This is anything but your typical Saturday night casino show.
For starters, most shows don’t start until a disembodied voice — in the business, they call it VOG, or the “Voice of God” – warns the audience the use of smartphones or any other recording devices is strictly prohibited.
In “Duel of the Decades,” folks will be encouraged to have their phones or small tablets or any similar device capable of sending a signal handy and ready to be used.
Unlike other shows, this one doesn’t begin until a footballesque referee takes the stage in a black and white shirt, a hat, a whistle around his neck and … the dreaded penalty flag in his pocket.
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Welcome to a unique show called “Duel of the Decades,” an interactive production in which the audience plays the key role in determining which of two different decades of music is better.
“Duel of the Decades,” which features incredibly talented musicians and singers you’ve never heard of, could be a glimpse into the future of casino entertainment.
“It’s not a ‘battle of the bands,’” emphasizes Bob Scott, who plays the role of referee and emcee of the show. “This is an actual duel. What we do is pit any two decades against each other. And then we have the closest thing to a game show that you could possibly see, with all of our technology, our backdrops, our multiple rounds of dueling decades and the bands going head to head.”
The audience smartphones come into play, because at the end of the show, the crowd uses them to cast their votes to determine the winning decade.
There are four different decades the producers can choose to compete against one another: the 1970s, ’80s, ’90s and Y2K, Scott explains. “The Commissioner” of “Duel of the Decades” — no names, please, he chooses to remain anonymous — decides which two decades will compete in any given show.
Choosing the musical eras for the show that will be presented 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 18, in The Concert Venue at Harrah’s Resort was as easy as it was obvious. It’ll be Team ’80s versus Team ’90s, a wise pick considering the sweet spot for casino demographics.
Although Scott wouldn’t come right out and say it, those two decades are filled with potential gamblers.
People who were in their teens or early 20s during the 1980s are now in their late 40s and well into their 50s. Back off about 10 years for the people who will be rooting for the 1990s band.
“That makes it so much fun, because they both had some amazing costumes out there (during those decades),” says Scott, who mentions that the bands will dress the part of the eras they represent.
So can the audience, if they really want to get into the mood.
Even though Halloween was nearly three weeks ago, Scott says the audience can really get into the spirit of the show by dressing in clothing that fits the era. Let’s face it, some of you still have a stash of vintage clothing; some of it may actually still fit.
If you’re rooting for the ’80s band to win, then big hair, spandex and fanny packs would be considered de rigueur. If the ’90s is your favorite musical period, ripped jeans, flannel, plaid and slap bracelets would be more appropriate.
But at the end of the show, it all boils down to the music, Scott says.
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“(The decades) both had incredible songs,” he says. “I mean, when you think about the ’80s, that’s when they first started breaking into hip-hop. And then the ’90s brought it to that next level. These are two decades that can really go against each other.”
Don’t bother asking for the names of the bands that will be part of the Harrah’s show. The “Commissioner” is the one who puts the groups together, and Scott says in the two years he’s been with the show, he’s never seen the same band twice. Individual musicians, yes. But not entire bands.”
The duel is broken into different categories, which can make for some challenging moments.
“My favorite category that we play is about movies and television. I saw this singer who’s really great. He got up there and he sang (‘My Heart Will Go On’) from ‘Titanic,’ and he really got put on the spot,” Scott remembers. “Sometimes we’ll have ladies as a category and the band doesn’t even have any women. So that can get interesting.”
Scott says the bands — whoever they are — take the competition seriously. There may even be a little trash talking backstage before the show, which only gets the bands even more stoked before taking the stage.
Scott takes his role as referee just as seriously as the bands take their music. He’s not afraid to use his whistle, and he’s been known to throw the penalty flag on a serious infraction.
“One show, I threw the flag right at (a musician) because he tried to bribe me,” Scott says with a laugh. “I promised the commissioner I was gonna call an even match. But these (musicians) have a lot of pride, and they like to win, so I’ve seen some crazy things.”