Sunday, June 20, 2010

2010 WSOP, Day 23: The Act You’ve Known for All These Years

Cheap Trick performed Sgt. PepperWas an especially fun day off from the WSOP for your humble gumshoe yesterday, spent entirely with Vera Valmore.

The day began with a pleasant visit with Poker Grump and Cardgrrl at the Hash House where we enjoyed a big brunch. Vera and I then drove over to the Stratosphere -- something we’d never done -- and went to the top. Didn’t partake in any of the rides or bungee jumping, satisfied just to look and wonder there some 1,100 feet above Sin City.

Kind of reminded me a little of Vera and I going to the top of the Eiffel Tower many years ago. It wasn’t long before we were in the shadow of the Vegas version of the Eiffel Tower as by dinner time we were driving over to the Paris for the Cheap Trick concert.

We got there early, picked up our tickets, and wandered around a bit before stopping at La Creperie where we had a light dinner and did a bit of people watching. The doors of the Paris Théâtre opened at seven, and we were in our seats not too long after that, watching the place gradually fill to capacity by the eight o’clock starting time.

The show began with a brief film featuring interviews with Cheap Trick about the show. The film interspersed some funny pop culture clips in which Cheap Trick comes up as well, e.g., Mike Damone scalping Cheap Trick tix in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Homer Simpson championing the band, and clip of Bob Dole (from “SNL”?) saying how “Bob Dole stands by his voting record” and also that “Bob Dole stands by his favorite record -- Cheap Trick Live at the Budakon.”

The curtain went up, revealing the Sgt. Pepper Orchestra (about 20 strong) situated on an upper tier above the stage, with a half-dozen singers over to the left, with the stage and lighting all reflecting that late-Beatles psychedelia style one would expect. The show began with a nifty rendition of “I Am the Walrus,” then Cheap Trick came out.

Cheap Trick performing 'Sgt. Pepper'Robin Zander (lead vocals, rhythm guitar) was outfitted in all white with a military-looking hat, Tom Petersson (bass, backing vocals) was in a lime green suit jacket, and Rick Nielsen (lead guitar, backing vocals) had a black baseball cap and wacky jacket. They were supported by a keyboardist and another guitarist, plus Daxx Nielsen (Rick’s son) on drums, filling in for Bun E. Carlos (still in band, but not touring).

They crashed into the opening title song, then swiftly and ably moved through “With a Little Help from My Friends,” “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” “Getting Better,” and “Fixing a Hole.” The covers were all quite faithful, though they opened up space occasionally to rock out, particularly in the latter two. These guys are all in their late 50s or early 60s, but you’d never guess they weren’t in their 20s given the energy they exert. Nielsen remains a blistering pop/rock guitarist, and there doesn’t seem to have been any dropping off for Zander’s voice. (Compare Roger Daltrey at the Super Bowl.)

An Indian ensemble helping with 'Within You Without You'Case in point was “She’s Leaving Home,” in which Zander hit all of those melancholy-producing high notes perfectly. For that one the band had left the stage, with only the orchestra supporting Zander. They returned for “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite,” then an Indian ensemble was brought out for an especially cool, spot-on cover of “Within You Without You,” sung by Petersson.

Zander donned all black for the remainder of side two of the LP. Nielsen donned a series of loud jackets and guitars throughout the night. They moved through “When I’m Sixty-Four,” “Lovely Rita,” and “Good Morning, Good Morning,” with the band again incorporating a few jams along the way, especially in the latter song, although mainly keeping to the originals. They rocked the “Sgt. Pepper” reprise as well, then “A Day in the Life” followed, which made full use of the orchestra, of course.

The show was only half over at that point. There was a brief instrumental interlude with the orchestra playing “The Flame,” then the band returned to play about a half-dozen of their own hits, including “Dream Police,” “I Want You to Want Me,” and “Surrender.” Being a fan of the band for all these years, I was really pleased about that segment being included in the show.

The show concludesThe show ended with the final medley from Abbey Road (“Golden Slumbers” through “The End”), with an “All You Need Is Love” postscript replete with paper hearts falling from the ceiling.

We had excellent seats, about 10 rows from the stage, left of center a little and thus almost in range to catch one of Nielsen’s guitar picks, of which he tossed out probably 200 by night’s end. (I think the dude sitting in front of me got one.) A great show, and obviously one that fans of the Beatles and/or Cheap Trick should enjoy.

In a way, the Sgt. Pepper album was always kind of a put-on, that is, the Beatles pretending to be another band putting on a show. So conceptually speaking, it didn’t seem odd at all for another band to take a turn at playing the role. And they played the hell out of it, giving it their own personality. Everyone leaving the theater had big grins on their face. Guaranteed to raise a smile, indeed.

Today I resume my role as Shamus, helping cover the WSOP for PokerNews. I return to the $10,000 Heads-Up NLHE event (Event No. 35), which is now down to just eight players. The quarters and semis will be one and done today, then the finals will be a best-of-three affair. The round of eight match-ups are Jason Somerville vs. Kido Pham, Faraz Jaka vs. Ayaz Mahmood, Alexander Kostritsyn vs. Ludovic Lacay, and Ernst Schmejkal vs. Vanessa Rousso.

See who among them takes down the $625,682 first prize and bracelet over at PokerNews.

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