Day 9 – Desert….more desert and Viva Las Vegas baby!
The thought of driving a left-hand drive car on the wrong side of the road through the middle of LA did not appeal to me at all and sent my anxiety levels through the roof, luckily Sedd has done it before, so I took the easy option and left him to it. But driving across the desert is one of the things I have been looking forward to the most, so I take my turn for a few hours.
I don’t know what I was worried about, driving US style is easier than I imagined and I wish I had done it sooner.
The scenery is stunning, yeah its miles and miles of desert and straight highways with mountainous terrain either side, but it’s great. If we had the time we would have veered off and explored for sure, but we had a schedule to keep. We stop at Peggy Sue’s Diner in Yermo. A proper 50s diner and it’s just as you would imagine. The place is stuffed full of 50’s memorabilia even down to the period menus and the waitress uniforms.
Statues of Elvis and The Blues Brothers look over as I tuck into a proper American burger and fries with endless coffee top ups. Opposite the diner is a road train that is just full of military tanks. Seems pretty random, just sat there in the middle of nowhere, seemingly waiting for a conflict to break out.
Just up the road is Calico ghost town. We can’t resist, gotta be some good photo opportunities there we reckon.
While it is a genuine old mining town, it’s geared to the tourists and not as cool as we were hoping. But it is interesting and there is some cool photo opportunities to be had.
Stop over, we head back on the road to Vegas. You see it in the distance as you approach over the long straight highway, the towering structures far off down in the valley. As you get closer, the lights and then the scale hits you as the buildings tower above you…and we are in it! The craziness that is Las Vegas.
We are staying at The Venetian, it’s the most over the top luxury hotel I have ever stayed in. The scale is just unbelievable, there is a river with gondolas that flows through it, the corridors to our room seems endless, like something out of The Shining, I expect to see twin girls at every turn.
We take to the streets and explore, and the only way I can describe it is like a festival. It’s like one big endless party, you end up with a sore neck as you spend the whole time looking up at stuff. There is so much to see, everyone is either drinking or eating or gambling and everyone is spending money, it’s all about money.
There are no homeless people in Vegas, or if there are they are well hidden. We dodge Mexican ‘flickers’ with their stacks of ‘tittie cards’, the streets are littered with discarded cards, during the night they will all be swept up and probably handed out again the next day. Chinese women collect discarded plastic bottles in massive black bags over their shoulders, they get paid out per bag I believe. Neon signs flash endlessly; horns beep endlessly and money changes hands endlessly. We get chatting to a suited guy outside our hotel, he’s half our age, he gives us his business card and tells us if we need anything to give him a ring. I’m sure he could hook us up with anything we wanted whether that be drugs, guns or women.
Did we eat an evening meal? I don’t think we did, all I remember next is getting a taxi to The Mandalay Bay hotel.
The House Of Blues is situated in The Mandalay Bay hotel where just 5 days earlier Stephen Paddock opened fire on concert goers and killed 58 people. As horrifying as that is, life in Vegas goes on as normal it seems. There seems to be no lasting atmosphere, the only constant reminder ‘#VEGASSTRONG’ that is emblazoned everywhere you turn.
Billy Idol is coming to the end of a 2-year residency at the House Of Blues and he has been mixing up the set nightly with his band. Tonight, he pays tribute to those that lost their lives just a few days ago during an emotionally charged set.
A white screen is lowered and a film of vintage interviews and performances plays out as an introduction before the curtains open and the band takes to the stage. Two choice covers bookend a greatest hits set from a finely tuned band. ‘Viva Las Vegas’ seems the perfect opener and it’s a song that fits the Billy Idol set like a (leather studded) glove and ‘Money Money’ the perfect closer.
Fan favourite ‘Dancing With Myself’ is played early and newer tracks such as ‘Scream’ and ‘Can’t Break Me Down’ sit nicely up against the likes of ‘Blue Highway’ and ‘Eyes Without A Face’.
Billy Idol has aged gracefully, now in his early 60’s he still has the moves and the voice to wow his fans and still has the ability to work a crowd.
Back in the 80’s Steve Stevens was just the guitar player, 30 years later, the sidekick with the explosion of black hair, has his own t-shirts for sale on the merch stand and he very nearly stole the show.
Idol and Stevens have always been a great rock ‘n’ roll partnership. They have that certain chemistry. The frontman watches enthusiastically as the guitarist peels off lick after lick. Stevens has not one but two solo spots in the set, the first a very impressive acoustic solo that is flamenco-based yet aggressive as well. Guitar solos can be yawn-inducing at times, this is not one of those times. Both creative and impressive in equal measures.
‘Worlds Forgotten Boy’ the opening song from ‘Whiplash Smile’ is a highlight, as is the ever cool ‘Rebel Yell’. ‘White Wedding’ is played acoustic with the duo on their own for a verse before the rest of the band join them.
I never dreamed I would see Billy Idol play a gig in America, let alone in Las Vegas, This is a great end to our first night here.
Author : Ben Hughes