“It’s so funny,” says John Payne. “All these guys, because we play in original bands, none of us have ever played covers before.”
But they’re learning “Stairway to Heaven” now.
Payne is at the helm of “Raiding the Rock Vault,” a production show featuring veteran rock pros that will play five nights a week at the LVH starting March 8.
Payne started developing the show after “noticing how well tribute bands do now” as a member of the band Asia.
His experience with that band brought its own Warhol soup-can moments of separating originals from copies. He toured with Asia during the years for which the band is less famous, before the best-known original lineup got back together.
The reunited Asia agreed he could continue with the name Asia featuring John Payne; they played Fremont Street last summer. But Payne says he once played a gig in Canada, “and two nights later an Asia tribute band played to 500 more people than we did.”
Payne’s cover band of semifamous players didn’t draw any interest from buyers at first. But a new idea came when he toured with a revival of Jeff Wayne’s ’70s concept album “War of the Worlds”: “Let’s add a stage element to it and make it chronological and make it the story of classic rock music from the ’60s to the ’90s. That gave it more of a theme,” he says.
The more theatrical concept led to the participation of veteran record industry executive David Kershenbaum. The show now takes off from the post-apocalyptic premise of a rock vault being found inside a Mayan temple.
The band features Las Vegas-based Quiet Riot alum Paul Shortino, Tracii Guns (L.A. Guns), Howard Leese (Heart) and Robin McAuley on vocals. The plan is for guest stars to rotate through, with the first being Bobby Kimball of Toto fame followed by Joe Lynn Turner of Rainbow and Deep Purple.
The concept and format echo “Monster Circus,” which came and went at the same hotel, then the Las Vegas Hilton, in 2009. That show also offered a band of rock utility men fronted by more famous guest stars, but focused on the ’80s Sunset Strip rock that’s now the focus of the Broadway musical “Rock of Ages.”
“This is a much stronger production, much higher budget,” says Rick White, who oversees entertainment for the hotel. …
A goodbye turned into a hello when Bruce Ewing contacted the Plaza to thank officials for supporting his group The Phat Pack, but to let them know he had found a new place to move it.
“They said, ‘No, please don’t.’ ”
Hotel management had cleared the decks of a larger controversy over the showroom, and was free to invite the Broadway-cabaret act to return on March 13.
“There was just a lot of drama” during the quartet’s short stay at the Plaza last winter, Ewing says, “and it looks like that’s all gone.”
The Phat Pack was, but wasn’t, part of a mess that resulted in three of four titles that suspended their schedule in the vintage showroom and, as it turned out, did not come back: “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas,” “Bite” and the “Grand Ole Vegas Revue.”
Hotel management “couldn’t really deal with us directly,” Ewing says, because the Phat Pack was subletting its performance times from producers of those shows who were unhappy with the showroom operation.
Now, Ewing says he and the rest of the Phat Pack — Venetian “Phantom” alums Ted Keegan and Randal Keith, with pianist Joey Singer — work directly for the Plaza, which is “integrating us into their whole being,” up to and including a Phat Pack slot tournament.
The Phat Pack will continue to perform at 5 p.m. even if, for the near future, it will be the only show at the Plaza. That’s a strategic decision to avoid competition.
“There’s too much of a choice of things to see at 7 p.m.,” Ewing says.
The Plaza’s showroom operations, including the box office, will now be managed by the hotel directly. In a statement, executives say they “look forward to soon announcing new shows” to join the Phat Pack. …
“Peepshow” loves Coco, at least until July 28. Coco Austin’s run with the burlesque show has been extended four months. While the “Ice Loves Coco” star wanted to negotiate a four-show workweek to minimize her time away from husband Ice-T, the contract extension keeps her in the show seven times a week, “with a few exceptions,” a spokeswoman says.
Ice will have to chill in Vegas during the summer hiatus for “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.” …
Give a singer a day off and what’ll he do? Sing some more.
Travis Cloer, who alternates the lead of Frankie Valli in “Jersey Boys,” uses his Monday off to perform his “Setting the Standards” album in the Cabaret Jazz venue of The Smith Center for the Performing Arts.
At least he doesn’t have to push every song to Valli’s falsetto.
“I’ve got a pretty high tenor range, but given the fact that we have to do it so much in the show, it basically uses every millimeter of my voice,” he says. “It can do a lot of damage if you don’t do it correctly.”
A six-piece band joins Cloer on Monday for classic standards and “newer contemporary songs, Broadway, pop and R&B but done with a jazz feel to it.
“It’s just a labor of love. It’s always good as an artist to get away from what you do all the time. I’ve been doing ‘Jersey Boys’ for six years now. It’s nice to present myself as myself now as opposed to the character.”
Cloer is jokingly reminded that past castmates Rick Faugno and Erich Bergen were big on side projects too, and are no longer with the show.
“I really do value my position there,” he says, explaining why he is only doing the single night at The Smith Center instead of a whole weekend.
Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at
email@example.com or 702-383-0288.