Vegas Fundraiser Nets $1.2 Million for Sioux Empire Kids
It was one of the most anticipated rock events of 2013, and it was all for charity. THE Fundraiser at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas was held Thursday night (December 5) and featured performances from some of the biggest rock acts of the 70's through today.
THE Fundraiser was done to benefit kids in the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Sioux Empire (South Dakota) and was put together by the Brennan Rock & Roll Academy, featuring performances and a rock auction before the show that included a private Vince Neil Band concert for the winning bidder with 500 of their friends, or becoming a member of the KISS entourage for two back-to-back shows including meet & greet passes, photos with the band and flying to the shows with the band on the KISS jet!
Between ticket sales and the auction, the event raised over $1.2 million dollars for kids and for rock fans, it was like we were 25 years old again! Auction items included being a member of the KISS entourage on back-to-back shows, backstage passes, premium seats and flying with the band on their private jet. There was a package that included private concerts for the winning bidder and 500 of their friends with one of the following headliners: Vince Neil, Twisted Sister or Warrant. There was another package for sports fans AND KISS fans as the winning bidder is going to fly to Los Angeles the first weekend in January and on three consecutive nights, go to see the Lakers courtside, the Rose Bowl and an Anaheim Ducks hockey game with Paul Stanley of KISS.
The music performances began with 11-year old Anna Christine, who wowed judges on TV's America's Got Talent this fall with her cover of the Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses". She opened the show accompanied by some of the Brennan Rock & Roll Academy students from Sioux Falls doing their rendition of the Beatles "Let It Be"
Then came the 'backing band' for all of the legendary rock singers and the best cover band of the era, Hairball. The guys from Hairball have been together for better than a decade and do 'mini concerts' from dozens of the 70s and 80s biggest acts and were a perfect choice for the show. It was also very cool to see them get to plays with THEIR idols. Hairball did four songs: Van Halen's "Unchained", Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" and two from AC/DC: "For Those About To Rock (We Salute You) and "You Shook Me All Night Long"
For the next two hours, fans were treated to sets from some of our favorite singers from the era starting with Joey Tempest and John Norum of Europe, who flew in from Sweden just for the gig and sounded fantastic while doing "The Final Countdown" and "Rock The Night". Night Ranger keyboardist Eric Levy lent his talents to 'Countdown' to play the iconic open.
Hairball was joined by guitarist Jeff Blando for the show who plays guitar in the Vince Neil Band and who also played with Slaughter.
Next to the stage was Jack Blades of Night Ranger who may have had more fun than anyone Thursday night. Not only did he do "Don't Tell Me You Love Me" and "You Can Still Rock in America", he also came back to the stage to sing back up for several of the artists that followed!
The man who's looks may have changed the most was Kip Winger, but the voice still resonates! Winger sounded great while giving the audience "Madalaine" and "Seventeen"
Ratt's Stephen Pearcy was up next and it almost seemed like it took him a minute to warm to the 8000+ in attendance, but once people started singing "Lay It Down" and "Round & Round" with him, he was into it! Jack Blades and Kip Winger couldn't control themselves as they joined Pearcy for "Round and Round".
Pearcy was followed by fellow northeast US alum, Dee Snider of Twisted Sister who not only was having a great time backstage with the other rockers but fans as well. Snider also gave the evening's highest energy performance and left the crowd wanting more (and hoping for a full Twisted Sister show in the not-too-distant future!) Snider did the Twisted Sister hits "We're Not Gonna Take It" and "I Wanna Rock"
Cinderella's Tom Keifer was up next and was another that brought back some great memories. Talking to other concert goers, we agreed that Cinderella could have easily been called the Tom Kiefer Band as he played guitar, keyboards and sang all the songs. Keifer has had numerous vocal cord problems over the past decade, so it was great to see him and HEAR him sound so good as he ripped through the Cinderella hits "Somebody Save Me", "Shake Me" and "Gypsy Road"
Rob Zombie was also on the bill which seemed a little out of place with all the 70s and 80s rockers but it was definitely rock and roll, although their were a few issues with Blando's guitar, causing a restart on one of his songs. Zombie did "Thunder Kiss 65" plus a cover of Grand Funk's "We're An American Band". You could tell Zombie was upset as he addressed the crowd and said he didn't know any of the guys on the stage with him and the seating arrangement with high dollar sponsor tables filling the floor, definitely threw him off. Zombie quickly left the stage after his second song and likely left the venue as he was the only artist to not return for the grand finale.
Motley Crue's Vince Neil was up next and decided to dress more as the Las Vegas business owner that he is (Neil threw a few parties at his new club called "Tatuado" at Circus Circus this weekend while he was in town for the Fundraiser) rather than his Motley Crue alter ego. And with all the top NASCAR drivers in town for the annual victory lap down the Strip, he brought his friend Michael Waltrip to the stage to help sing "Girls Girls Girls. Vince also did "Wild Side" and "Kickstart My Heart". Vince may have been enjoying himself a little bit before his set as he forgot to sing the second verse of Wildside, yet sang the third verse three times! That's rock and roll!
Alice Cooper took the stage next. Cooper's Solid Rock Foundation in Phoenix is the inspiration behind the Brennan Rock & Roll Academy in Sioux Falls, and as founder Chuck Brennan announced at the show, there is now talk of opening one in Las Vegas in 2014 with another concert fundraiser like Thursday's in the works! Cooper did "Under My Wheels", "No More Mr. Nice Guy". "Eighteen", and then he brought the Brennan Rock Academy singers back out to help with "School's Out" which also included part of "Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall" ('Hey teachers, leave them kids alone!)
After a short intermission and gear change over, Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer of KISS took the stage without makeup for the finale! They tore through "Shout It Out Loud", "Deuce", "Lick It Up", "Detroit Rock City", and "Calling Dr. Love" before bringing up ALL the other singers to help with the anthem "Rock and Roll All Nite". It was a very cool ending to a fantastic night. Seeing the members of KISS perform sans makeup and giant platform boots, plus literally not knowing what they were going to play until they discussed it on stage, it felt like the early EARLY days of the band, working up a set list. To see the huge smiles on stage as the stars obviously had a great time together plus the ultimate pay off of over a million dollars raised for the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Sioux Empire, it was a magical night that left most hoping that this was the first annual event. Putting together a club show is hard work. Pulling something like this off took a lot of hard word by a lot of dedicated people. On behalf of everyone in attendance, I say "thank you" and hope that a DVD will be made available in the not too distant future as a further fundraiser for the Academy.