Pink Martini was not hatched in Las Vegas, but it’s a Vegas kinda act.
“You know, once the Liberace Museum closed I thought that there was no reason to come back to Vegas,” music director, pianist and Pink Martini founder Thomas Lauderdale says. “But last time was really fantastic, we had a great time, and these days I’m not opposed to the idea of an extended residency for a period of time.”
As it is, Pink Martini is in town for a one-off, headlining Saturday’s Las Vegas Philharmonic gala at Reynolds Hall at the Smith Center. Fronted by vocalist China Forbes, the band stirs contemporary pop and rock, jazz and classical numbers. Recently the 12-piece band has performed a healthy sampling of its 2016 release, “Je Dis Soi.” (Tickets for Saturday’s show are $30-$109 and available on the Smith Center website).
The band’s most recent Las Vegas appearance was in February 2016, a performance featuring vocalist Storm Large, who swaps performances with Forbes. The performance soared, and Lauderdale, who at the time chided some of the city’s established artistic institutions (he is no fan of the music in Cirque du Soleil shows, for starters), is more eager than ever to explore an extended engagement for Pink Martini.
“I never thought I would say this,” he says, “but it would be fascinating to do a run in Las Vegas.”
More topics from the last week’s phone interview:
The versatility of Vegas musicians: “It’s almost like they’re studio players like in Nashville or Los Angeles. It’s at that caliber,” Lauderdale says. “Las Vegas isn’t necessarily known as a recording capital, but there are a lot of great musicians and recording artists who live there, right? They are more than a symphony orchestra, whose players seem to be not able to do as much of what they didn’t sign up for. They did not sign up for Samba, or Japanese film noir.”
Saturday’s set list: “It will be ambitious,” Lauderdale says. “It will start with Bolero and then songs that we have performed for years and some new ones, things in Armenian and Turkish.”
“I Am Woman”: “Last summer we played at the Hollywood Bowl, and Helen Reddy was in the audience and there was a chance that she was going to sing,” Lauderdale says. “She ended up not singing, but we still performed ‘I Am Woman” and when we first started working on it I thought it was kind of a hokey song, but we played it at the Hollywood Bowl and hundreds of women came onstage. It was kind of an apocalyptic moment. We’ve been performing it at every performance.”
Rushing the stage, a history: It’s like, when we do a song in Turkish, we have the Turks come up and when we do a song in Italian, we have the Italians come up,” Lauderdale says, chuckling. “So, it turns in to this gigantic, rollicking, chaotic thing. It’s such a great thing, and you know, this has been such a complicated year and one of the things I like most about the band is the fact that we have a very diverse audience. People who wouldn’t normally sit together are sitting together and people of different political views and different ages and hopefully at the end of the day, everyone is in the conga line at the end of it.”
The possibility of audience participation at Reynolds Hall: “It will be interesting to see if that happens,” Lauderdale says. “I’m hoping for this incredible rush of the stage!”
John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. Contact him firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.