It's not every day that your music horizons are expanded. It usually takes quite a bit of effort on your part to learn something new. But every once in a while, music floats right in front of you and you can't help but breathe it in. Enter Frankie Moreno.
Over Labor Day I had the occasion to head out to see my friends in one of my favorite places to visit, Las Vegas. A friend of mine had recently joined the Frankie Moreno Band (FMB) and I was eager to see what kind of fun he'd got himself into.
A few friends had seen FMB the day before my arrival in Vegas and they couldn't stop talking about how great the band was and how much fun they had.
My friends first saw FMB perform at the band's daytime gig in a small, lightly-attended lounge at the Stratosphere. A bit disappointed by the small crowd, later that evening they apprehensively joined up at Rush at the Golden Nugget where, to their surprise, FMB played to a packed house! What a difference a few hours makes, but that's Vegas!
When I arrived in Vegas the following day, all I heard from my friends was how great the band is; how incredible Frankie Moreno is, how fabulous the music is, how incredible Frankie Moreno is. Ok, I was listening. This guy, who I had only before seen and heard on his Web site is “incredible", according to my friends, so this I had to see for myself!
When we arrived at the Golden Nugget, FMB was in full swing. We found seats in the nearly standing-room-only lounge and we sat down to have a good time. Did I say good? That would definitely be the understatement of the weekend.
From the moment we arrived, the band was incredible! The guys were energized, they were entertaining, they were engaging! Rush is a rather small lounge - intimate enough that when someone interesting walks in, Frankie somehow finds a moment, mid-song, to stop the band and say something funny, sexy, crude, audacious and/or most certainly surprising!
Two well-endowed women walked in the lounge and Frankie immediately stopped singing and announced that the best cleavage of the night award goes to one of those two women! I was a little shocked, and the woman looked a little annoyed, but it was all said in the great spirit of fun and having a good time. Yeah, I liked this guy. My friends were right!
The Frankie Moreno Band plays all kinds of music. Most of it, though, you've probably never heard, because while FMB does play some cover songs, the majority of what FMB performs has been written by Frankie Moreno himself.
The first night we were there, FMB performed a couple of well-known songs, including a very spirited rendition of Jerry Lee Lewis’ Great Balls of Fire. Channeling The Killer, the very clever Frankie Moreno sat atop his piano, hands behind him, and proceeded to play Great Balls of Fire from that position. It's a little hard to explain, so have a look at the video clips on YouTube to see what I mean (YouTube.com/BetsysView)! Talk about showmanship! And yes, there is a wee bit of talent involved too!
Also that first night, a man came out from the audience and stood in and played (guitar) and sang the Doobie Brothers hit Long Train Running. We all wondered who he was, but he will forever remain a mystery guest performer! The guy was incredible and it made us wonder if he had been a member of the Doobie Brothers at some point. He was THAT good!
The third night we were there, the audience was treated to two unexpected guest performers. Russell Hitchcock, the lead singer of the ever-enduring Air Supply, was in the house, as was a Rod Stewart impersonator.
Rush might seem like an odd place to find Air Supply, but FMB's new drummer Mike Zerbe had been Air Supply's drummer for the five years prior to joining FMB. Frankie invited Russell to sing with the band, and surprisingly, Russell accepted. Russell, Frankie and the band sang the Beatles’ Let It Be, and later the Eagles’ Hotel California.
When the Rod Stewart impersonator came in to Rush, Frankie also invited him to sing, which he did. He sang a few songs, including Maggie Mae, and then Russell Hitchcock joined in and they all sang Hot Legs!
Of the three nights that I saw FMB (yes, three), not one night was any better than the other. Each night's show was fantastic! Each was different. Each was a feast for the eyes and ears, and each night we left hungry for more.
The band has five members: Frankie Moreno sings and plays piano and harmonica, Russ Letizia plays guitar, Mike Zerbe drums, Tony Q sax, and Frankie's not-so-little brother Tony Moreno plays Bass. Russ has been with the Frankie Moreno Band less than a year, Mike Zerbe joined the band in August and Tony Q plays with FMB on Fridays and Saturday.
Frankie, Russ, Mike, and Tony x2 are each incredibly talented and if you think it just looks like they're having fun, trust me when I say that they absolutely are! FMB feeds off the audience and when the audience is having more fun, so are they. And when the band is having more fun, so are we!
Expect the Unexpected
There isn't a nightly set list, and there isn't any big plan for the evening. Frankie plays whatever comes to mind and often times the band just follows his lead. Frankie could throw two songs together, or even stop if he's not interested in finishing a song and move on to the next he's inspired by.
Artist At Work
Mozart said, "I pay no attention whatever to anybody's praise or blame. I simply follow my own feelings. "
If Frankie feels it's time for the band to have a break, they take one. But just don't count on the band coming back after 10 minutes! They could come back 10, 20 or even 30 minutes later. There's just no telling!
It may seem unreliable or unconventional to have such inconsistency and variety. But the truth is that it's all just plain old fun! Granted, the longer 30-minute breaks were a bit disappointing when we wanted to hear the band play, but Frankie and the band always made up for it by giving us fun and witty performances later. In fact, I have an image of the incredibly fit Russ, hopping with his guitar to a little pirate-themed ditty. Very funny indeed!
Music is the Breath of Life
To be clear, Frankie Moreno isn't simply all about fun and games. He's a talented artist who takes his craft, talent and love for music incredibly seriously. Frankie says that he has been playing piano since he was a little boy and that one day he just looked at the piano keys and it all made sense to him. And from that moment, he could play just about anything. Frankie honed his skills, becoming a classically-trained pianist. He also plays harmonica, mandolin and guitar, and if you ask me, I'd bet he plays a lot more instruments than that.
Frankie Moreno is one of those rare artists born with a gift enveloping his soul. And every day, he chooses to share them, his gift and soul, with us. Frankie sings, plays and composes and his truest gift is in the way he connects with people. Looking at his photos on MySpace (MySpace/FrankieMoreno), you see it in his face. His eyes and his smile tell the story of a man who is eager to connect with our soul. His eyes can be piercing, his smile infectious. Frankie's personality is fun, charming, energetic and full of life and he wants to engage you, encourage your participation, and invite you to be as passionate about his world of music as he is.
Frankie Moreno is no new kid on the block. Frankie has been performing since he was a young boy, even appearing on Star Search. Barely an adult, Frankie moved to Nashville to pursue his dream of working in music and, unfortunately, early on he saw the bad side of greed within the music industry and he learned some hard lessons.
But Frankie's talent was not to be dismissed or ignored and Frankie became a songwriter and performer working with A-list Nashville talent.
Frankie's motivation and passion brought him to Las Vegas where he has been performing for seven years. Just 30 years old, Frankie already has five CDs to his name, each with a different sound, each a roadmap to his life at that point in time. Frankie's latest CD is due out shortly and it has a bit of a twist. Frankie encouraged friends and fans to participate in the making of the CD by donating money towards its production. In return, many will find their names on the CD and a thank you from FMB for helping to make it possible.
Frankie Moreno's gift for music isn't just about singing and playing. Frankie is an accomplished composer, having written rock, funk, ballads and even a classical fugue (Fugue Trio in C Minor, available on MySpace) All of Frankie's CDs are worth adding to your collection!
Next time you're in Vegas, make a trip to the Stratosphere or the Golden Nugget to experience the Frankie Moreno Band. But don't think that you're just going for some plain old cover band show. You'll be sorely disappointed if you're expecting that. Go with an open mind and expect to have a good time. . . scratch that. . . a phenomenal time! Frankie Moreno is there to make sure you have a great experience. Frankie wants to share his world of music with you, so what are you waiting for?
File this one under 5 star talent!
Betsy Hijazi shares her view at http://www.BetsysView.com Her articles can also be found at http://www.AirSupplyBlog.com