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Legendary rockers raise millions at Power of Love

Updated February 21, 2023 - 11:02 am

This is where we play, Guess Who Closed The Show on Saturday night at the 26th annual Keep Memory Live Power of Love gala at MGM Grand Garden.

We’ll shuffle the nominees: Rick Springfield, Sam Moore of Sam & Dave, John Mayer, Sammy Hagar, Chad Kroeger of Nickleback, Michael McDonald, a Hagar-Moore duet, Kevin Cronin of REO Speedwagon and comic Nikki Glaser.

The show-closing honor went to McDonald, five-time Grammy winner internationally famous for his days with the Doobie Brothers and also as a solo artist.

Not insignificantly, McDonald is also godfather of the Yacht Rock phenomenon. The well-heeled MGM Grand crowd of 1,500 is that crowd, and it roared when Mayer announced McDonald to the stage.

McDonald was a seated observer until it was his time to perform.

“I almost forgot I had to work tonight,” McDonald said from behind the keyboard. “I’ve been watching it backstage, enjoying myself.”

This was a crowd-pleasing show. McDonald shut it down with a medley of “Minute By Minute,” (joined by Mayer, with his usual wicked guitar work), “What a Fool Believes” and blowout closing of “Takin’ It To The Streets.” Everyone in the show took a turn, with Hagar and Cronin singing face-to-face. Organizers could have auctioned a spot on stage to sing the classic refrain.

“Never has the line, ‘Takin it to the streets,’ been sung more than at this show,” Hagar said Sunday morning. “Everybody had a shot at it.”

Hagar said the decision to close with McDonald was made collectively among the production team.

“They wanted to bring me out throughout the show, at the start, then later with Sam, and at the end,” Hagar said. “I’ll tell you this, Michael McDonald was the best singer on that stage. His voice is so incredible.”

Hagar and music director/keyboard great Greg Phillinganes put together the stars and backing band beginning the first week of January.

“The only thing I really brought was the friendship between the artists,” said Hagar, who has said he’s taking this year off from performing ticketed shows. “We were laughing, having a good time and then we just took it to the stage.”

Keep Memory Alive and Ruvo Center co-founder Larry Ruvo felt that love.

“I gotta tell you, there wasn’t one entertainer who didn’t say how pleased they were to be there,” Ruvo said Sunday. “I mean, those were some legends there, supporting our work, which will benefit the rest of the world.

This year’s honorees were John Paul DeJoria, founder of Paul Mitchell hair products and Patron spirits company and a renowned philanthropist; and the late David Humm, known as the original Las Vegas Raider, a beloved broadcaster and Bishop Gorman grad.

Among the night’s many highlights:

— Hagar and Moore collaborating on “Soul Man.” The 87-year-old Moore hadn’t performed in public since before the pandemic. Seated onstage but in wonderful voice, Moore also performed a stunning cover of “Imagine.”

— Springfield, blowing it up with “I’ve Done Everything For You” and (natch) “Jessie’s Girl.” Springfield and Hagar are forever linked by “I’ve Done Everything For You,” which Hagar recorded in 1978 to zero commercial success. Springfield issued his version in 1981 and scored a top-10 hit, with Hagar earning millions in royalties because he wrote it.

— Cronin’s rendition of “Keep on Loving You,” with a moving tribute to his mother, Millie, who died in August 2019 of Lewy body dementia. She was a huge fan and supporter of musical theater. “If she were here tonight, within five or 10 minutes she would have made friends with everybody in this room. Then she would be on stage to join our background singers.”

— Alice Cooper, in full Alice regalia, singing “No More Mr. Nice Guy” and meaning it.

— Kroeger blazing through Nickleback hit, “How You Remind Me.”

— Mayer fending off a cold for “Last Train Home” and “Gravity.” We saw Mayer in 2001 at The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel, and he’s better than ever. He mentioned his under-the-weather condition: “The great part about being a guitar player is being able to sing through another voice, being the guitar, which doesn’t get a cold.”

— Glaser performing her regular, raunchy act, the flavor of which she’ll bring to The Venetian Theatre with co-headliner David Spade on April 29-30. “I saw the auction items. A yacht experience? With seven friends? Who has seven (expletive) friends? I guess you’re so rich, friends are coming out of the (expletive) woodwork.” Glaser’s material landed pretty well, and she’s back with Spade in July, September and November.

The typically inventive dinner was prepared by star chefs Tal Ronnen of Crossroads at Resorts World and Los Angeles, and longtime KMA supporter Wolfgang Puck. Ronnen dialed up a vegan duo plate of beet tartare and kelp caviar. Puck devised a roasted free-range chicken pot pie.

The MGM Grand pastry team created a desert tower of tropical fruit tart, lemon blueberry cheesecake lollipop, chocolate hazelnut cake, raspberry yuzu cake, and chocolate bonbon and red berry tea. This is the dessert that prompts the question, “How much of this is edible?” With the answer, “Pretty much all of it.”

The gold-standard entertainment and fancy dinner was all bait for the primary cause, raising money for the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. Official figures are not made public, but the event generates millions of dollars for the center’s brain-health initiatives.

Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis announced a $1 million donation to create the center’s David Humm MS Chair. Humm’s family joined the onstage celebration. The Ruvo family committed to matching any donation up to $1 million.

The chair was funded informally. Davis last week called Larry Ruvo to check on donations for the chair. Ruvo said nothing had been raised yet. Davis turned to Raiders President Sandra Douglass Morgan, and Larry Delsen, who along with Davis make up the Raiders Foundation Board of Directors.

“It took about 30 seconds,” Davis said. “We said, ‘We’re going to give a million dollars.’”

For this bureau, the night ended walking out of the Grand Garden alongside Maria Shriver, founder of The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement, and an advisor for Women’s Health and Alzheimer’s at Cleveland Clinic. The event coincides with the first anniversary of WAM launching formally in Las Vegas. The movement advances gender-based research, treatment, prevention and education of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases in women.

“The Alzheimer’s prevention center has been a huge success here. That’s why it’s great to be here with everybody from the Cleveland Clinic, all the bigwigs,” Shriver said.”Our goal is to grow it to Cleveland to London, to Abu Dhabi, and everywhere beyond. The roots are here, it started here. This is one of the things that will not stay in Vegas.”

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John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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