Business isn't just tough for public shows in Las Vegas. Our swanky town has hosted unfathomably elaborate and secretive private concerts. But such corporate gigs have waned during the recession.
I've seen corporate shows here starring Prince, the Go-Go's and others. I once saw Stevie Nicks perform a private show at The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel for a shoe convention, then watched her run up to the microphone at the end and scream, "I love shoes!"
The mastermind behind KC and the Sunshine Band, Harry Wayne "K.C." Casey -- who sings at The Orleans this weekend, then performs on "American Idol" on Wednesday -- says "the whole corporate venue" structure has practically shut down.
"We usually do a lot of corporate stuff, so that has sort of died off," Casey says. "Corporations aren't doing them right now. They can't lay people off and then throw these huge parties."
Over the years, he's performed "That's the Way (I Like It)," "(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty," "I'm Your Boogie Man" and "Get Down Tonight" for dot-coms, banks, electronic companies, food service industries and medical groups, just to name a few.
"We've done some for the casinos for their employees. We've done stuff for huge corporations." He couldn't tell you company names, though, because he's done so many that, "I can't even remember what they were."
Sheryl Crow took heat a few months ago for performing for a government bailed-out bank. But Casey says that gig was booked before the bankers realized they were in such deep money trouble. Besides, Elton John and everyone does it, up and down the musical food chain, he says.
"Everybody you can think of in the industry does or has done a corporate show, pretty much."
I can bear some witness, and share some stories. For one thing, private shows can net three times as much money for artists than public concerts do.
Jeff Garlin, of "Curb Your Enthusiasm," claimed to me two years ago (when I was the TV critic at the Chicago Sun-Times) that Jay Leno fetches $1 million per private gig.
In 2000, I asked Jakob Dylan if he would ever perform with his dad, Bob Dylan. He told me they already had -- he opened for Bob in San Jose, Calif., taking corporate cash from Applied Materials, a semiconductor equipment manufacturer, in November 1997.
Casey hopes private gigs come back soon enough, "for everybody's sake."
"It affects a lot of people," he says. "It not only affects me. It affects the people I employ, and their families, and their livelihood. And it affects the livelihood of hotel employees and local businesses."
Casey also hopes to earn a regular public gig in a Vegas showroom.
"I love Vegas. I would really love to land a spot there somehow," he says without elaborating. "I'm working on it. I'm trying."
I asked him if he's requesting too much money.
"I haven't been asking for anything," he says. "I want to be there somehow, then we'll figure it out.
"For a long time, Vegas was a very hard place to play. Back in the olden days, you pretty much went out there, and they were sitting there like, 'OK, I'm here, you're there, you do the show, I'm gonna sit here and just sorta watch.' "
That's changed. Crowds are more amped up at Vegas concerts. That's important, Casey says.
"The crowd has more control than they realize they do," he says. "If the crowd's sitting there, and they're tense and stuff, the show's gonna be tense and dry. If the crowd is really moving it and feeling it, it makes it easy for the musicians and the artists onstage to feel it and give back."
In fact, Casey will "zero in" on the one person at a show who is "sitting there with their arms crossed," he says.
On the one hand, when Casey goes to other musicians' concerts, that's sort of what he does.
"I've never been one that goes crazy during a concert," he says. "I just enjoy myself. I've tried to start thinking about that when I'm looking at somebody. They might be having a good time, but not expressing it."
On the other hand, his mind starts worrying onstage.
"You think, 'Well, maybe there's something wrong with this person. Or maybe they're not having a good day.' You want them to just feel good.
"And you spend the whole show trying to figure out: 'Why is this person not feeling good?' " he says. " 'Why'd they even come, if they were going to do that?' "
I tell him he sounds insecure. He laughs.
"I know, I know, I know."
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