Classic Rock is alive and well in Las Vegas. One only has to stroll down Freemont St. to catch a free performance from a hard working, and very convincing cover band like “Arena” to get the sense that this city is proud of it's hair metal heritage. The world's entertainment capitol might be known for it's endless casinos and it's cornucopia of dazzling theatrical productions, but if you're a rocker at heart (and you're sick of "Cirque") you might enjoy one particular Vegas show that has taken the stage in recent years. It's a unique Rock n' Roll tribute called Raiding The Rock Vault.
Raiding The Rock Vault is essentially a two hour history of Rock music with live performances of classic hits from the 60's to the 80's, all performed by some of the actual musicians who made it happen. John Payne, lead singer and bassist with Asia since 1992, is the brainchild behind this theatrical Rock ensemble that boasts an impressive lineup of industry legends. The current musical cast of Raiding The Rock Vault includes Howard Leese (Heart), Robin McAuley (Survivor), Paul Shortino (Rough Cut), Doug Aldrich (Whitesnake, Dio), Carol-Lyn Liddle (Masters Of Rock, Aces High), Andrew Freeman (The Lynch Mob), Michael T. Ross (Lita Ford), Jay Schellen (Asia) and of course John Payne himself.
When the show begins we're eased into our Rock n' Roll history lesson with a video montage illustrating the humble beginnings of Rock music. Suddenly it's one thousand years later. A star-bound group of archeologists have discovered a long lost shrine to Rock complete with Flying V electric guitars covered in cobwebs. They reveal a time capsule, the Rock Vault itself. After a dazzling display of lights, lasers and pyrotechnics, the capsule door opens and out come our Rock Stars! One by one we're introduced to each of them, and when the introductions are over they kick off the show's incredible set list with a great rendition of The Who's "My Generation". Andrew Freeman is on lead vocals and he has only gotten better since his days in The Lynch Mob. As well performed as it was, "My Generation" is merely a warm up for the songs and medleys to follow.
Opening the show, and sparsely scattered between the musical performances, are humorous interludes in which the actors perform little sketches to set the tone for that particular milestone year in Rock n' Roll history. Ryan Mueller plays the central character/narrator, a loveable and goofy hippie stumbling through the decades. The events of his life mirror the climate of that moment in Rock culture. He's funny and adept at engaging the audience. Sure the skits are a little corny at times, but the intention is comic relief so they're justified. Their purpose is to set up the musical performances, and they do that admirably. Hats off to the small cast of actors in Raiding The Rock Vault. They did a decent job of entertaining us between those majestic moments when the band was on stage.
As for the music, well, I won't giveaway the entire set list. But I'm sufficed to say that it covers all the classics you would expect to hear from historically crucial bands including The Doors, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Deep Purple and that's only the beginning. I will, however, gush ever so slightly over some of many great performance moments of the night. I mean how could I not? Where else in the world right now will you get to see Howard Leese perform his classic guitar solo from Heart's "Alone", with newcomer Carol-Lyn Liddle effortlessly singing Ann Wilson's leads as though they were her own? It was powerful and poignant all at the same time. As was the full performance of Aerosmith's "Dream On", with Andrew Freeman stepping up to the mic to belt out those last powerful notes. The full length performance of The Eagles "Hotel California" was an absolute show stopper, as was Ms. Liddle's rendition of Pat Benatar's "Heart Breaker" with incredible stage antics between her and guitarist extraordinaire Doug Aldrich. What a phenomenal guitar solo that was! One of the many you’ll be treated to from both Doug and Howard.
Robin McAuley did an exceptional job singing "The Logical Song" by Supertramp, as well the Queen numbers. Paul Shortino made an excellent sub-in for Jim Morrison during "Light My Fire". The talent was well distributed amongst the vocalists, each had their own range and vocal style most suitable to the artist they were covering; and in most cases they were very nearly identical in their rendition to the original. Having five lead vocalists is quite amazing. Add to that fact that two of them can cover off on the bass (Andrew Freeman and John Payne) and the possibilities are limitless.
There were a few medleys performed during the course of the show and I quite enjoyed them. I know the complaint will be that it would’ve been better if the songs were performed in their entirety, but for the sake of logistics I disagree. I understand that medleys are an effective way to cover an extensive body of music in a short amount of time. I think that they incorporated medleys sparingly and a generous portion of the material was still played in full.
If I had to make one complaint it would be that I would've loved to have heard more songs by a female vocalist, especially since the female vocalist present was so talented. It was an absolute thrill to watch Carol-Lyn perform live. She has a breath-taking voice and captivating stage presence. I knew that Carol-Lyn Liddle was previously involved in the Las Vegas show "Masters Of Rock", but until now I did not know that she founded the all female rock band "Dangerous Curves", or that she is fronting the Iron Maiden tribute band "Aces High".
I can't give enough credit to the cast of Raiding The Rock Vault. I now know how truly appropriate the saying "Party like a Rock Star" is when you consider that all the musicians are older than I am! To think that they perform the show five nights a week is mind-blowing to me. A special shout out to John Payne is warranted for masterminding such an entertaining theatrical event, and to his fellow band mate Jay Schellen for pounding the drums non-stop during the entire show.
After each show the performers are all available to sign autographs and chat with fans in the casino of the Las Vegas Hotel. On the night my wife and I went we were fortunate enough to chat with a very accommodating Doug Aldrich about his involvement with Raiding The Rock Vault. He told us that he had only been with the show since late January (2014), and that it was the most serious cover band he'd ever played in. Indeed this is without a doubt the greatest cover band I have ever seen, and I've seen a few.
I highly recommend that you make Raiding The Rock Vault part of your entertainment agenda when you next frequent the city of Las Vegas. It is playing at the LVH (Las Vegas Hotel and Casino) at 3000 Paradise Rd, Las Vegas, NV 89109, United States. Check their official website for show times and tickets. You can visit the Facebook page for Raiding The Rock Vault here.
Richard Leggatt, HMS
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