Las Vegas Hilton
Las Vegas, NV
Photos by: K.K.
MONSTER CIRCUS is the show Las Vegas should have had a decade ago. It almost did, in the Stratosphere’s vampiric rock-opera BITE, but MONSTER CIRCUS has live musicians instead of a soundtrack…and not just live musicians; legendary live musicians. Bassist Rudy Sarzo of Quiet Riot, Whitesnake and Ozzy Osbourne’s band (he’s even written a book called “Off The Rails” detailing that metal heyday) ; Vocalist/Guitarist John Corabi of Scream, Motley Crue and Ratt; Drummer Fred Coury of Cinderella and Arcade; Guitarist/Vocalist Tony Montana of Great White, and a rotating roster of heavy metal guest stars. Tonight’s were Velvet Revolver guitarist Dave Kushner and vocalist Dee Snider of Twisted Sister and Widowmaker. Such an instant supergroup would be worth a good chunk of change to see in concert, but MONSTER CIRCUS ups the ante (and the value) by including some attractive aerialists, dancers and a talented juggler/ringmaster…and of course, PYRO!!! Gotta have pyro. The coolest part of the show for me was near its crescendo when the ringmaster—now clad in clown makeup and a ‘Hellraiser’ costume—lifted a huge cubical metal framework with his chin, set it on fire, and started juggling it.
Dee Snider’s a few feet away thundering “I WANNA ROCK!” at the crowd, and I could only think I wanna rock too, but I’ve already done that, and this Hellraiser-Clown guy is balancing a burning metal box on his head…I wanna do THAT, I think…with the proper supervision, of course.
The decidedly odd bedfellows making up the audience—I was in line between a 60-year old Chinese couple and a 50-year old Russian Couple—nobody under twenty in sight, but a good turnout nonetheless—will ensure that MONSTER CIRCUS enjoys a good run at the Hilton Hotel And Casino.
MONSTER CIRCUS is set up by an unassuming stage tech who checks the mics, then asks the crowd if they want to have a little fun. He then offers five audience members flying discs and challenges them to throw them onto his head…which he does, after a bit of good-natured ribbing…”If you don’t make it this time, I’m gonna come down there and kiss you. Oh, you like that, huh? Don’t worry, I’ve been married three years, got a great wife, right in the back, there…Stand up, Fred!”
A video by “Sicko The Clown” leads to the band storming the stage with Motley Crue’s “Live Wire”, with sleek dancers in tow. John Corabi’s voice seems a bit rough, but it’s understandable after yowling for the Crue, Ratt, and his own band. He also plays guitar, and exchanges vocal duties with Great White’s Tony Montana, who takes the lead for Whitesnake’s “Here I go again”. During the song, the adorable aerialists Melissa & Danielle rise thirty feet over the stage for some hot girl-on-girl acrobatics in a steel hoop.
Corabi begins a slightly pessimistic speech with “Shit happens…everybody knows that, sometimes you just gotta say it; shit happens…” True, perhaps, but cool stuff happens too, and he proves it by launching into a hard-rock version of Sinatra’s “That’s Life”…not only singing to the “VIP section” (can someone explain to me why shows have “VIP sections”? What makes one audience member intrinsically more important than another? Oh, the extra money, that’s right. Sorry, I forgot.) but actually roving into the audience itself…gotta love those cordless microphones! Don’t focus too long on Corabi, though, or you’ll miss the Ringmaster juggling burning guitars onstage!
Beyond that, the set list of MONSTER CIRCUS are all classic hard-rock hits: “Back In Black”, “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’” (During which, they invite an unfortunately drunk crowd member named Ted onstage to try to play it via GUITAR HERO), “Paradise City”—it’s tough to tell if these are the guys’ favorite songs (hell, they’re everyone’s favorite songs) or if they were strategically selected by some corporate committee. No matter; the only song they should drop from the list is “Slither”, in my opinion. A few songs were plagued by technical difficulties—despite Kushner’s frenetic riffing, you couldn’t really hear the guitars cut through on “Paradise City”—but MONSTER CIRCUS is still relatively new, and finding its ‘legs’.
While Corabi and Montana hold their own as vocalists, they’re overshadowed by the dynamic entrance of Dee Snider, who tears into “We’re Not Gonna Take It” from the middle of the audience! The crowd combusts as he pounces from them to the stage, in a majestic black topcoat with his huge blond mane flying everywhere. Along with Snider’s furious energy, the lyrics of Twisted Sister’s hit anthem raises the roof of the Hilton (although this writer is a bit ambivalent about “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, because the sad truth is ‘we’ (the people) not only ‘took it’, we’re continuing to ‘take it’ and we in fact deserve to ‘take it’ unless we ditch entertainment in favor of activism). I never thought I’d hear Dee Snider sing a Cinderella song, but he tears up “Shake Me” pretty damned well, inciting the audience to scream the chorus louder & louder…”HEY! That’s Fred Coury, he plays drums for Cinderella…and HE CAN’T HEAR YOU!!!” It’s just as well, he probably can’t hear anything after a decade with Cinderella and Arcade…
Snider takes a moment for a Public Service Announcement: The Horns. “You see this?” (Extending forefinger and pinky from his fist, DIO-style.) “This is OUR symbol. The Heavy Metal symbol. When did it become everyone else’s symbol?! I’ve seen rappers doing this, country-western singers doing this…what’s next, will the grocer give you this in the check-out line?!” (Well, to be fair, Dee, it means “Love” in sign language, apparently gives old-school Italians protection from the ‘Evil Eye’, and probably means “Y’ever pick a horse’s nose?” in Texas.) “This is OUR symbol, and THIS is OUR song, the Heavy Metal ANTHEM!!!” and MONSTER CIRCUS takes the onramp for “Highway to Hell”.
Dee and the Ringmaster get some kettledrums, surround the drum kit, and assist Fred Coury in pounding out the percussion for “Hot For Teacher”…during which the dancers return in teacher’s costumes to threaten the VIP section with rulers, then begin pole-dancing. It’s like the Van Halen video, only better. Corabi takes the vocal reins again for Aerosmith’s “Dream On”, where Melissa and Danielle return to fly, spin, and tumble up and down long curtains of silk.
Dee Snider returns to belt out Scorpions’ “Rock You Like A Hurricane”, only he doesn’t know all of the words! Well, no harm, no foul, it’s not like he wrote it. To give him credit, this is a guy who started his first band (Snider’s Spiders) at the ripe old age of seven. And he might not have a stellar range as a vocalist, but he’s done justice to the covers he’s sang for MONSTER CIRCUS. Of course, when they blare out “I Wanna Rock”, he’s golden…he even invades the audience to revive a passed-out crowd member! Their closer, Quiet Riot’s “Metal Health” brings out the dancers, ringmaster, and all the spark-showers and flames you could ever want.
VIVA LAS VEGAS! If you’ve ever wanted to see all your favorite bands crammed into one…with awesome special effects and sultry dancers all around, then bring your ass to MONSTER CIRCUS at the Las Vegas Hilton, every Thursday, Friday and Saturday a bit before 11 pm, up until August. If you’re not in Las Vegas…Dream On!
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