Monday, Sept. 13, 2021 | 2 a.m.
The David Perrico Pop Strings Orchestra maintained a popular weekend residency at Cleopatra’s Barge at Caesars Palace for years, bringing exciting live music energy to one of the Strip’s most beloved lounge spaces. Now a bigger, bolder version of the group has moved to a new venue for a slightly different residency gig.
“We went from the Barge with 250 people to 65,000 people in the audience,” said the trumpeter and bandleader. “It’s pretty amazing.”
Perrico’s expanded band, now numbering 18 with the addition of a full horn section, scored the coveted gig as the house entertainment for Las Vegas Raiders games at Allegiant Stadium. The all-star lineup of Las Vegas musicians will perform a 30-minute pre-show before tonight’s Monday Night Football regular season opener against Baltimore and play short snippets of songs during the game, set up on a stage near the Al Davis Memorial Torch on the Coors Light Landing area of the stadium concourse.
The Raiders have maintained a long legacy of live entertainment at football games, specifically big bands specializing in jazz, funk, rock and soul, throughout the team’s colorful history playing in Oakland and Los Angeles. Perrico, a native of Ohio who has toured the country for years with different bands and performed and arranged music with different shows and special events all across Las Vegas, was somewhat familiar with the football team’s musical history.
“I knew of some of the trumpet players that played at the L.A. Coliseum, but going back a little more, in the 1960s Al Davis implemented the Del Courtney big band at games in Oakland,” he said. “Mark Davis is carrying on this tradition that he always loved as a kid, growing up and seeing the band playing at games. It was his decision to hire us and it’s a great opportunity.”
The band got its first taste of playing at the stadium during the preseason game against Seattle on August 14. While Perrico described it as a surreal experience, many members of his team of experienced musicians are familiar with performing in venues of this size.
“Most of them have done it, backing up acts like Rod Stewart, Beyoncé, Shania Twain, Aerosmith,” he said. “The difference as the Pop Strings group evolves into the Raider house band is in addition to the four singers and the all-female string section, we’ve added the four horns plus myself on trumpet to get that Tower of Power, Earth, Wind and Fire, Chicago sound, all those great horn bands.”
The vocalists are Lily Arce, Perrico’s wife and a former singer in Cirque du Soleil’s “O” and “Fantasy” at Luxor; Las Vegas Academy grad Serena Henry, who has toured with Smokey Robinson and Gladys Knight; Cuban-born Noybel Gorgoy, who has starred in touring production shows and with Paul Shaffer and Clint Holmes in Las Vegas; and Fletch Walcott, a native of Boston who appeared on “American Idol” and has entertained at various lounges up and down the Strip.
Rounding out the band: Jose “Pepe” Jimenez on drums, a veteran of Carlos Santana’s bands; bass player Keith Nelson, who has recorded with Donna Summer, Natalie Cole and Shania Twain; Steven Lee on guitar, who also played in Donny and Marie Osmond’s long residency show at the Flamingo; Otto Ehling on keyboards; sax great Rocco Barbato, who also performs in Donny Osmond’s new residency at Harrah’s; violin players Adrianna Thurber, Chandra Meibalane, Monique Olivas and Christina Rose, all of whom have extensive experience backing big stars like Andrea Bocelli, Tony Bennett, Celine Dion, Stevie Wonder, Gloria Estefan and Shakira; viola player Crystal Yuan and cellists Sarah Chaffee and Zuzana Engererova; tenor, soprano and baritone sax players Andrew Friedlander, Charles McNeal and Mathew Schumer; and trombonist Steve Meyer, who currently performs with the Righteous Brothers and orchestrates their show.
“The great thing about this band is it’s my fantasy football team,” Perrico joked. “It’s always been that way. People ask me, how do you get these great players? Talented people want to work with talented people.”
Perrico said he is thrilled to be “drafted” by the Raiders, especially after the long layoff of live entertainment in Las Vegas, and is looking forward to the unique opportunity to connect with local football and music fans at games.
“I’m flattered and honored. I just want to deliver every game, hit every cue and execute.”