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Shaq raps with Snoop, sings with Clarkson MGM Grand party

Updated October 3, 2021 - 8:29 pm

Snoop Dogg was at centerstage, but even he had to cede the spotlight to the world’s largest rapper.

Shaquille O’Neal led a fast break to close “The Event” at MGM Grand Garden. As the two buddies had game-planned, Shaq and Snoop collabed on ‘Nuthin But a G Thang’ to end a terrifically entertaining evening of philanthropy Saturday.

Jimmy Kimmel was the unannounced emcee. Imagine Dragons, Andra Day, Kelly Clarkson, Justin Bieber and Snoop were the headlining lineup.

“The Event” supported The Shaquille O’Neal Foundation in Las Vegas and Atlanta, O’Neal’s dual home towns. O’Neal announced that “The Event” raised $2.7 million, funds to be delivered to the Boys & Girls Clubs and Communities in Schools.

Shaq’s appearance and, shall we say, forceful duet with a shade-donning, dreadlocked Snoop was a suitable send-off for the inaugural event. The show was billed as a gala, but this was a party. Enlivened after the long pause between such large-scale charity events (the most recent at MGM Grand was the Keep Memory Alive Power of Love event in March 2020), this crowd was ready to groove.

From the moment Imagine Dragons were announced, dozens of the attendees at the black-tie affair moved to the front of the stage. We call this phenomenon a Posh Pit.

Backstage before the show, the Dragons said they were eager to finally return to the stage. They were also grateful to return the charity nod to Shaq, who boosted the band’s own chosen charity event for the Tyler Robinson Foundation at Wynn Las Vegas in September 2019.

“He came out to TRF two years ago and I think he probably spent more than anybody, and he spent it on things that nobody else was bidding on,” Dragons front man Dan Reynolds said. “We immediately could see his character and how much he cared about the cause. He’s just such a charitable person, a good person who wants to give back and really believes in this cause.

“With Shaq, what you see is what you get.”

We got some stage time with Shaq, and not only his rap-quest with Snoop. He also arrived to sing with Kelly Clarkson on, “Since You’ve Been Gone,” with Clarkson ascending to high notes as if trying to reach the 7-foot-1 inch former NBA superstar. Shaq pulled out some dance moves that were kinda vintage 1980s, giving the song his own vocal interpretation.

At the end, he shouted, “That (expletive) is my jam!” Clarkson had earlier said she identified with Shaq’s upbringing, when his parents couldn’t afford daycare and he wound up hanging at the Boys & Girls Clubs in Atlanta

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“I love doing events like this, and I love hearing from artists,” Clarkson said. “Everyone sees where we’re at. They don’t see where we came from, and everybody need a helping hand, everybody needs opportunity. I was one of those kids that grew up on hand-me-downs.”

The Dragons’ set was thunderous, and we knew it would be when we spotted the giant bass drum onstage upon entering the Grand Garden . The band was at high throttle through such familiar cuts as, “It’s Time,” “Believer” and “Radioactive.”

By the close, Reynolds had slammed the bass drum and also a set of snares, covered the full expanse of the stage while singing, strutting and spinning. He toppled the mic stand and finished the set supine, having collapsed, and facing the arena ceiling.

It’s called giving. And there was a lot of it for Shaq’s first show.

The denim denizen

Bieber’s performance was especially anticipated, the crowd standing as he took the stage. He opened with “Somebody” and sampled from his album “Justice.” He talked the stage in circular fashion, attired in a denim Balenciaga jacket (Bieber is the new face of that company) low-riding jeans. He took his shades off, briefly, and said only a quick, “How you doing?” Shaq played a clip of the two in a dance-off when Bieber was a kid that was very cute. Shaq insists, still, he is a better dancer than Biebs. Leave it to the judges.

Kimmel’s club

We finally had a chance to ask Kimmel about the future of Jimmy Kimmel’s Comedy Club at Linq Promenade. His club has hosted the occasional private event and a vaccination event for Caesars Entertainment in July. But it has not returned to its club format during the pandemic. Kimmel emphasized there will be live comedy back in the venue as soon as it sorts out pandemic policies and its booking strategy.

Dragons back with TRF

Imagine Dragons’ Rise Up TRF Gala returns to its full-capacity format Oct. 22 at Wynn Las Vegas.

“It’s awesome to see the world opening up and to be able to come out start playing music again, especially for a good cause and right before the TRF gala,” bassist Ben McKee said. “That was the biggest hit that we took over the past couple of years, not being able to be at the TRF. To be able to come back and actually perform live in a couple of weeks is going to be great.”

Supported by such luminaries as Shaq, TRF quickly bloomed into one of the city’s pre-eminent charitable events by the time the gala was held at the Wynn. The 2019 show raised $3.2 million and drew about 880 supporters.

The buy-in

A total of $1.3 million was raised during the silent auction. Among the items were contemporary artist Dustin Yellin’s “Moonshot” glass sculpture, a walk-on to an Adam Sandler movie and an L.A. Lakers package with two floor seats for a game at Staples Center and a customized 2020 Lakers NBA championship ring. The sculpture went for $150,000, the Sandler package for $90,000.

Around the room

We ran into former MGM Grand president and current Resorts World Las Vegas President Scott Sibella at the Grand Garden. It was Sibella’s first visit to the property since he stepped down in February 2019. His hotel hosts the next KMA Power of Love event, honoring Genting Group CEO KT Lim, Smokey Robinson and Babyface, on Oct. 16.

A sampling of whom we eyeballed elsewhere: MGM Resorts International CEO Bill Hornbuckle, Caesars Entertainment Regional President Sean McBurney, Shaquille O’Neal Foundation board member and Vegas resort icon Elaine Wynn, Smith Center President Myron Martin, basketball legend Spencer Haywood and recording star Paula Abdul.

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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