Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial first day of the Summer season and in the Las Vegas valley that means hordes of tourists so I usually try to avoid the mayhem on and around the Strip during the long weekend. But this year it was unavoidable as I was invited to see Barry Manilow’s show at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel and Casino. More on that in a moment.
First event on my holiday weekend to-do list was a cocktail reception for the grand opening of the Knight Gallery, located inside the Las Vegas Hilton’s North Tower, followed by a musical showcase of young guitar players called “Knight of the Guitar” inside the Hilton’s main showroom. The Knight Gallery is a small, bright retail space showcasing some of rock photographer Robert Knight’s iconic images of music legends in rock history — Stevie Ray Vaughn, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, Carlos Santana. As I have mentioned before, Robert knight has been one of my photography idols for decades. Maryanne Bilham — Knight’s wife and fellow photographer — designed the space with lots of white walls and bright light to show off both of their images (all signed, numbered and framed prints and all available for sale).
The grand opening reception was well attended, including my girls Laura, Samantha and Claire Jane, who introduced me to Mr. Knight. It was a thrill to finally meet the person behind the images that inspired me to pursue photography. Unfortunately I had to rely on my pocket camera for images because I had been denied a photo pass with my media pass which was fine until later in the Hilton showroom when — after the showing of the trailer of the documentary “Rock Prophecies” (which I talked about previously here) — the band started to play and no less than a dozen photographers rushed the stage and started snapping away with semi-pro and pro level cameras. At first I thought my photo pass request was denied because there is limited space at the foot of the stage but when I saw some of them using flash (and if you’ve read my columns you know that’s a big no-no) I knew not all of them were pros which I have to admit got this Diva a bit riled. I left after the first song.
I didn’t have a photo pass for the next event either — Barry Manilow at the Paris Las Vegas — which was probably a good thing because I don’t think I could have schlepped my camera equipment while running through the parking lot and up the street. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
On a normal (read: non-holiday) weekend allowing an hour to drive from my house in the southwest corner of the Valley to the parking structure and to the doors of the intimate Paris Théâtre at Paris Las Vegas would have been more than enough time…but not this weekend. I don’t know what I was thinking…traffic, including those shortcuts only known by taxi drivers and seasoned locals were impassible with too many cars, Valet was full and there wasn’t a parking spot to be had in the hotel self-parking lot. I dropped Bill off at the doors of the hotel to go to will call and get our tickets. While he maneuvered through the Paris mall at high speed, I drove around the Paris lot with about 40 others looking in vain for an empty slot. Finally I high-tailed it over to the Miracle Mile/Planet Hollywood parking structure, parked on the 9th floor (taking almost 15 minutes in that lot alone to find a spot), kicked off my high heels and ran down the stairs to the ground level and up the side street dodging taxi drivers — all who probably wondered why a diva holding her shoes in hand was doing sprinting up their street. Finally I arrived only slightly winded (but still looking fabulous, of course) at the Paris Hotel lobby, slipped my heels back on and walked into the theater as Manilow was introducing my favorite song, “Weekend In New England.” Aaaah…even though we were 30 minutes late as far as I was concerned I made it just in time.
Now I am a little bit of a “fanilow” and have been since the 70’s when his songs spoke to my teen/tween angst. I have even had a recurring dream of Manilow and I singing “Weekend” as a duet. I know, I know, this isn’t something I like to admit and I’m sure I’ll get grief from my rocker friends but to this day I think Manilow is an amazing talent. His all new show inside the intimate and elegant 1,500 seat showroom is like no other Strip show I’ve seen. Sure he does the hit songs like “Copacabana,” “Mandy” and “Can’t Smile Without You” that helped make him a top-selling, top-charting adult contemporary artist with some 80 million records sold and 25 consecutive Top 40 hits between 1975 and 1983. But there are also very tender moments that illustrate his journey on such a personal level, including scratchy recordings of his grandfather encouraging his pre-schooler grandson to sing and a pitch-perfect and musical four year old singing Nat King Cole’s song, “Nature Boy.” Other show highlights for me were beautifully arranged versions of my second favorite song, “Even Now,” and the “Theme from ‘Love Story'” off of his latest release of love songs.
Manilow performs a 90 minute show that’s paced well, tastefully lit and visually appropriate with flawless audio (at one point I thought Barry HAD TO BE lip-syncing because the audio was so perfect it had to be tracks) it’s no wonder that he recently won the Las Vegas Weekly Reader’s Poll for Best Bang for the Buck and Strip Headliner of the Year (the publisher of the Weekly was there to give Manilow his awards) and I have to agree. His shows are scheduled for selected Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights over the next two years and ticket prices range from $95-$250 with a Platinum Experience package: the proceeds of which benefit the Manilow Music Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to putting musical instruments in the hands of middle and high school students. This special package includes front-row seats, pre-show Champagne reception, a meet and greet, a photo with Barry and an autographed show program. This would make the perfect gift for a fellow fanilow…just saying.
Coming up at the Paris Las Vegas Theatre is the “Sgt. Pepper Live” featuring Cheap Trick show on Friday, June 11th, 2010, Ticket prices are $75, $100, $125 and $250 (plus tax and fees). I saw and reviewed this when it was at the Hilton and highly recommend seeing the show. It’s unusual and very enjoyable. Oh and if you were planning to see our band play poolside at the Orleans every Friday night in June make other plans because the property pulled the plug on the entire summer music series. We’ll be playing soon somewhere that you can come see us play. Stay tuned, this diva is feeling the cowbell fever coming on.