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REVIEW: Cirque du Soleil (Zumanity & O), Penn & Teller, and Criss Angel (Las Vegas, NV – 1/17-21/12)

24th Jan 12 (Tue) Leave a comment

I was in Las Vegas last week for a conference/convention… no, not the AVN/Adult Entertainment Expo – that was just “serendipity“… outside of seeing the random porn star walking around a hotel lobby (like Dana DeArmond, Belladonna, and some others that “a friend” told me about…), I didn’t take in that frivolity.

Some excellent Las Vegas shows were taken in, though… and here is my mega, 4-part review

First up was the Cirque du Soleil show BeLIEVE from Criss Angel on Tuesday night (1/17).   I’ll say it now, that I’ve been a fan of Criss Angel before most of you had even heard of him (long before the TV show, long before “the Loyal” were dreamed up).  I’m not trying to gain “street cred,” but merely setting up a background for my ultimate opinion on the show…

I got into Criss Angel via his first album, Angel Dust’s 1998 debut Musical Conjurings from the World of Illusion – which was a collaboration between Criss Angel (on vocals) and hard-industrial artist Circle of Dust (music).  The album was later re-branded as a Criss Angel release called System 1 (nixing the Angel Dust moniker).  Klayton (Scott Albert aka Circle of Dust aka Celldweller) was still involved in the System 2 & 3 in the trilogy (and even in Criss’ Mindfreak Broadway show and the A&E Mindfreak TV series), but it definitely became more of a Criss Angel project, and less of a Circle of Dust/Celldweller project.  That’s all fine and good.  It became what Criss was… a loud, audacious rocker magician.  There’s a place for everything in this world of entertainment.

I was curious when I heard a few years ago that he was pairing with Circue du Soleil.  I love Cirque shows; so I thought it’d be a given show to see.  Well, Cirque still has its name associated with the BeLIEve show, but apparently toned down the acrobatic/dance/surreal aspects of the show, as it was distracting from the magic side.  What was left was more resembling the A&E Mindfreak show set on a stage… it wasn’t very Cirque-y anymore, but that was probably a-OK with me.

My thoughts… the “clowns” were only “meh.”  The set design was gorgeous.  Some of my favorite tricks were the metamorphosis, dove tricks, and swallowing razor blades and a string only to pull them out on the string (HOW!?).   The Celldweller score was great, the pyro was flashy/bodacious.  It does come off as a bit cheesy/corny/”metal,” but that’s part of what Criss Angel’s always been; so that wasn’t a shock.  One thing I will say, though, on this night’s performance, it did seem like there were too many similar tricks (teleportation/metamorphosis).  Yeah, sure, it’s cool… but how many times do I need to see Criss or one of his characters show up somewhere unexpected?

Bottom Line for Criss Angel’s Believe: I enjoyed it.  Drop the price $20, and I’d like it more.  3.5 of 5 stars.

BeLIEve snippets*
*- much of this show has been somewhat “de-Cirque’d” as it were.
the above was not what was presented when I saw it.
Criss Angel/Cirque website

On Wednesday (1/18), I decided to follow Criss with some more magic.  This had to be Penn & TellerThe hour prior to show was featuring the Mike Jones Duo (Mike on piano, and Penn on upright bass).  I’m a fan of Penn Jillette via his skepticism slant, his Crackle show, his Penn Point show, his book (God No!), and their recent Discovery show P&T Tell a LieI’ve yet to see the Bullshit series on Showtime (but I will!), but what I had seen via short internet clips – I knew I’d like.

Prior to the show on Wednesday, they invited everyone in the audience to come check out the big wooden box on stage and sign an envelope.  The box was solid, no false bottom / trap door that I could see.  The opening of the box was facing the crowd, and when the show started, Penn came out, shut the door, and only moments later Teller showed up inside the box.  WTF!?

Some of my favorite tricks were cell fish, metal detector, slight of hand, ball and string, phony psychics (with the audience signed envelope), helium, the ring trick with Grace, sawing woman in half (better than Criss Angel), goldfish/coins, cow barn camera, nail gun (wow! Penn’s memory!), American flag burning, flower shadow, and the magic bullet.

OK, those were basically all of the tricks.  There were honestly no slow parts.  I found it all profoundly interesting and genuinely entertaining.  Some tricks, I had an idea how they were done.  Other tricks were simply feats of the mind.  And some tricks are still driving me mad…

Bottom Line for Penn & Teller: If you love magic, go see this show.  Utterly brilliant.  They tip their hand a bit, but still mess with you.  4.5 of 5 stars.  I would see this again, without flinching.

the official P&T trailer
ignore the cheesy music (by Rio), this show rocked
Penn & Teller website

Friday night (1/20), it was date night… the sensual Cirque du Soleil show Zumanity.  This is the “sensual side” of Cirque du Soleil.  No, it was the HOT side.  We had 2nd row seats… luckily we escaped the torment of the Cirque “clowns” (barely).

The show started out with a beautiful wind dance mixed with an African dance.  The first bit of acrobatics was with a pool performance (see to the right) by two gorgeous beauties.  Up next was quite amazing… a hula hoop woman who did amazing work on stage, then hula hooped in the air, then hula hooped in the air while doing contortions, and then hula hooped about 20-30 hoops at one time in the air.  Her school girl outfit didn’t hurt either.

There were many aerial artists – all amazing, all sexy… even a “little person” aerial ropes artist.  There was a pole dancer; an extreme balance guy; a sensual balancing couple; a 2-man cage fight over a girl that turned into a lurid, long homo-erotic kiss (saw it coming a mile away, but it was hot); the rose guy’s striptease that worked the crowd into a frenzy; an amazing contortionist; some great audience participation with the clowns in between set changes; an S&M metal hoop guy (blindfolded during parts of his act); and the show culminated in a sexy bath dance number.

Bottom Line for Zumanity: Ya hozna!  Hot, sexy, and amazing Cirque acrobatics.  4.75 of 5 stars.  I would see this again, without flinching.  This is what a Cirque show in Sin City should be!  Pay extra and get a good seat – yum!

the official Zumanity trailer
fairly representative of the show
Cirque du Soleil / Zumanity website

The final show of the Vegas week was the water-borne Cirque du Soleil show O on Saturday (1/21).   The $70 million dollar pool/theatre was quite amazing.  The show was full of some pretty stunning feats – aerial acrobats, outrageous acrobatic diving, floor work with the raising and lowering underwater set, the usual Cirque clowns, a swinging balance girl… but it was all held together by a very confusing/odd storyline (more confusing and odd than other Cirque shows I’ve seen).

The most amazing feats were definitely the diving numbers and the balancing swing woman.  The other acrobatics were made a little bit more interesting than other normal Cirque shows simply due to the water element.  We even had one visible mistake (an acrobat fell off the aerial boat), but they swam to safety and rejoined the crew later.

Bottom Line for O: Pricier than the rest – I left confused but magically entertained.  4 of 5 stars.

the official O trailer
fairly representative of the show
Cirque du Soleil / O website

Best show: Zumanity, with P&T close behind.  If you compared the budgets of both shows, P&T’s was more economical from both an artist creation and audience wallet perspective (high quality entertainment, with a lot of thought and not a lot of exorbitant, unnecessary cash outlay).

Most Frivolous Vegas-y show: O for sheer audacity of grandeur.  BeLIEve for sheer audacity of ego.

Next time I go to Vegas, I’d take in Zumanity and Penn & Teller again in a heartbeat.  I’d also plan to save time for Mystère and – the other non-band-oriented Cirque du Soleil shows in Las Vegas.  I might go see the Beatles’ Cirque show (LOVE), but I am not as keen on the Elvis one (Viva).

~Dan – np: Frank ZappaZoot Allures

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Puscifer Command Central

23rd Jan 09 (Fri) Leave a comment

Maynard James Keenan (aka Major Douche) held a press conference about the upcoming Feb 13-15th Puscifer shows at The Palms Casino in Las Vegas:

Oh, how I wish I could go to Vegas in a few weeks… like, not as much as I wish I were in San Francisco for the Week of Masada in March, but pretty damn close.  Pretty… damn…. close…

~Dan – np: AudioslaveOut of Exile

{{Puscifer}} Live in Las Vegas (2/13, 2/14 & 2/15)

2nd Dec 08 (Tue) 6 comments

Update 2/16: If you came here looking for a review or setlist, SPIN has a great review here:
http://spin.com/articles/puscifer-plays-first-ever-live-show

2/13/09 Puscifer set list (per SPIN):
(Video segment #1)
(Skit)
“Sour Grapes”
“Rev 22:20”
“DoZo”
(Video segment #2)
“Drunk With Power”
“The Undertaker”
“Vagina Mine”
“Momma Sed”
(Video segment #3)
“Polar Bear”
“Trekka”
“Indigo Children”
“The Mission”
“Queen Bee”

Some fan-shot YouTube Videos from the show:

Puscifer with Milla Jovovich “The Mission”

Puscifer “Mama Said”

Original post (12/2/08):

To which I’ll add a precursor (“I wish this weren’t Valentine’s weekend”)… from Maynard:

Bust out your best mint green polyester suit and white patent leather shoes! Puscifer makes its live debut this February 13 & 14 at The Pearl in The Palms Casino. VEGAS, BABY!!! YEAH!!! With a cast of characters that include both musicians and comedians, I see the shows as a new take on what an evening of entertainment can be. I will share more details with you over the next couple of months but with rumors already circulating about what I was planning I wanted to make sure that the newsletter subscribers were the first to know. Many Many Many details to follow. C’mon 7’s and 11’s!

Puscifer will also have a remix for “Lighten Up, Francis” in Underworld 3 and we are working with Renholder and Milla for the end credits.

Update: A third date (2/15) has been added…

~Dan – np: Steven WilsonInsurgentes

odd music news day

17th Nov 08 (Mon) Leave a comment

I honestly don’t know which one I like best…

(1) Tool front-man Maynard James Keenan planning a Las Vegas act at The Palms for 2009, or

(2) The Beatles 14-minute avant-garde “Carnival of Light” experiment (from 1967) is going to be released

From Blabbermouth:

The Pulse of Radio reports that TOOL frontman Maynard James Keenan is putting together a cabaret-style show for a string of dates at The Palms in Las Vegas, beginning in mid-February. According to an inside source, the shows will feature both comedy and music. Keenan is not a stranger to this kind of gig – he told The Pulse of Radio that his side band PUSCIFER actually evolved out of a similar type of show he used to do in his pre-TOOL days in Hollywood. “Generally started off as a name that I was attaching to some of the comedy things I was doing with (comedian) Laura Milligan at this club called Tantrum which existed in the Diamond Club on Hollywood and La Brea,” he said. “(We’d) have a variety show, lots of talent coming through there just kind of trying out their new stuff. So PUSCIFER was kind of like the band that would kind of close the show.”

Milligan is a comedian and actress seen on “Mr. Show” and more recently in “Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny”. Several performers from both projects used to work on the same gigs as Keenan. Keenan’s Vegas act will reportedly incorporate both friends and outside musicians to perform some music from PUSCIFER and other material.

From All Music & NME:

The Beatles’ “Carnival of Light,” a 14-minute experimental piece from 1967, may see the light of day soon if Paul McCartney has his way. McCartney confirmed the track’s existence in a BBC Radio 4 interview; the song was recorded for an electronic music festival but was never officially released.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Front Row, McCartney said: “The time has come for it to get its moment. “I like it because it’s The Beatles free, going off piste. I said all I want you to do is just wander around all the stuff, bang it, shout, play it, it doesn’t need to make any sense. Hit a drum then wander on to the piano, hit a few notes, just wander around. So that’s what we did and then put a bit of an echo on it. It’s very free.” According to BBC News, McCartney pushed for the song to be included on The Beatles’ Anthology releases in the mid-’90s, but it was vetoed by the rest of the band.

~Dan – np: John ZornFilm Works XXI: Belle de Nature / The New Rijksmuseum

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