned into the only exit.  As for transportation, the Las Vegas Monorail increased its frequency and was smooth.

Gwen Stefani of No Doubt - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Gwen Stefani of No Doubt – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Crowds were expected to increase to more than 50,000 for Saturday night, as Metallica headlined, according to Las Vegas Police and that was confirmed.  Metallica’s set was a typical high-energy show, and some fans were allowed to stand onstage during the performance.

So much for the rock weekend. Next weekend features the pop musicians with Swift and Mars.

Last March, SFX, the owner of Rock In Rio, showed disappointing fourth quarter and year-end earnings. In the fourth quarter, pro forma revenues declined to $95.9 million from $103.9 million. For the year, the Robert Sillerman majority-owned SFX lost $131 million on revenue of $354 million.

On April 30, The Street downgraded SFX to a “sell,” based on “deteriorating net income, poor profit margins, poor stock performance and high debt.”

 

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