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Usher, Backstreet Boys, Janet Jackson on Las Vegas Strip scene

Updated May 4, 2024 - 8:05 pm

Usher’s festival was wiped out, but he wasn’t.

The R&B superstar and co-founder of “Lovers & Friends” headlined “Bad Girl: 20 Years of Confessions” at Jewel at Aria late Friday night.

Hours earlier, the festival scheduled for Saturday at Las Vegas Festival Grounds was called off under a threat of high winds. The show was sold out. Organizers had expected a crowd of 65,000.

The show at Jewel was Usher’s first since his sensational Super Bowl halftime performance at Allegiant Stadium. The two-time Las Vegas resident headliner was among the superstars to appear at the festival.

Usher unleashed a medley of his hits in the unbilled performance in the packed club. Jermaine Dupri and Lil Jon were on the mic for a time. Victoria Monet also joined into the DJ booth.

“Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” co-star Crystal Kung Minkoff, AJ McLean and Howie Dorough of the Backstreet Boys, songwriters Kandi Burruss, director Todd Tucker, Grammy-winning producer Bryan-Michael Cox, Mix Master David and GoodLook Entertainment CEO Keith Thomas were also on hand.

Saturday morning, Usher posted his regrets that “Lovers & Friends” was called off:

”Mannn…I’m just as disappointed as you are. We were getting ready to turn up and celebrate today. I have to follow the orders of city officials and the National Weather Service for everyone’s protection and stand strong in my belief that everything happens for a reason.”

He added, “I’m sorry we won’t get to see each other today, but know that I am always working on something to express my heartfelt gratitude for each and every one of you who continue to support me.”

The show was sold out. Backstreet Boys, Gwen Stefani, Alicia Keys, Janet Jackson, Lil Wayne, Snoop Dogg, Nas, Ludacris and Nelly Furtado were among the headliners scheduled.

Backstreet’s back, all right

As Usher held forth at Aria, Backstreet Boys Brian Littrell and Kevin Richardson were set up at a VIP table at Bruno Mars’ The Pinky Ring at Bellagio.

Richardson learned first-hand of the club’s no-cell phone police, drawing a flashlight warning as he was taking video of the scene. “OK, OK, sorry!” he called out. He added, “But I get it, it’s a good rule. I like it.”

Richardson later said he was planning to send video of the party scene to fellow band mates Nick Carter Dorough and McLean.

Richardson and Littrell visited the club for the first time. Richardson was with his wife, Kristin, a model and performer who was a dancer and acrobat Cher’s 1999 “Do You Believe?” tour. Littrell was with his wife, model-actress singer Leighanne; and the couple’s country-artist son, Baylee (who would be a dandy headliner at Blake Shelton’s Ole Red Las Vegas, just thinking aloud).

Twice, I was asked by club-goers if I was BSB’s manager. I played along, and have booked the for a residency at Dispensary Lounge this fall.

And this being Vegas, esteemed jeweler Michael E. Minden — a friend of both families — was also in the VIP enclave. Minden was off the chain, as it were. He knows his rings, Pinky and otherwise.

The BSB members were introduced from the stage by drummer/vocalist Adam Jackson of the Diamonds, The Pinky Ring’s house band when Mars’ Hooligans are not headlining. Shrieks ensued.

The guys displayed some of the moves that have made Backstreet an international phenomenon. We would endorse a return to Vegas residency status in 2026 (the band has other plans for ‘25). Littrell said the guys would be up for a residency return.

Richardson and Littrell were floored by the Diamonds, meeting Diamonds vocalist Tyriq Johnson after the their set at about 2 a.m. Don’t be surprised to see members of Backstreet Boys at Santa Fe & The Fat City Horns shows at the Copa at Bootlegger Bistro, or at one up Johnson’s upcoming Serpentine Fire shows (the Earth Wind and Fire tribute band is at Italian American Club on Sunday night).

During this summit of talent, Johnson pulled his cell phone out for a photo of him with the guys. He suddenly thought better of it, knowing the technology restrictions. Richardson shouted, “Don’t do it! They already hit me with the light!” A moment that will live only in memory.

Jackson, Minogue and more

Jackson visited Kylie Minogue on Friday, oversold in her final weekend at Voltaire at the Venetian. Minogue posted, “LOVEEEED seeing you tonight @JanetJackson. Thank you so much for coming to see me in Vegas (PS everyone lost their MINDS that you were here, and they are NOT the same).”

Jackson later visited Gypsy Nightclub, one of her favorite Vegas hot spots. Friday’s headliner was the wonderful Derrick Barry, the famed Britney Spears impressionist from “Ru Paul’s Drag Race Live” at the Flamingo.

Barry sang “Toxic” with Jackson in the club. Jackson praised Barry’s performance, and the two spoke of their mutual love for Spears. Barry posted, “I’ll remember this night forever!”

“Reflex! Reflex!”

That’s what fans shouted as the house lights went up at the close of Duran Duran’s show Friday night at Encore Theater.

So guess what was among the classics the band didn’t play.

They also sidelined “Union of the Snake,” though Simon Le Bon wore a shirt reading “Union” with a snake under it.

Hey, you can’t play every hit in every show. Not when you’re Duran Duran.

Bassist John Taylor said as much in an interview Thursday. He stressed that Duran Duran shuffles songs in and out of its set list. The band tries to play the fan favorites, “But we go through periods where we play them a lot, and then we go, ‘You know what? We can leave that one out.’Thankfully, it’s a quality problem, because we’ve quite a few songs that people will want to hear.”

The band crushed it anyway, performing “Wild Boys, “Hungry Like the Wolf” and “A View To a Kill” in an opening burst. “Ordinary World” was again a heartfelt tribute to the people in Ukraine, and also anyone suffering in the Gaza war. As LeBon said, “This is not a political statement. We want peace.” Duran Duran closes their weekend run at Wynn on Saturday night.

Your VegasVille Moment

It was an apple-cheeked Ryan Kelsey who picked up Pamela Anderson and carried her off-stage over his shoulder during Hans Klok’s “Beauty of Magic” show some 17 years ago at Planet Hollywood.

Kelsey is now dance captain in the Chippendales show at the Rio. Klok’s venue was the old Theater for the Performing Arts, now Bakkt Theater. And Anderson is co-starring in Gia Coppola’s “The Last Showgirl,” some of which was filmed in VegasVille and to be shopped at Cannes.

Cool Hang Alert

Some lead time for “Where Art Advocates for Survival” fundraiser at Portnoy Gallery at 1537 W. Oakey Blvd. from 6-9 p.m. May 16. Criss Angel, Jeff Timmons and Ricardo Laguna are the celeb reps for the event, which is a benefit for the Save Haven Wildlife Sanctuary. The night is also an unveiling of “The Endangered Series Collection” by Vegas artist and gallery proprietor Neal Portnoy.

The collection is “a visual exploration of the delicate balance between nature and humanity,” as Portnoy’s site describes. May 16 is also National Endangered Species Day. Go to events.humantix.com for intel.

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 X, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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