“It’s cool being the first to play this place,” laid-back banjo wizard Bela Fleck said during his incredible opening set. While not technically accurate (Randy Travis had already serenaded the facility’s construction workers, followed by a gala of performers ranging from John Fogerty to Jennifer Hudson), Fleck and his band certainly made The Smith Center’s official opening week something special.
He also enthused that the building’s designers were responsible for the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, which “had a big impact on the Nashville scene.” Those seated around me shared a similar hope for a cultural boost in Vegas and a strong appreciation for Fleck. Myself, I saw and heard things I never knew existed—pianist/harmonica player Howard Levy’s harp-driven mashup of The Beatles’ “In My Life” and “Greensleeves,” for instance—so the beautiful, marble-slathered venue is already a success in my mind.
Comprised of Fleck, Levy and brothers Victor (a monster of a six-string bass player) and electro-percussionist Roy “Futureman” Wooten, the instrumental jazz-grassers powered through best-known and recent tunes, including “Life in Eleven” (which won a Grammy last year for Best Instrumental Composition) and “Storm Warning,” both from 2011’s Rocket Science. An intimate solo spotlight featuring Fleck, as well as a prog-Celtic medley, would’ve overthrown any Lord of the Dancers. Here’s hoping the Flecktones set the right tone for all the music and entertainment that The Smith Center will be hosting in years to come. ★★★★☆