On a 27 degree night in Las Vegas there isn’t much that can warm you up.  Except maybe a rock show with an all star lineup to benefit the Brennan Boys and Girls Club Rock & Roll Academy.  Instant warmth for both heart and soul? Check.

From the get go this was an interesting concept and a not to be missed event.  The show was designed to highlight the famous frontmen of the 80’s and 90’s rock scene, backed by a house band, so there wouldn’t be any time wasted on set changes, and raise money for the Brennan Rock and Roll Academy associated with the Boys and Girls Club. Great lineup and great cause. Since this was a benefit show the main floor of the arena was set with tables for the high dollar donations.  I’ve never seen an arena floor set this way and it  immediately set a distinctive difference than a traditional concert. Not in a negative way, just in a different way.  Donation packages ranged from the 250,000 ROCK GOD package all the way down to the “cheap seats” at $100 a pop.  Great news though because over a Million dollars was raised for the Rock & Roll Academy, so certainly a winning night for everyone.

At 8:30 the show started off with a really entertaining set by house band, Hairball.  Every cover played was true to form, complete with costume changes by singer Bobby Kriss, who can believably transform  from Steve Perry to Malcolm Young in a matter of seconds.

After a brief introduction by benefit founder Chuck Brennan a spirited Joey Tempest (Europe) took the stage for a two song set of “The Final Countdown”and “Rock The Night”.  Joey sounded great, the crowd was just settling in and things seemed to be off to a promising start.

Exit Joey and enter Jack Blades of Night Ranger fame for “Rock In America” and “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me”.  The transition was seamless considering the back line and musicians stayed the same.  The crowd seemed interested, but certainly not the up on your feet vibe found at most rock shows. Charity shows always are a little different. Just as Joey before him, Jacks voice was right on.

Next up, Kip Winger.  I was never a Winger fan back in the day, but as head of Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp and a genuinely talented singer and musician, I’ve developed a great respect for Mr. Winger.  His vocals, stage presence, and general demeanor at the event were pure professionalism and through his two song set of “Seventeen” and “Madeline” it really looked like he was a having a good time.  At this point the crowd was still a bit passive and I’m pretty sure we were the only ones in section 103 standing, but that was about to change.

The 4th singer to take the stage was Stephen Pearcy an obvious crowd pleaser as at this point people actually started coming to life.  Pearcy looks great and sounds even better.  Hairball backing him up was a great match and the energy in the stadium was starting to grow. The 2 song set started with  “Lay it Down” and finished with “Round and Round”. I’m pretty sure a third or fourth song would’ve been welcome, but off he went.

If things still seemed a little chilly inside the Orleans this was about to change once Dee Snyder took over.  With his signature golden locks, billowing trench coat, and a  voice created for rock and roll, Dee is the epitome  of a rock star.  With a quick declaration that “There’s no sitting in Rock and Roll” that was it.  Everyone was on their feet and FINALLY ready to rock!  Dee killed it.  The energy level was up, and with the obvious hits  “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “”I Wanna Rock” the tone was set for the rest of the night.

Following Dee Snyder was Tom Keifer. It was solid performance, especially taking into account the years of health problems Keifer has been dealing with. His signature high-end rasp still sounds the same. He also pulled out some of the hits of course and this was the first performer to take the set list to three songs instead of two. “Somebody Save Me”, “Gypsy Road”, and “Shake Me” rounded things out.

Rob Zombie followed Tom Keifer and this is the part where things got a little strange.  Looking at the line up, Zombie didn’t quite match the genre of the rest of the bill, but it was exciting to see him on it regardless.  Rob Zombie rocks so bring him on!  Sadly it didn’t seem Zombie was feeling the love that we were offering.  Launching into “Thuderkiss 65” it sounded good to us, but not to Rob it seems.  Maybe Hairball wasn’t a good match for Zombie.  Not sure where it all fell apart?  The notes were right and the energy was there, but the chemistry wasn’t.  Zombie noted between songs that this “felt awkward” with “tables on the floor” and “I don’t know any of the guys in the band.”  A few bars into “We’re an American Band” Zombie made the cut gesture across his neck and the band stopped playing. He quipped about the band starting without him and then the song restarted.  That was that.  Although this comes across as criticism it isn’t intended that way.  It was actually pretty cool to witness.  It was so real.  Just being a part of something different and imperfect made it a moment to remember.  And a  testament to Zombies quest for perfection that he wouldn’t just go through a song that wasn’t right.  That he’d rather choose to stop it and go again is something an audience would rarely get to see.  Not sure Rob saw the silver lining that I did though because I’m certain he left immediately.  Personally I’m glad I witnessed it.

The next performance was to be my highlight.  I live for Motley Crue and I will take it  in whatever doses I can get. Vince Neil ran onto the stage and  started out strong with “Kickstart My Heart”. Yeah!  Both Vince and the band were right on point.  Unfortunately, that ended when Kickstart did.  With the intro notes to “Wildside” blasting through the cabinets everyone was ready to sing along with “Kneel down ye sinners to streetwise religion”, but Vince wasn’t.  It pains me to relive it, but Vince went right into the 3rd verse.  And then when it was time to sing the second verse, he sang the 3rd verse again.  And then one more time.  Oh Vince, I knew you’d be partying early, but even I can sing “Wildside” three sheets to the wind.  The third song in his set had a strong finish with “Girls, Girls, Girls”. Because if there’s one thing you can count on with Vince is that he’ll never forget the girls.  Oh well though.  Another idiosynchrisy that added to the charm of the evening.

With two interesting episodes behind us, who’s the man to pull it all together?  The one and only Alice Cooper! Alice is a show in and of himself and even without the 8 ft boa constrictors and guillotines Alice commands a stage. With such a refined performance even in a stripped down setting and without his usual band, it’s obvious why Alice is so highly regarded within the rock community.  The four song set  highlighted 1971’s  “Under my Wheels”and went into “No More Mr Nice Guy”, and “Eighteen”.  The closer, “Schools Out”, featured a choir made up of the kids from the Boys and Girls Club Rock and Roll Academy and they were loving it!  Alice seemed genuinely pleased to be there and the crowd was totally in synch with the Coop and the performance.

As the evening was drawing to a close, there was a quick 10 min set change (the only of the night) and KISS took the stage.  All of them.  Gene, Paul, Bruce, and Eric.  Stripped down is an understatement.  This was a rare treat.  No makeup.  No giant boots and studded shoulder pads.  No fire. No blood.  It rocked.  I’ve seen KISS in many various incantations including the first tour without makeup.  This was different.  It was naked and exposed .  Gene in everyday, brown cowboy boots.  The band huddled together to decide what to play next.  I couldn’t help but wonder if this was for real?  It was a moment is KISStory that may never be repeated.  When they performed “Detroit Rock City” I felt like they were jamming in my old basement in Michigan.  The “Worlds Hottest Band” managed to amaze me more with their cooled down demeanor.   The set threw in “Deuce”, “Lick it up”, “Calling Dr Love”, “Shout it out Loud” and culminated in an all star finish with Vince Neil, Jack Blades, Joey Tempest, Kip Winger, Stephen Pearcy, and Alice Cooper joining in for “Rock and Roll All Night (and party everyday)”.

All in all the Brennan Rock and Roll Academy benefit concert was a success.   The commradierie of the talent, the intimate feeling of an otherwise big show, and the ultimate payoff of raising over a million dollars for kids in the Boys and Girls Club music program are all reasons to celebrate.   I hope to see it again on an annual basis.

Kelly Geist, Writer/Contributor, National Rock Review