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The Portal at Area15 is Vegas’ latest live-music hang

Updated February 24, 2021 - 8:16 am

Maybe you’ve wondered how classically trained musicians can find a way to create from within an EDM dance track. Henry Chang has.

Chang mixed a band of artists known as Soul in the Machine with thumping EDM beats and flashing fluorescent light at the Portal at Area15 on Saturday night. The result was likely a residency for live music in the dizzying venue, where images are projected in 360 degrees, on every wall, the floor and ceiling.

The band played three sets inside the venue, where 120 guests (35-percent of the venue’s capacity) were seated socially distanced in lounge-style chairs. Food and beverages were served from Todd English’s The Beast food hall. Expect this band, and this format, to be back.

“I have been looking to combine music virtuosity with that highly produced electronic dance music,” says Chang, a classically trained pianist who has designed and fabricated such instruments as the laser harp, which he played Saturday.

You might also know Chang as the designer of the kinetic car art Valryian Steel, displayed next to Oddwood near the Area15 entrance.

“I never liked EDM until I actually went to a rave, and I felt the huge, low end that the body feels and makes people want to dance,” Chang says. “But you couldn’t see what the DJ was doing, because the plane of his performance was parallel to the audience’s line of sight. We want people to see these highly skilled musicians actually playing, while feeling the music.”

Chang founded the band and recruited the talented, versatile Noybel Gorgoy as a co-lead singer, having seen her perform a few years ago with The Hot Club of Las Vegas gypsy-jazz band. The balance of the band is co-vocalist and indie artist Marieme Diop; multi-instrumentalist Georg Bissen, who owns his own production company and has deep experience in TV commercials and series (he scored “Queer Eye for the Strait Guy”); and drummer Brian “Nucci” Cantrell, who spent six years with the ska band The English Beat.

“It’s almost hard to put in to words how much fun that was,” said Gorgoy, who has also appeared with David Perrico’s Pop Strings (and is onstage again with that band in a live-stream, pay-per-view show from The Space at 6 p.m. Friday), Paul Shaffer & The Shaff-Shifters at Caesars Palace and Clint Holmes at Palazzo Theater. “It was a phenomenal way to perform music.”

The music was delivered in nearly unbroken sets, with the performer stopping briefly to chat up the crowd.

Area15 director of content and cool “stuff” Chris Wink hints broadly that there will be more Soul in the Machine in the entertainment machine that is the Portal.

“It went really well, we had good audience response, and the thought is that Henry’s band with that kind of visual component is the right match for AREA15,” says Wink, co-founder of Blue Man Group. “There is definitely more live music to come.”

Wallace in play

Westgate Cabaret headliner and longtime Vegas fave George Wallace is cast in TV legend Norman Lear’s comedy “Clean Slate.” The series is in development for IMDb TV, a free-streaming service owned by Amazon.

Laverne Cox co-stars in the half-hour comedy, in which Wallace plays a car-wash owner from Alabama named Henry, who is excited his teenage son is returning home after 17 years. But the son is a transsexual daughter, played by Cox.

“It’s a great, fun show, educating, informing and empowering,” Wallace said Tuesday. Of Henry, he says, “He’s very controversial but very lovable and somewhat confused.”

What’s out there

Picking up what Billy F. Gibbons is layin’ down, seems the new ZZ Top album is “buttoned up” and set for a June release. Nothing formalized, yet. Same for the band’s five shows listed at The Venetian Theater from Oct. 8-16. All of it depends on conditions.

And look for Gibbons’ 1934 Ford Coupe, which the guitar legend calls, “The Bad Little Sister,” to be featured on the album cover. Playing off the ‘33 Ford known as the “Eliminator” coupe the band made famous in the 1980s.

‘Eruzione, scores!’

Richard “Boz” Bosworth knows how to play the ace at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas. Bosworth, president and CEO of JC Hospitality, which owns Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, brought in Mike Eruzione from the 1980 “Miracle on Ice Hockey” team to lead Tuesday’s “team building” event at the hotel.

Eruzione, Team USA’s captain in 1980 who scored the winning goal to beat the Soviet Union, energized the employees ahead of the hotel’s March 25 opening. We understand a well-known Vegas igniter will be on hand on that date, too, to further fire up the Virgin Hotels team.

Cool Hang Alert

Nieve Malandra returns with her “International Brunch Show” at 1 p.m. Sunday at The Vegas Room. Malandra sings in multiple languages. Chef David James Robinson matches the dishes with the cultures Malandra samples. The show sold out last Sunday and it’s a beautiful, delicious experience.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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