REO Speedwagon, Styx, Ted Nugent

Planet Hollywood Theater for the Performing Arts, May 5

This is exactly the venue that should have hosted this triple bill of classic rockers. When all three of these acts were in their prime 30-35 years ago, the Theater for the Performing Arts (then, part of the Aladdin) was the only place you could see major touring bands in Las Vegas. And the setting helped the bands turn back the clock for a night of musical nostalgia.

The best thing about the three-band lineup is that it left little room for excess. No new songs. No drum or bass solos. Just three acts in four hours, delivering hit after hit. Even the political firestorm that is Nugent, never one to just let his music do the talking, reined it in for the most part.

As the opening act for the Midwest Rock ’n’ Roll Express tour, Nugent received less stage time than his contemporaries, but he made the most of it. While not a technical virtuoso on guitar, Nugent always had a knack for coming up with memorable riffs, and he showcased them in classics such as “Stormtroopin’,” “Cat Scratch Fever” and “Stranglehold.”

Hits were in abundance for co-headliners Styx and REO Speedwagon, both of which lacked Nugent’s stage presence but trumped him as far as mainstream appeal. Songs such as Styx’s “Blue Collar Man (Long Nights),” “Come Sail Away” and “Renegade,” along with REO’s “Take It on the Run,” “Can’t Fight This Feeling” and “Time For Me to Fly” turned into heartfelt sing-alongs, with fans shouting out every line (some with genuine feeling; others with a hint of irony).

It might have been a night to celebrate the past, but this trio of acts showed that their songs are still as relevant to fans as they ever have been. ★★★☆☆

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Remembering a Vegas musician

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On April 23, musician Tommy Marth died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was only 33, and with so much life ahead of him, I never thought to thank him for all he did for me personally, all he did for Vegas’ cultural atmosphere. Tommy could do anything. In 2003, as arts editor for Las Vegas CityLife, I asked him to pen CD reviews. He was a natural-born writer. We got along well because we had similar taste in jazz. And we both thought his siblings’ indie-rock band, the Big Friendly Corporation (whom he often joined onstage), underrated.

DTLV

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