• Tue. May 28th, 2024

Tom Keifer and LA Guns played the International Showroom at the Westgate Hotel and Casino on Thursday, April 11, 2024.

The Westgate played host to not one but two of the top acts of 1980s rock on April 11 – LA Guns, and Tom Keifer, the legendary vocalist/guitarist of Cinderella. Being the stage that Elvis Presley rocked for years on end back in the day, it’s one of the finest rooms in Vegas for audiences to catch a show. In recent years, more 80s rock acts have been coming to Westgate, and this headbanger certainly welcomes it with open arms! Hearing Keifer and Guns would be playing the venue certainly had my excited, as I’m certainly a fan of both acts.

LA Guns were the kings of the Sunset Strip in their prime, with British vocalist Phil Lewis (formerly of Girl, alongside a pre-Def Leppard Phil Collen, and Torme) and guitarist Tracii Guns, who early in his career had been the original lead guitarist of a pre-Slash Guns N Roses (which is actually why the band is called GUNS N Roses!) The group went through many different incarnations and lineups, but the reunion of Tracii and Phil a few years back was a musical godsend, not only resulting in new music, but new music that could hold its own against the band’s own classic catalogue cuts. That’s no small feat right there.

LA Guns’ current lineup features Lewis and Guns alongside second guitarist Ace Von Johnson, bassist Johnny Martin, and drummer Shawn Duncan (brother of Armored Saint’s Jeff Duncan). I’ve seen this incarnation of Guns on several occasions (it seems like every December sees two back-to-back nights at Vamp’d for the group) and they’ve got a good chemistry and know how to command the stage. Lewis has one of rock’s most distinctive voices yet never seems to get the credit he deserves, and Guns remains one of rock’s best axemen even all these years later. The rest of the lineup fares just as well, with these guys clearly enjoying one another and what they do. I wish every modern lineup of a classic band was as good as this.

The setlist for LA Guns, unsurprisingly, was heavy on tracks from the first three LA Guns albums – LA GUNS, COCKED AND LOADED, and HOLLYWOOD VAMPIRES. But the band also didn’t skimp on songs from their newer releases, unleashing modern-day classics like “Speed” and “Cannonball.” But fear not; classic gems like “Sex Action,” “Electric Gypsy,” “Over the Edge,” “Never Enough,” and “The Ballad of Jayne” all got played, with the group even encouraging audience participation on the latter. Probably my one minor complaint was, if the group was including songs from the newer releases from the band, why leave out “You Betray,” which is probably the greatest LA Guns song since the 1980s?

The band threw in a few surprises as well, not to mention their signature sense of humor. This included an instrumental AC/DC homage, and Tracii soloing on nearly every track. Phil Lewis proudly proclaimed he was going to blow the rood off the “Manilow building” (Barry Manilow does a residency at the Westgate) which seemed to amuse the crowd. Tracii played a few bars of “Stairway to Heaven,” claiming he did so every night for a year as part of another show but didn’t miss it, and even had a few choice words for the man in charge of said show. It’s moments like this that make an LA Guns show more than “just a concert.” These guys are the real deal. No bullshit, no backing tracks, no watering down of anything… Not to mention they’re still making new music that’s actually GOOD. It’s a pure ROCK show in its rawest and best form. Other bands stand up and take notice!

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Tom Keifer rocked the 80s and 90s as the frontman for Cinderella, a group that took the music world by storm from the time their 1986 debut, NIGHT SONGS, was released. The band’s songs quickly became MTV anthems, and it wasn’t long before they went from support acts to arena headliners. The band quietly faded away after the release of the STILL CLIMBING album in the mid 1990s, though they later reunited to play live stages again. Cinderella is apparently no more, something that seems reinforced by the death of original lead guitarist Jeff LaBar. But that hasn’t kept Mr. Keifer from getting out on the road and keeping the classic cuts alive.

Keifer infamously had vocal problems and difficulties several years ago, but after getting over these difficulties, he returned to the live stage. To date, in addition to his esteemed work with Cinderella, the frontman has put out a pair of solo albums. Being that this was a Keifer show (and not Cinderella) I wondered what the setlist would consist of? Mostly solo songs? Mostly Cinderella songs? All of one and none of the other? Or vice versa?

The setlist was essentially a “Cinderella’s Greatest Hits Live” set, much to the joy of this audiences of headbangers in Sin City. We did a few of Keifer’s songs thrown in from his two solo albums, THE WAY LIFE GOES and RISE, and the fact that these songs blended in effortlessly with the Cinderella tunes is a testament to how great of a performer and songwriter Mr. Keifer is. He was, of course, backed by a talented ensemble of musicians, even including female backing singers, one of whom is Keifer’s wife! Audience participation was encouraged throughout; I didn’t see too many people sitting down! There were plenty of cuts from NIGHT SONGS, LONG COLD WINTER, and HEARTBREAK STATION played, and we even got a track from the oft-overlooked STILL CLIMBING album! Now that I think about it, this set basically had at least one track from every album he’s ever played on. How’s that for a diverse set?

Of course, Keifer had to return to the stage to deliver some encores, including “Don’t Know What You Got (‘Till It’s Gone)” with Tom playing the piano parts himself, a cover of the Joe Cocker version of The Beatles “With a Little Help From My Friends,” and of course, to close out the evening in fine form, Cinderella’s “Gypsy Road.” Keifer still sings better than most men of his generation and scene, having recovered nicely and returned to the stage despite his past hardships. Let’s hope he’s rocking the stage for many years to come.

These two sets rocked. I’m definitely a fan of both LA Guns and Tom Keifer, and to say they wowed the audience on this Thursday night at the Westgate would be an understatement. Both acts are still great when it comes to live sets, not to mention both are still recording quality new music as well; both of these are true rarities. If you have a chance to see them on this tour and you’re a fan, go for it. You won’t be sorry you did.

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Live photos by Addison Egelhoff for ZrockR Magazine 2024 – ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

By Taylor T Carlson

Taylor T Carlson Assistant Editor/Senior Staff Writer Taylor T. Carlson was born August 17, 1984, and has called the Vegas Valley home his entire life. A die-hard fan of classic rock and metal music, Taylor has been writing album and concert reviews since he was 16 years old, and continues to do so, having done well over 1,000 reviews. He is also a fan of video gaming and cinema, and has reviewed a number of games and films as well, old and new alike. His thorough and honest (some would say brutally honest) reviewing style has won him the respect of hundreds of music fans and musicians alike, both local and abroad, and the ire of just as many others. Despite being one of the youngest attendees at classic hard rock/metal shows around Vegas, he is also one of the most knowledgeable, having gained the unofficial nickname of “The Eddie Trunk of Las Vegas.” In addition to reviews, Taylor has written and self-published three books on classic hard rock bands, and is a regular participant in rock and roll trivia contests. Taylor also holds a masters degree in special education from the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV), and has appeared on the hit History Channel television series Pawn Stars. His dream is to be able to one day make a living from writing music books and reviews.

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