Lounge trying old-school approach

Live music, particularly at the lounge level, took a mighty beating once Las Vegas discovered it could sell $14 drinks without paying a band.

But Robin Antin knows both sides of the fence. Her Pussycat Dolls Lounge at Caesars Palace blends a club setting with the founder’s blend of pop singing and burlesque.

Now Antin and British singer Matt Goss are testing an even more brashly old-school conceit. They plan to find out whether people will sit still in a lounge to watch Goss sing with a live band.

“Matt Goss Live From Las Vegas” launches Friday as a weekend offering in the Palms lounge, renamed The Gossy Room. The show carries a $25 ticket, but co-producers Goss and Antin hope they’re creating a hybrid venue where people will linger after the 10 p.m. set.

“When I leave, The Gossy Room still stays alive,” Goss explains. He wants Las Vegas locals in particular to say, “This is a good hang on weekends.”

Antin sold the Goss concept to Michael Greco, the Palms’ vice president of entertainment who worked with her when he was at Pure. The room has hosted the Playboy Comedy Tour and more recently, Zowie Bowie. That duo is now competition, relaunching The Pub in the Monte Carlo on Friday.

Goss’s career turn has parallels to Human Nature, the grown-up boy band in residence at the Imperial Palace. You have to be pretty deep into British pop to know Matt and twin brother Luke were in a late-’80s boy band called Bros.

He has continued to stay current as a solo artist in Europe, but mostly by commuting.

“I just want to connect with the American public,” says the 40-year-old singer. “I love living here. I would leave this country, sing and do my thing and come back.”

The Palms revue features Goss with a seven-piece band and four dancers choreographed by Antin. “It’s just like going to see a concert, only he happens to be there every Friday and Saturday,” Antin says. “I love the idea of starting intimate and then growing.”

The working set list has originals outnumbering cover tunes two-to-one. Goss will do some standards, but also some creative remakes. “Hotel California” gets a horn chart and ska twist revealing the singer’s southeast London upbringing.

He and Antin also collaborated on the video for the new single “Evil,” now downloadable at iTunes and Amazon. It’s retro-cool in the vein of the Brian Setzer Orchestra, or “like Green Day big band,” as Antin puts it.

Introducing himself to a new audience is “one of the most glorious feelings I’ve had in a long time, in a very nervous kind of way,” Goss says. “I haven’t had this feeling in 20 years.” …

You had to feel a little sad for Chrissie Hynde when an ad for Wednesday’s Pretenders show in the Star of the Desert arena at Primm offered two tickets and a room for $20.

If you missed that deal, the arena extends a two-for-one offer for Nevada residents for the rest of the year, for any concert except Reba McEntire on Saturday.

It’s hard to knock a bargain in these hard times, but sometimes you get what you pay for. A Yes/Asia double bill at the Thomas & Mack Center in June made me wonder: Does it help either the group or its fans to take a House of Blues-sized act and put it in an arena if the atmosphere suffers?

The Yes crowd would have filled, say, The Pearl at the Palms, but seemed kind of pitiful in the arena. And the $33 ticket should have said “bring your own flashlight.”

Most of these groups that now play smaller halls such as the House of Blues or Station Casinos use the in-house lighting with their own programmed cues. If upcoming Primm acts such as Rick Springfield or Kool & The Gang no longer play arenas as a rule, they aren’t going to have an impressive stage production designed for one. …

Corey Levitan details Frank Marino’s return to drag elsewhere in this section, but it’s an odd coincidence that the test run of his new show falls on the same weekend the real Joan Rivers plays The Venetian.

Rivers once sued Marino to make him quit using her jokes, but he still impersonates her (with his own material) for the first five minutes of his act.

He says they’re friends, even though Rivers told him backstage last weekend, “You’re starting to look like Michael Jackson.”

He says he replied, “If you have a lot of plastic surgery you’re going to either look like Michael or Joan Rivers. And I ended up looking like both of you.”

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.

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