Casino File: At Hard Rock AC, rock royals play The Beatles, Kevin Hart books July gigs; Drag brunch at Rivers
Back in 2019, a covey of pop and rock stalwarts led by Rock & Roll Hall of Famers Micky Dolenz (of the Monkees) and Todd Rundgren, put together a tour celebrating The Beatles’ White Album. It obviously was a success because the same gaggle of musicians is at it again.
On March 5, Rundgren and Dolenz, along with ‘80s soft-pop avatar Christopher Cross, Joey Molland of Beatle protégés Badfinger, Jay Demarcus (Rascal Flatts), Denny Laine (Moody Blues, Wings) and Jason Scheff (Chicago) will convene at the Sound Waves venue inside Hard Rock Hotel Casino Atlantic City to celebrate two other Fab Four masterpieces, 1965’s Rubber Soul and Revolver, which was released the following year. Among the albums’ iconic tracks are “In My Life” and “Norwegian Wood” (both from Rubber Soul) and “Eleanor Rigby” (Revolver).
According to Scheff, who spent some 30 years as Peter Cetera’s replacement on bass and lead vocals in Chicago, his second time around playing Beatles tunes is a somewhat-less-taxing exercise.
“The White Album was pretty challenging because it was not super-intuitive stuff, it was a pretty experimental record, especially the John Lennon stuff, having all those really crazy time-signature changes. So, that took a lot of focus,” he said during a recent phone chat.
“But Revolver and Rubber Soul have songs that I've heard a lot more over the years, so it's not nearly as challenging – and they're all pretty short songs.”
Although it’s not one of the more prominent aspects of his illustrious career, Paul McCartney was a groundbreaking bassist. Before him, the instrument was used almost exclusively to anchor the chords of a song. But “Macca” took a far-more-melodic approach to the instrument and by doing so, influenced several generations of bassists. Scheff counts himself as one of the influenced, but admitted it was not a direct connection.
“I'll be 60 years old in April, so I missed The Beatles right as they were happening; I was too young,” he offered. So, my ‘Beatles experience,’ particularly my ‘Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band experience’ was Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John. And Dee Murray, Elton's bass player, was really my first influence.
“Hearing how he played was so deeply embedded in me that by the time I started really picking up the instrument [at age 14], I did a lot of what Dee was doing, which is slide into notes.
“And then all of a sudden, I started realizing my style and who influenced me were direct descendants of Paul McCartney. I've always said that my playing is very melodic. And I always thought it was Dee Murray, but it's Paul McCartney coming through. And going back and learning these songs for these Beatles tours has been such a thrill for me because I get to see where I came from.”
While it can be said that the band members are all pop and rock royalty, Scheff is the only one who can actually claim “royal” bloodlines: His dad, Jerry, played bass in Elvis Presley’s legendary TCB backing unit from 1969, when “The King” returned to live performing after more than a decade, to his final gig on June 26, 1977.
Scheff’s parents split up when he was very young, so it wasn’t as if his father’s presence was a major factor in determining his life’s path. But, he reasoned, “He definitely influenced me genetically. And by the time I really was ready to go off into really pursuing this, my dad said the sweetest thing. He just goes, ‘Man, I've heard you. And you have my blessing.’ And, you know, coming from a guy like that, that was a lot of the juice that I needed.”
Scheff added that his 81-year-old dad is “still rocking himself over in Europe.”
Although Scheff never got to meet Presley, he does have one Elvis-related memory of which he is extremely proud.
“I was on stage in 1977, shortly before Elvis passed,” he recalled. “My dad brought my brother and me to Vegas and he said, ‘Darren, you're going to the first show; Jason, you're going to the second. We're getting you a black, long sleeve button up shirt, and you're sitting on the percussion stand.’
“I didn't meet Elvis, but we were on stage with him. It was at the Las Vegas Hilton; when I was in Chicago, we played there many times on that same stage. And then on the [previous] Beatles tour we did, we played that room. So it's really cool to go back. I always remember where I was standing during Elvis’ set.”
For tickets, click here.
Call it the ‘Hart Rock?’
Tickets are now on sale for Kevin Hart’s upcoming Hard Rock visit.
The North Philly native who is arguably the biggest comedy star of the past decade or so is set to hit Hard Rock Live! at Etess Arena July 8 and 9. Tickets here.
What a drag
Beginning Feb. 27, Rivers Casino Philadelphia will stage a monthly series of drag events.
The Legs N’ Eggs Drag Brunch, which is slated for the last Sunday of every month, features a cast of female impersonators offering takes on such superstars as Britney Spears, Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston. The bill of fare includes eggs, sausage, French toast, potatoes, juice, coffee and teas well as Bloody Marys and “endless” mimosas to slake one’s thirst.