The Tenors of Rock are at Dubai’s newest gig venue until December 21, with a high-energy show of rock classics that’s sure to have toes tapping and arms waving in the Caesar’s Palace Rotunda.
Direct from their long-running show at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, where three of the original quintet are still performing with replacement tenors while original members Johnny and Dan, along with new tenors Paul and Craig, have made the trip for the Dubai run.
Don't expect a Placido Domingo-style performance
The first thing Johnny wants to clarify is that we shouldn't get confused by that "tenors" moniker. He's no Placido Domingo, and this won't be a classical show: "Tenor just means someone that sings high. A tenor instrument is a high instrument, and a tenor voice is a high voice," he explains. "So we're just singing rock like it should be – nice and loud and in your face, and there's four of us doing it. There's no classical music in there, and we don't sing in a classical style. We do a version of Music of the Night from Phantom of the Opera, but that's about as classical as we get."
The story of the tenors
It’s appropriate that the band should drop a West End hit into the set – the five original tenors all met while performing in London’s thriving musical theatre scene, as Johnny explains: “It all started about eight years ago, on 10/10/10 actually. There was a bunch of us, all doing musical theatre in London and we were always playing a part. We just thought it would be nice to go onstage as ourselves because people would come up and say ‘hey – you’re one of the greatest Jean Valjean I’ve ever seen’ and it’d be ‘thanks – what’s my name?’ ‘No idea.’
“It was frustrating to be in a situation where once a show ended, you’d have to take jobs in London that you literally cannot afford to live on just so you could audition for the next job.”
The gang decided to take a chance in a new direction: “It was a case of taking matters into our own hands and making money while still doing what we love doing, and doing something a bit unique,” Johnny says. “We started out with seven guys, and now we’ve narrowed that down to four or five. We just wanted to sing rock, that’s what we all love, and rather than have one frontman we’d have five, or four in this show.”
Dan adds: “The best thing about it is just that we can be ourselves. We can sing the songs we love, not musical theatre songs that we’re kind of forced to sing, although we love that, but what we really love is rock.”
'We want to be in multiple places at once'
The tenors may have shed their musical theatre roots, but in the finest tradition of the genre, with its understudies and multiple touring versions of shows, the tenors have become something of a brand, with several members on hand to drop in and out of shows, allowing them to perform in numerous locations at once.
“We’re basically creating a stable of guys because we want to be in multiple places at once,” Johnny explains. “Three of the original guys are still back in Vegas doing the show there, and Dan and I grabbed these guys and came out to do Dubai. We’ve had teams out on cruise ships as well.”
Although Paul and Craig aren't part of the original quintet of tenors, both have performed with the show before, and both have had involvement with the original Vegas show. Paul is a Vegas native who met the tenors while performing in a Vegas production of, appropriately enough, Rock of Ages, and joined the "stable" when his run finished.
Craig, meanwhile, was introduced through a mutual friend: “We’re kind of a brotherhood. These guys came up through the West End and I became involved through a friend who works on Broadway,” he explains. “He was supposed to do a gig with them at one stage and couldn’t make it, so he asked if I’d take his place, and that’s how I got to know them. We work with a lot of other rock voices and sometimes you just need somebody in your back pocket, so that’s how I started out. Now here I am in Dubai.”
The Dubai show
The guys have been in Dubai for a couple of weeks now, so I ask what differences they’ve noticed between their run at Caesar’s Palace Las Vegas, and Caesar’s Palace, Dubai.
“Well, there are obviously huge differences, though weirdly it’s as much different as it is the same,” says Johnny. “Everything is really big and the architecture is amazing and everybody wants the best building, which is just like Vegas. Here things seem to be more built to last. In Vegas everything seems to be built to get bored of, blow it up and build something else.”
He adds diplomatically: “They both have lots of positive things about them. I haven’t been in Dubai long enough to judge whether there’s negative things, and I’d never say anything bad about Vegas because it’s where I make my living!”
The Rotunda is Caesar's palace new entertainment venue, a sphere shaped tent with a stage and rows of seats. The focus is very much on the show, so there's a couple of makeshift bars, and not a lot else. If you fancy a "dinner and a show" evening, however, Gordon Ramsey has helpfully set up a branch of his Hell's Kitchen restaurant next door and, as we discovered, the staff are more than happy to make sure everything is prepared and served on time if you tell them you're here for the show.
Once you enter the Rotunda itself, be prepared for an hour and a half or so of pure cheese. Classic rock shows, Vegas and musical theatre are probably three of the corniest things around, so when you mix all three together you're guaranteed a night of fist-pumping, axe-slinging silliness from the tenors and their accompanying live guitarist and drummer, right from the opening chords of Sweet Child O'Mine. There are sweeping lights, flashing visuals, and the slightly strange opportunity to hear songs you've been hearing your whole life given the West End treatment with harmonies and vocal arrangements by a group of singers who are, technically at least, probably better than the original.
It's like an extended, rock-themed episode of The X-Factor and seems just as popular. By the time the band launch into a closing medley of classics including Here I Go Again and Alright Now, almost all the audience are on their feet, arms waving and singing along. It's really an extremely silly proposition all round, but sometimes a bit of silliness is just what you need.
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