After a lengthy hiatus caused by the world’s current pandemic, RAIDING THE ROCK VAULT has finally found a new home in Vegas. The Duomo, a brand new venue in the Rio Hotel and Casino, will be hosting the rock show for the foreseeable future.
Over the past decade in Vegas, RAIDING THE ROCK VAULT has been a fantastic classic rock concert/stage show highlighting the various eras of rock and roll, bringing them to life on the live stage with plenty of talented individuals. The cast and the show itself have changed many times. Previous venues hosting the show have included the LVH/Westgate Hotel and Casino (formerly the Las Vegas Hilton), Tropicana Hotel and Casino, the former Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, and most recently, the 172 Room inside the Rio Hotel and Casino (it’s not clear if that room is still functioning following the pandemic). The Duomo, which just opened, is the new home for the show, for what will hopefully be a very long run.
I attended the performance on Saturday, June 18, 2022; this was the second night of performances since the show started back up. The musicians present for the show I attended included:
-Todd Kerns on guitar/vocals (Original Sin, Age of Electric, Slash’s band)
-Michael T. Ross on keyboards (Lita Ford’s band, Angel)
-Rowan Robertson on guitar (Dio, Bang Tango)
-Keith St. John on vocals (Montrose, Burning Rain, Kingdom Come)
-John Bisaha on vocals (The Babys)
-Blas Elias on drums (Slaughter, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Blue Man Group)
-Stephanie Calvert on vocals (Starship)
-Phil Soussan on bass (Ozzy Osbourne’s band, Last in Line, Billy Idol’s band)
-Jason Boyleston on guitar (Paul Rodgers’ band)
Note that the show has regularly employed revolving-door musicians and has had ever-changing lineups since starting in Vegas back in 2013. Of these musicians, only Ross is an original member from the show’s 2013 Vegas beginnings, though many of them have played in varying incarnations of the show. This is in addition to special guests sometimes appearing. Past members of the band as well as fill-in players have included (but are not limited to) Paul Shortino, Andrew Freeman, Jay Schellen, Jeff Duncan, Christian Brady, Barry Barnes, Tracii Guns, John Payne, Howard Leese, Doug Aldrich, Carol-Lyn Liddle, and Oni Logan. Special guests playing with the show in the past have included Jon Anderson, Mickey Thomas, Bobby Kimball, and Lou Gramm. The setlist has remained roughly 2/3 constant during the show’s duration, with the major changes coming from the addition of female-sung songs to accommodate women singing in the show; a welcomed change.
The original incarnation of the show at LVH in 2013 featured a storyline and actors filling various roles, revolving around the discovery of a “Rock Vault” in a jungle which was a time capsule of sorts, revealing these songs when uncovered. Following the departure of John Payne, this was replaced with a plot line about comedic roadie stories with narration by Paul Shortino. When the show arrived at Vinyl inside the former Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, the story was streamlined and changed, with a video presentation and occasional narration clips from a “Spirit of Music.” This incarnation of the show had eliminated actor parts but utilized two dancing girls throughout the show where needed. With the opening of the new venue, I was curious as to what direction the show would be taking. Would the show be restored to its former “stage show” glory with a plot line and elaborate large stage, or would this be a reprisal of the most recent incarnation of the show?
The Duomo, again, is a brand new venue; RAIDING THE ROCK VAULT is the first show to be featured here. It’s an intimate smaller venue, honestly not the larger theater-style room I was expecting, though a room of this size certainly has its advantages. The exterior portion of the venue includes a video arcade and a bar, though disappointingly, there’s no in-venue restroom. For the performance I attended, I had a seat at one of the tables up front, not in the rows of non-permanent chairs far back. I’d love to attend a show in the future farther back in the venue just to see how the view is, though.
From the get-go, it was clear that this was a reprisal of the most recent version of ROCK VAULT I’d seen, utilizing the “Spirit of Music” storyline that’s all audio/video clips, and the production still retained the two dancing girls (I can’t say for sure if they were the same dancers from earlier incarnations of the show though). The intro utilizes “Spellbound” by Triumph as its backing music (too bad we couldn’t get the actual band performing one of that Canadian power trio’s songs), talking about the changing states of the world and the role music has always played in them. The audience gets these clips and narrations every few songs, which keeps the show more streamlined that earlier incarnations that utilized actors. The performance I attended ran for roughly 95 minutes. This is roughly the same length as earlier versions of the show, but because of the streamlined structure, more songs are included, which is something I doubt any attendee would complain about. After all, they came to rock.
The setlist is largely unchanged from earlier versions of the show. The older incarnations I saw largely kept the same tracklist, though this would sometimes be amended and modified, particularly to accommodate guest stars. The time period explored by the show roughly covers from about 1965-1987, so just over two decades of rock. From early British Invasion to psychedelic American hits, to 80s hard rock from bands like Bon Jovi and Whitesnake, it’s a nice diverse mix of rock hits. RAIDING THE ROCK VAULT gives the audience what it wants in terms of classic rock hits, performed excellently by expert bands of musicians. Even if the lineup has changed drastically, the quality of the performances has not. Two minor issues I have with the setlist are the lack of Beatles songs (this may be due to the fact that Las Vegas also has THE BEATLES LOVE stage show which could very well have exclusive rights to that music), and a lack of punk songs; one of the Ramones or Clash songs that’s become a classic rock radio staple would’ve made a nice addition to the setlist. Still, people who come to see classic rock hits done by the best band possible will love what’s offered. It may have been a smaller venue, but these guys rocked the house from start to finish as if they were playing to tens of thousands of people. While the show starts off largely chronological, but about halfway through it’s as if someone hit a “shuffle button” and things become more unpredictable, albeit in the best of ways. The earlier moments of the show utilize full songs, whereas the latter half tend to employ medleys to fit in more music. It works.
What impressed me is how well the band was able to utilize fairly limited state space in a smaller venue. Obviously there’s no room for the big “Rock Vault” prop from older large-stage incarnations of the show, so props and the like are limited, but there are the aforementioned video screens for story sequences and stock footage/trivia about the bands, plus smoke machines in a few places on the stage, and platforms extending into the audience on either side. The lead vocalists, Todd Kerns in particular, were very “in your face” with the crowd members closest to the stage. Anyone can go through the numbers and play these songs, but I’m glad to see this is band that made audience engagement a priority. It may have been a smaller showroom with seats, but when someone in the band told everyone to get on their feet, this was an enthusiastic enough crowd who was quick to comply. Having a large band and rotating musicians on each song makes for something better than your average “cover band.” Keith St. John, in particular, impressed me with his ability to always have a costume similar to what the singer he was paying tribute to would wear in concert, be it Steven Tyler, Robert Plant, or Mick Jagger. And having Michael T. Ross on keys is definitely a good thing; a song like the classic Doors hit “Light My Fire” wouldn’t work without the Ray Manzarek organ parts, which are expertly transcribed here. I won’t go through and describe every single moment of the show or every single song that’s played; you need some surprises when you go to see it, after all!
The only minor criticisms I had with the gig were that it was difficult to see/read the monitors with video footage/band trivia where I was sitting; I was in front of the “side” monitors, and the one behind the band is almost impossible to read because it’s, well, behind the band, and the fact that the show wasn’t utilizing a “roll call” segment to introduce the band at the beginning of the evening, something that was a staple of the show during its LVH/Westgate incarnation (although musicians were credited at the end of the show).
Despite still being in a fairly small setting, I don’t think this show could’ve gone better. These are world-class musicians playing like they’re entertaining a packed stadium with unrivaled enthusiasm and a love for what they do. It’s clear there’s a chemistry among the musicians, which is certainly a necessity for a gig like this. Many thanks to this killer all-star band for rocking the classic hits, and to the crew for making this venue and show a reality in Vegas once more. Classic rock fans won’t want to miss RAIDING THE ROCK VAULT, reborn at long last. Highly recommended.
PHOTO CREDIT: All photos by Stephy Muzio (Hayward) for ZRockR Magazine – All Rights Reserved