Updated October 24, 2021 - 1:33 pm
Pauses in the action need not always be negative. Friday night on the Strip served as an example. The Tyler Robinson Foundation Rise Up Gala’s shuffled schedule, forced by the pandemic shutdown, did allow for a positive anniversary at the outdoor pavilion at Wynn Las Vegas.
The rescheduled event landed on the 10th anniversary of the first time Dan Reynolds, Wayne Sermon, Ben McKee and Dan Platzman of Imagine Dragons actually met Tyler Robinson.
Robinson was the teen from Provo, Utah, who seized the band’s music as inspiration in his noble fight against brain cancer. Robinson’s death from a brain tumor in March 2013 at age 17 has inspired the annual gala. From the stage, Reynolds remembered the night Robinson showed up at a club gig in Provo.
— John Katsilometes (@johnnykats) October 23, 2021
“I still remember looking out and seeing him in the back of the venue, and slowly they brought him up to the front,” Reynolds said. “By the end of the song he was on everybody’s shoulders. It was a sight to see. I wish you all could have been there.”
The band then reprised what it calls “Tyler’s Song,” “It’s Time.” The acoustic rendition was as clear and beautiful as the night, with 600 attendees sharing the band’s charitable vibe.
— John Katsilometes (@johnnykats) October 23, 2021
Bolstered by their first appearance at the gala since 2019, the band, emcee Joel McHale, and the energized TRF team raised $2,627,000.
That’s more than $1 million ahead of the pre-event forecast for a successful night. A total of $10.3 million has been raised to fight pediatric cancer since the event launched in 2014, in a ballroom at the then-Hard Rock Hotel, today’s Virgin Hotel Las Vegas.
The band’s live set, covering about 50 minutes, highlighted and closed the night. The set list — wait, there was no set list, so performance — was peppered with such favorites as “My Life,” “Whatever It Takes,” and a jazz version (yes, for real) of “Believer” and a new track, “It’s OK,” from the band’s latest and fifth album, “Mercury — Act 1.”
Reynolds battled allergies while bantering with the band throughout the performance. He needled McKee for taking an allergy medication prior to the show, saying, “I can’t take that because of my voice.” McKee said he had no such worries, “It’s a good thing I’m not singing lead.”
Afterward, the band auctioned off their guitars, and also three picks for $300 apiece, to heighten the night’s take. Reynolds, who laid it out as always onstage, was exhausted at the end.
“Just that we were able to raise more than $2 million tonight, coming back after COVID, makes me really happy,” Reynolds said afterward. “I don’t really have words here.”
Understood. He sang them all out.
— John Katsilometes (@johnnykats) October 24, 2021
The Dragons welcomed a 12-year-old guest vocalist to the acoustic performance. Reynolds (with Sermon’s goading) offered up a $50,000 donation for anyone to take the mic and sing “Radioactive” in its entirety. After he seemed to find no takers, Cooper Sandoval, a TRF ambassador visiting with his family from Reno, rambled to the stage.
With some assistance from Reynolds, Cooper belted out the song. The place came apart. The roar drowned out the omnipresent helicopters soaring over the Strip.
Cooper is a big Imagine Dragons fan “ever since I was 8,” he says. His rush to action was not planned.
“I heard Dan asking for help,” the sudden star said. “I had to go up, and I know the song.”
Rise Up Gala honored several community leaders who have contributed to the to TRF effort. Those honored Friday included TRF Community Impact honoree Intermountain Healthcare, Team TRF honoree Richard Rundle Elementary School and TRF Legacy Award honoree Matthew Frazier and John C. Kish Foundation.
McHale had recounted what could have been interpreted as a joke about his interrupted flight to Las Vegas. He was delayed leaving Atlanta because of some unruly Philadelphia Eagles fans.
“I had an 11 o’clock flight coming from Atlanta, and all of a sudden we started taxiing back to the gate, and the pilot kind of muttered something about maintenance,” McHale said just after the event. “They actually removed some unruly passengers, because they were coming to Las Vegas. So we had to wait while they were removed, and wait for their baggage to be taken off.”
McHale, who missed the 2019 gala for a movie shoot, was almost delayed past the event’s 7 p.m. start time. “I was doing the math and figured, if we take off in the next hour, I’ll make it on time,” McHale said. “If not, I’m screwed. But we made it by the skin of our teeth.”
Raiders star tight end Darren Waller, who had been announced as the first recipient of the TRF Inspiration Award, did not attend the event. Officials said Waller “had a personal situation and was unable to attend.”
Turner burnin’ it
Earl Turner is making his long-awaited return to Myron’s at The Smith Center at 7 p.m. Wednesday. “A Brand New Me” is the title of the show, and count on something special from Turner. The longtime Vegas fave’s backing band includes Michael Gonzalez on keys, Pablo Gadda on guitar, Chris Coleman on bass, Kevin Cloud on drums, Jason Levi on trumpet, Rob Stone on sax, and Dave Philippus on trombone.
Turner has been hosting a chat show on Facebook through much of the pandemic. The process has led him to artistic introspection. He says, “I’ll have lots of new arrangements, and some songs that are close to me personally. It’s gonna be fire. I’m gonna introduce you to some funk.” Hey, we have met. The reunion is Wednesday.
Around the table
We had the chance to hang with Brian Newman and his wife, Angie Pontani; and music-industry power couple Zoe and Pat Thrall on the other. Newman and Pontani were summarily moved by the night’s outpouring of goodwill, and also the Dragons’ stellar musicianship (we agreed that at the next Rise Up Gala, he should pack his horn). The couple left just as the band took the stage so they could make it to Newman’s “After Dark” show at NoMad Library, in which Pontani performs burlesque numbers.
The former head of Studio at the Palms, Zoe Thrall is today director of studio operations at the Hideout Recording Studio in Henderson. Pat Thrall is a studio wiz, too, and great guitarist/songwriter (he wrote Pat Travers’ “Snortin’ Whiskey,” among myriad other credits).
When the the Dragons introduced “Believer,” Reynolds asked his band mates, “Should we do the jazz version?” Thrall laughed and said, “Jazz version? Are you kidding me? These guys are great.”
Cool Hang Alert
The “Flat 9 Entertainment Presents, Las Vegas Amplified Jazz Experience” is set for 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Sunmerlin Performing Arts Center, 1771 Inner Circle Drive. Guitarist Adam Hawley, sax man Phil Denny and guest vocalist Lisa Gay head up the program. Great Vegas musicians abound, with Bill Zappia, Chris Clermont, Rochon Westmoreland, Charles McNeal and Sergio Adame gracing the stage. Cost is $37-49, find the ducats at flat9entertainment.eventbrite.com.
John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.