“I put on my crazy outfits and I sing for y’all. That’s what I do,” said CeeLo Green. And he wasn’t kidding, as he brought songs and star power to Cleopatra’s Barge at Caesars Palace, clad in a fringed pantsuit that would be the envy of both Elton John and J-Lo. The enthusiastic audience varied from Hotlanta mamas who remember his Goodie Mob days to thirtysomething tourist couples swaying to Gnarls Barkley to the pair of Midwestern senior citizens in cardigans and glasses, the woman clutching her floral handbag. (I’m guessing they’re fans of The Voice?)
It may seem strange to see a Grammy-winner/platinum-record holder playing for a few hundred, but the big man in the small room is part of Vegas legend, from Duke Ellington to Louis Prima—whom CeeLo honored with a swinging rendition of “I’m Gonna Live Until I Die.” Providing backup were percussionist/singer Menta Williams and one-man horn section Marcus Anderson, both of whom displayed plenty of showmanship and audience interaction of their own.
While the use of backing tracks is usually frowned upon, it works in this intimate room and also suits the “mixtape” nature of the show—as when “Bright Lights, Bigger City” transformed into the climax of “Let the Sunshine In” from Hair and then slid into home with the closing of P-Funk’s “Flashlight.” CeeLo also offered up a version of Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel” that had the falsetto ebullience of the “I Want You Back” Michael and got folks dancing for a bouncing rendition of Morris Day & the Time’s “The Bird.”
From his own songbook, CeeLo offered up a burning “Closet Freak” and a lower-key, slower-jam version of “Crazy.” By the time he kicked into “Fuck You,” the whole audience got up and got down—even grandma dropped her purse on the floor and threw her hands in the air. I know what happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas, but the good feeling of a CeeLo party could last all the way back to Iowa.