The Great Outdoors

Sunscreen? Check. Sunglasses? Yep. Outdoor live music? Frickin’ duh! I mean, what the hell’s the point of the other two things? So grab protection and consider my fun-in-the-desert-sun suggestions below in order to cure your summertime blues.

Outdoor live music in heat-stricken Vegas is getting a cool boost with the new Red Rock Amphitheatre, which debuts June 18 with a concert by Mötley Crüe, Poison and the glam-rock band that started the whole glam-rock problem, New York Dolls. (Tickets are $65, $85, $100 and $175; Last month, some other local entertainment journalists and I had the privilege of donning construction hard hats and experiencing a sneak peek/backstage tour of this seasonal (May to October) facility, which was completed June 3.

The amphitheater seats 9,000 and takes up three acres just past the Red Rock pool. With the farthest seat being only 200 feet from the stage and unobstructed sightlines, the venue ensures an intimate, shaded atmosphere no matter where you’re sitting. Every concert is assigned seating, so there’ll be none of that jostling for better vantage in the general-admission/standing-room-only morass. The stage and its massive sound system towering 40 feet in the air look amazing, and I can’t wait to get my Red Rock Amphitheatre cherry popped by Vince Neil and the boys. The venue is bringing even bigger names—Toby Keith (Aug. 6), Enrique Iglesias with Pitbull (Oct. 8), and Blink-182 and My Chemical Romance (Oct. 7).

Had a chance to catch up with my babysitter and original MTV VJ Nina Blackwood recently via phone. Since May, Blackwood has been hosting a series of free concerts at Fremont Street Experience called, appropriately, Nina Blackwood’s Absolutely ’80s, and the remaining 9 p.m. shows shouldn’t be missed. You’ve got British new wave band ABC (remember their hits “Poison Arrow” and “The Look of Love”?) June 18; Colin Hay (of Men at Work) on July 2; Wang Chung with Naked Eyes July 23; Loverboy on Aug. 6; Tony Hadley (of Spandau Ballet) with Men Without Hats Aug. 20; and last but not least Howard Jones on Sept. 3.

I hate to show bias when it comes to the decade of my childhood, but Blackwood agrees with me. “It was cool back then,” she says. “Back then there were so many different types of music under the umbrella of rock and pop—Michael Jackson, Twisted Sister, Men at Work. I was able to cover a huge spectrum on one channel.”

Blackwood is also featured nightly on the Viva Vision canopy with a countdown celebrating her personal list of the greatest songs of the ’80s. Like me, she’s a huge Men at Work fan. “Colin Hay used to be my neighbor!” she reveals. “His solo work is amazing, too. And his acoustic arrangements of the Men at Work hits really bring out the spookiness and paranoia that were always obscured before.”

Note to self: Interview Hay before his show.

If you’re in the mood for something old-school and Sinatra-esque, try Carmine Mandia, who performs right at the water’s edge 7 p.m., June 18, as part of the free Jazz on the Lake series at Montelago Village Resort. Mandia’s songbook is vast and contains just about every tune that Ol’ Blue Eyes made famous. (No coolers. More info at

Suggested Next Read

Kung Fu Panda 2 (PG)

Movie Review

Kung Fu Panda 2 (PG)

By Tribune Media Services

This follow-up delivers more heart than laughs. Cuddly Po (voiced by Jack Black) is now an accomplished Dragon Warrior, meting out justice with his mad kung fu skillz. But there is a new threat, a peacock named Lord Shen (Gary Oldman) who has a new weapon that could be the end of kung fu. While there aren’t enough great lines for Black and the rest of the all-star voice cast, the chases are 3-D animated wonders, the martial arts brawls are epic and the scrip has an impressive heart with an appealing Buddhist bent. Highly satisfying.