On five nights of Journey’s return in May, The Joint won’t be the only place inside the Hard Rock Hotel to show off your air-keyboard skills on “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart).”
That 1983 fist-pumper is usually on the set list of “Raiding the Rock Vault,” which shares some of the Journey dates as an ongoing show in the Hard Rock’s smaller Vinyl club.
Covering the same tune in the same building on the same night as the real Journey? It drives home just how much Las Vegas depends on classic rock in these lean showbiz times.
And while you may have to wait for love to find you, classic rock won’t desert you.
Along with everyone from Rod Stewart to Eddie Money dropping in for concerts (and that’s just this weekend), the Strip will soon have three ongoing classic-rock tributes. “World’s Greatest Rock Show” opens at the Stratosphere on April 4, joining “Rock Vault” and “Tenors of Rock,” which debuted at Harrah’s Las Vegas in January.
“It’s hard out there at the moment, it really is hard. But we found a little niche,” “Rock Vault” producer Harry Cowell says of reopening at Vinyl this month after closing at the Tropicana last summer.
“The room is small and it’s cool. We’ve got a good production in there and it’s working.” Given the size of the stage, “I wasn’t sure whether we could put a decent production in there, but people love being close to the band, and I’ve cut my costs right down. It’s a big savings (from the Tropicana).”
BUT ARE WE STRETCHING CLASSIC ROCK TOO THIN?
Or at least ticket-buyers, and perhaps even the brokers who sell the tickets?
The three standing shows won’t be confused by their content. “Tenors” plays up its Broadway-rock vocal harmonies. “Rock Vault” is a history lesson with players who toured in some of the bands they cover. And “Greatest” will take more of a “Legends”-style approach, with costumed impressions of rockers such as Van Halen, Kiss and Bruce Springsteen.
Baby boomers who prefer shows to clubs are likely to share the opinion of “Tenors” co-producer Louis Hobson. “This is the greatest era of music, I think, in history,” he says. “It’s some of the best music ever written.”
The numbers suggest a lot of people will agree. The average age of a Las Vegas vistior was 47.7 in 2015 (the most current Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority survey), and two-thirds of visitors were 40 and older.
“Tenors” recently moved up to six shows a week from five. But ticket brokers would be sorting through four rock shows had “Rock Fantasy” not closed at Hooters Casino last week, after only two months. Beyond the casino itself being “a tough venue to sell,” producer Mitch Thomas says his revue — with a stable of 26 singers, mostly from California — turned out to be “much bigger than the stage” in both aesthetics and overhead.
Veteran Las Vegas producer Dick Feeney keeps a handle on the latter. “It always comes down to the numbers,” he says. Feeney did think his “World’s Greatest Rock Show” would have a market more to itself, because he locked it in after both “Rock of Ages” and “Rock Vault” had closed.
But, he says, “I’ll put my track record up against anybody. When I open them, they run.” And this one will have “probably the most talented cast I’ve had in Las Vegas,” even double-casting each band instrument.
The original question for the producers was whether there is such a thing as too much classic rock. But I asked it the same week The Who signed on for at least six shows at Caesars Palace.
Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey keep singing “Long Live Rock” in their 70s. So forgive the producers for not worrying about the content, just the budget numbers. Feeney unintentionally quotes a different song, by Elvis (and Too Short, REO Speedwagon, Jerry Butler and others): “Only the strong survive.”