Look! Up on the stage! It’s a concert! It’s a theater piece! It’s … well, kinda one, but not completely … and sorta the other, but not very often. Or very well.
It’s Raiding the Rock Vault, Take Two, revamped and relocated to the Tropicana after nearly two years at the LVH-turned-Westgate, owing to legal acrimony between show co-creator John Payne (of the group Asia) and producer Harry Cowell. That necessitated changes.
Paradoxically, Rock Vault was originally enjoyable as a well-paced mix of music, sketch interludes and multimedia narrative of the music’s history—even though, as a sparkly Vegas package, it seemed like an unintentional rebuff of rock’s scruffy, defiant ethos. Now it’s more concert-centric, but periodically screeches to a halt for comic breaks that are hardly worth the effort, with inconsistent video-monitor minutiae.
One can only guess why most songs merit trivia streams onscreen, but the Eagles’ “Hotel California” doesn’t even get a flash of the song title. Or why, in the midst of several songs released in the ’70s—Free’s “All Right Now,” Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” and Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water”—up pops a graphic itemizing the cost of living in 1968. (Movie tickets: $1.50.)
Gone is the odd but atmospheric opening that set up its former theatrical element, in which hazmat-suited wanderers from the future cracked open the “vault,” ushering forth the show’s rockers. Instead, they file onstage in straight intros, but once they arrive, the good times rock ’n’ roll. On hand for the second go-round (sans Payne) are, among others: singers Paul Shortino (Quiet Riot), Andrew Freeman (Lynch Mob) and the strutting, often chest-baring Robin McAuley (Survivor), guitarists Howard Leese (Heart) and Doug Aldrich (Whitesnake), bassist Hugh McDonald (Bon Jovi) and drummer Jay Schellen (Badfinger).
Only a soul that’s hopelessly out of tune couldn’t get carried away by the music—and the musicianship—blasting off the stage. Kicking off with “My Generation” and “Light My Fire,” this “raid” tears through the decades with a truly great greatest-hits compilation. Among the highlights: “Honky Tonk Women,” “We Are the Champions,” “Dream On,” “Carry On, Wayward Son,” “Livin’ on a Prayer,” “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” “Addicted to Love,” “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and a scorching “Highway to Hell.”
Unleashing some power pipes, Carol-Lyn Liddle goes deliriously gonzo on “Heartbreaker,” and even the cheesiness (and cheesecake) of two female dancers in boxing trunks throwing Rocky-like jabs can’t diminish the pulsating “Eye of the Tiger.”
No complaints—except when the now-fewer, less-funny sketches drop in out of nowhere, along with intermittent narration built around fictional stoner-roadies reminiscing. Painfully unfunny bits feature them sharing a story about how cops stole their weed, and later, as oldie roadies, looking back on the good times. Another routine, with Shortino playing the stereotypical drug-hazed rocker, is flat-out embarrassing.
As a pure concert, Raiding the Rock Vault would indeed be a stairway to heaven. As for the ill-fitting narrative changes: Carry on without them, wayward producers.
Got an entertainment tip? Email Steve.Bornfeld@VegasSeven.com.