Outdoor festivals have descended on VegasVille over the past two weekends, with Life is Beautiful downtown last weekend and Route 91 Harvest at the Village this weekend. But we ducked inside, where “The Barge” rocks anew.
The first show in the post-Matt Goss era at Caesars Palace played out late Saturday night, and it was a barn-burner (or barge-burner) from David Perrico’s Pop Strings orchestra. For the first time since Goss took over in 2010 with his largely closed-off, ticketed show, the famed Cleopatra’s Barge threw open the curtains so a mass of folks could amble in for a free show.
The scene, and act, were worth the trip. Perrico’s band, which also plays the Lounge at the Palms and Cabaret Jazz at the Smith Center, features a rotation of top Vegas singers – Sina Foley, onstage Saturday; Lily Arce (who swings in “O” at the Bellagio); Noybel Gorgoy of Holmes’ “Between The Lines” at Palazzo Theater, and Rockie Brown of the Rockie Brown Band. The Pop Strings gig runs Thursdays through Saturdays, 10 p.m.-midnight, in October.
The musicians are all familiar players, led by Perrico himself, long a master trumpet player, music director and arranger. The idea is to remind those who knew Perrico’s band was playing, and those who were merely curious, of what a raging no-cover show felt like. Performed in the two-hour set were covers of “Blurred Lines,” “Papa Don’t Preach,” “25 or 6 to 4” and, violins blazing, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”
The crowd dug it, and more impressively, the room’s audience built during the show. With a capacity of 165, Cleopatra’s Barge is one of the few remaining classic Strip lounges, dating to 1970, and it carries a certain kitchy charm. Still bordered by an actual moat and bedecked in red and gold décor “the luxurious floating barge is an ornate replica of the graceful craft that transported the royalty of Egypt on the Nile River in the time of Julius Caesar,” as the Caesars Palace website trumpets. The Barge is also one of many lounges frequented by members of the Rat Pack, especially Frank Sinatra, who was known to stride over for a hang after his shows at Circus Maximus showroom.
With that backdrop, Saturday’s was a standing-room-only crowd, a mix of tourists and locals, many of whom watched the show from the walkway leading to the entrance and filled the dance floor. When I left after 1 a.m., the place was still buzzing and grooving to a late-night DJ.
The Barge has been a focal point of speculation over the past several years, and to be honest, I expected the place to be shut down with construction crews descending on the venue. There is to be an outside operator moving into to run that venue in the coming months (though such a business partnership requires ample contractual negotiation), but in the meantime the room will be busy with acts popular around Vegas entertainment scene: The Moonshiners are opening tonight at 9 for an open-ended run of Sunday performances.
I’m hearing some other well-known Vegas acts moving in to the Barge, too early to specify just yet, but the lineup of free-admission, high-caliber shows could carry the schedule through the end of the year.
John Katsilometes’ column runs Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday in the A section, and Fridays in Neon. He also hosts “Kats! On The Radio” Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on KUNV 91.5-FM and appears Wednesdays at 11 a.m. with Dayna Roselli on KTNV Channel 13. Contact him at email@example.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.