56°F
weather icon Clear

David Lee Roth launching Las Vegas residency

Updated January 8, 2020 - 12:50 pm

“Have you ever imitated David Lee Roth? Yes or no?”

David Lee Roth wants to know.

He already does, though. That’s his point.

So Roth doesn’t wait long for an answer — he gives it a second or two — though considering the pace and length at which he tends to speak, that’s a pause pregnant enough to birth triplets.

“I’m a fun guy to talk about,” he says. “I’m even more fun to imitate.”

And we’re off.

A showman’s showman

It’s nearly a third of the way through a 30-minute interview before a single question can be posed by the reporter on the phone with the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer and geyser of one-liners. Such is Roth’s stream-of-consciousness conversational style. It’s kind of like partaking in the running of the bulls, albeit with words in place of livestock.

This isn’t a gripe. This is who David Lee Roth is.

He’s a showman’s showman for whom the show never ends, a living, breathing, leg-kicking embodiment of the Shakespearean adage that “the whole world’s a stage.”

In other words, he’s tailor-made for Las Vegas, where the 65-year-old Roth is launching a nine-show residency at the House of Blues featuring Van Halen signatures, solo hits and more.

Then there’s his decidedly unabridged between-song banter.

Like the city itself, Roth possesses no “off” switch.

And who’d want to flip it even if he did?

Speaking with Roth is pure rock ’n’ roll theater, a front-row seat to the kind of show where the seats quickly get tossed aside as soon as the lights go down.

‘Cirque Du So-Dave’

During the course of the conversation, Roth alternately brands himself a “combat hippie” and “Cirque Du So-Dave,” speaks Japanese briefly, adopts a British accent to imitate Harry Styles, dusts off Elvis Presley’s signature drawl, poses various rhetorical questions — “When they say, ‘party like a rock star,’ who do you think they’re referring to?” — and, for good measure, speaks of his effect on religious women and Chihuahuas.

“I could sneak up on two nuns on a Sunday morning whispering to each other,” he begins, “and if I go, ‘Sister, excuse me, what time might it be?’ They’ll recognize me and increase 22 decibels, their little fingers will separate, and it’ll be Sunday morning with a ray of sunlight,” he laughs. “When I walk by, small children stop crying and smile, small house pets suddenly obey their master on first command. It’s an ambition.”

There’s that laugh again, a hearty wheeze that instantly brings to mind that wrap-around smile Roth has been flashing for decades now.

To hear Roth tell it — and he tells it with the enthusiasm of a couple dozen cheerleader squads — his show is predicated upon old kicks done in a new way with a big sound in a relatively small room.

“It is classic rock delivered in a way that you have yet to ever see,” he says. “Most rock bands practice up the rhythm section and then add on those vocals like sprinkles. We started opposite here. What we’re bringing is a symphonic sound that is clearly different.

“When you hear what we’re bringing,” he continues, “particularly in a spectacularly tight venue like you can find in Vegas — it’s nice and tight, you can see everybody’s faces, you can see eyebrows. I’ve said that dogs are more popular than cats because they have eyebrows. You can tell what the dog is thinking. Kitty cats, they’re like strippers: You can’t tell what they’re thinking.”

‘The way you first heard it’

Roth is no stranger to extended stints in Vegas: Back in October 1995, he led a 14-piece band for nearly a week of variety-style shows at Bally’s.

“It was a vacation postcard that was based on ‘California Girls’ and ‘Just a Gigolo,’ arguably ‘The Wizard of Oz’ of popular videos,” he says of the shows.

Since last touring with Van Halen in 2015, Roth has spent a good chunk of time putting together his current Vegas production.

“Most bands spend six weeks, minus auditions, to bring you a superb show. I started two years ago,” he explains. “I bring two guitars, sometimes three, and now it picks up the way you first heard it inside that car, the way you first heard it in those great big ugly Koss headphones your brother lent to ya.”

“What we bring here is a whole sensibility of storytelling and toasting and dedications,” he adds. “I’ve already had one request, fella wants to propose on stage, so we’ll prepare a gospel moment, clearly. We’ll have to.”

‘A perishable skill’

With Van Halen’s future uncertain, Roth is taking things into his own (jazz) hands.

“Ed (Van Halen)’s not doing well, and singing and dancing is a perishable skill,” Roth says. “If you have the capacity, it’s something that has to be used routinely, if not for the thrill of it and the magic of creating with other incandescent spirits.”

The show’s Jan. 8 opening date is no happenstance of the calendar, either: It’s Elvis Presley’s birthday.

“Boy, that took a little wheeling and dealing,” Roth says. “That will require a moment of respect, possibly a moment and a half.”

From one of Vegas’ most iconic stars of the past to the acts of today, Roth rattles off a list of some of the city’s resident performers whom he’s joining.

And then he does an about-face, that laughter flowing out of him like his signature long blond locks once did.

“You know what, (expletive) ’em all?” he says playfully, not dismissively. “Let’s just go dancing.”

Contact Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476. Follow @JasonBracelin on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Entertainment Videos
Guy Fieri reflects on the Las Vegas dining scene
Celebrity chef Guy Fieri talks about the Las Vegas food scene while in town celebrating his 52nd birthday. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Familiar faces among Circa culinary lineup
Derek Stevens and chefs Barry Dakake and Dan Coughlin talk about some of the new restaurants for Stevens' Circa resort project. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making the Ausser Rand und Band (Over the Top) bloody mary at the Hofbrauhaus Las Vegas
The Hofbrauhaus Las Vegas serves the Ausser Rand und Band bloody mary with Hofbrau Dunkel, vodka, bloody mary mix, a Tajin rim and a soft pretzel, slider, bacon, sausage and more. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Custom Pizza Truck is a 'kitchen on wheels' - VIDEO
Custom Pizza Truck serves pizzas in a one of a kind food truck that traveled to Poland and back. (Elizabeth Page Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @elipagephoto
Squidhat Records comes to an end - VIDEO
Founder Allan Carter explains decision to shutter the Las Vegas label. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Kaiseki Yuzu relocates to Chinatown - VIDEO
Kaiseki Yuzu restaurant celebrated its move from Henderson to Chinatown at 3900 Spring Mountain Road on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Panic! at the Disco frontman opens studio for kids - VIDEO
Panic! at the Disco frontman Brendon Urie launches Notes for Notes at a Henderson Boys & Girls Club. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
A sneak peek at the new Mas Por Favor in Las Vegas - VIDEO
Mas Por Favor in Las Vegas’ Chinatown is an Instagram dream come true with original art, an arch of skulls and one of roses. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegan menu unveiled on Las Vegas Strip - VIDEO
Truth & Tonic, one of the two dining spots within The Venetian’s Canyon Ranch Spa + Fitness, rolled out its new plant-based menu on Friday. Executive chef Pete Ghione talks about the menu. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making lobster and avocado flatbread at Vanderpump Cocktail Garden in Las Vegas - VIDEO
Josh Grimes, chef de cuisine at Vanderpump Cocktail Garden at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, created a lobster and avocado flatbread that also has avocado-creme fraiche spread, yellow tomatoes, red onion and Hearts On Fire microgreens. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Riding the new 15-minute "Star Wars" ride at Disneyland
What it's like to ride the new 15-minute "Star Wars" ride At Disneyland (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Main St. Provisions is coming to the Arts District - VIDEO
Kim Owens talks about her new Arts District restaurant, Main Street Provisions, which is under construction. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Artist Wayne Littlejohn on “Spin Baby” - VIDEO
Wayne Littlejohn’s sculpture celebrates Las Vegas entertainers. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tiësto headlines CES 2020 closing party at Hakkasan Nightclub - VIDEO
Tiesto performs for CES conventioneers and clubgoers during the DreamlandXR Closing Night Party at Hakkasan Nightclub at the MGM Grand on the Las Vegas Strip in the early hours of Friday, Jan. 10, 2020. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Locals cheer on James Holzhauer at 'Jeopardy!' watch party - VIDEO
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But James Holzhauer would have a better chance at winning “Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time” tournament if Ken Jennings would stop copying his aggressive betting strategy. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Drake's first show of 2020 at XS Nightclub in Las Vegas - VIDEO
Drake performs at the indoor/outdoor XS and Encore Beach Club at Wynn Las Vegas on the Las Vegas Strip in the early morning hours of Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Ceremony held for Elvis artist Trent Carlini - VIDEO
A ceremony was held for Elvis impersonator Trent Carlini on Wednesday night at The Space in Las Vegas. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES 2020: Small appliances unveiled in Las Vegas - VIDEO
The small appliances on show at Sands Expo at CES 2020 in Las Vegas include a Keurig cocktail maker, autonomous cooking system, nitrogen coffee ampules and more. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES 2020: Impossible Foods debuts Impossible Pork in Las Vegas - VIDEO
Before a packed press conference at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Impossible Foods executives introduced Impossible Pork, its newest product. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Lady Gaga joins her band leader at his after-hours show - VIDEO
After finishing her “Jazz + Piano” show at Park Theater, Lady Gaga joined her band leader Brian Newman for a rousing version of "Fly Me to the Moon" during his show at NoMad Restaurant at Park MGM on the Las Vegas Strip after midnight on New Year's Day, 2020. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Brian Newman rings in 2020 at NoMad at Park MGM - VIDEO
Brian Newman, bandleader for Lady Gaga, performs at NoMad Restaurant at Park MGM on the Las Vegas Strip on New Year's Eve 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
New Year’s Fireworks on the Las Vegas Strip - VIDEO
Fireworks explode over the Las Vegas Strip to celebrate the new year of 2020. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Kats hits Las Vegas Strip on New Year's Eve - VIDEO
Man-about-town columnist John Katsilometes covers entertainment on the Strip on New Year's Eve Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019. Mayfair Supper Club overlooking Bellagio fountains. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
RJ LIVE from Drai's nightclub on the Las Vegas Strip - VIDEO
Aaron Drawhorn live from Drai's nightclub on the Las Vegas Strip across from the Bellagio fountains on New Year's Eve.
Ayesha Curry and Michael Mina talk about opening International Smoke
Ayesha Curry and Michael Mina, partners in International Smoke, admit things don't always admit things don’t always work the first time. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Unravel the story of House of Eternal Return at Meow Wolf - VIDEO
New Mexico art collective Meow Wolf created the House of Eternal Return in 2016. The group is opening an original immersive experience in Las Vegas next year. (Meow Wolf)
Story behind Spago’s two-pound truffle - VIDEO
Spago chef Mark Andelbradt shares the story of a truffle hunter who found the truffle. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ayesha Curry preps for International Smoke opening
Ayesha Curry talks about preparing for the opening of International Smoke, her collaboration with Michael Mina at MGM Grand in Las Vegas (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making the French Onion Burger at Topgolf in Las Vegas - VIDEO
Kreg Klaver, executive chef at Topgolf at MGM Grand in Las Vegas, makes the French Onion Burger by topping a 7-ounce beef patty with horseradish-Dijon, caramelized onions, Gruyere and crispy onions, on a pretzel bun. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Mayfair Supper Club preview
The finishing touches are still being put on Bellagio’s new Mayfair Supper club, which is set to open on New Year’s Eve. But the creative team behind the experience gave members of the media a little preview on Thursday in a rehearsal space they’ve been using at Park MGM. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
THE LATEST
Things to do this week in Las Vegas

Looking for something to do in the Las Vegas Valley? We’ve got you covered. Check out our best bets for the weekend and week ahead.