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Getting Righteous at Thunder Valley Casino

Bill Medley - Click for more images

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member and legendary Righteous Brother Bill Medley brought a crew of extremely talented individuals to Thunder Valley Casino Resort Friday, including daughter McKenna.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Righteous Brothers. The second half of the duo, Bobby Hatfield, died of a heart attack back in 2003; Medley now tours with 3 Bottle Band and McKenna.

Kicking off the show was a video showing Medley as he made appearances in various shows throughout his career, including the David Letterman Show and the hit TV series, Cheers. As the video ended, Medley started to sing “A Song for You” while he was still offstage. After about a minute he started to make his way to the stage, providing for a nice dramatic entrance.

The 71 year old Medley’s voice has taken a beating over the years. While sounding coarser and a bit rough at times, he was able to make it work. The audience was enthralled with Medley from the start as he continued with “Ready, Willing and Able” and “Soul and Inspiration.” In between songs he would talk about life and joke with the crowd.

For his hit song, “Time of My Life,” from the movie Dirty Dancing, Medley brought out Mckenna to perform Jennifer Warnes’ part. McKenna did an awesome job and has a very melodic voice with a bit of a country/blues flavor.

McKenna went on to perform solo, singing “Silk Flowers” and “Give Me One Reason.”

McKenna and Bill Medley – Click for more images

When McKenna completed her set, Medley sat down at the keyboards and called on band member Bob Gulley to sing some songs with him and McKenna. This is where Medley shined, providing the audience a glimpse of what it’s like to jam with the best.

3 Bottle Band has been playing together with Medley for over 35 years, and it shows. This is a very talented group of musicians including Gabe Rabben (drums), Bob Gulley (bass), Tim Lee (keyboards), and Larry Hanson (lead guitar). Also a member of the band is America’s Got Talent winner Michael Grimm. However, Grimm was not present at Fridays show.

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Chinese Concert Series

A Chinese invasion of sorts took place on Saturday in Lincoln, where Thunder Valley Casino hosted a Chinese concert series starring some of the biggest names in Chinese entertainment.

The stars of the show were Dragon Li, Michelle Kim and Niki Chow. All were well received by the mostly “” scratch that “” all Asian crowd. That was a good thing since the concert was mostly in Chinese, with only a couple of songs with English interspersed.

At one point I could swear they were talking about me. I usually only get paranoid after taking illicit drugs or riding in an elevator with people talking in a language I don’t understand. Oh well, next time I’ll have to bring a Chinese-to-English translator. Wait, isn’t there an app for that?

The audience loved the show, which was a combination of singing and chatting with the audience. Both Chow and Li started up conversations with audience members while keeping their fans laughing. Several fans ended up on stage dancing and singing. No translator required.

Although I don’t speak Chinese it was easy to follow what was happening both onstage and off. While the stars of the show were speaking in Chinese it was obvious to me when they were telling a joke versus telling a story, or setting up a song. Their body language spoke volumes and once a song began you couldn’t help but sit back and enjoy the music.

It was obvious from the start that Dragon Li was the seasoned veteran. He bantered back and forth with the audience in between songs and was quite comfortable onstage as were both Yim and Chow. He seemed to enjoy the audience participation more than his fellow artists.

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Dragon Li performing at Thunder Valley Casino (Image by: Randy Miramontez) Li, an actor and singer, got his start in Hong Kong in the late 1980s when he entered a singing contest, Sing Bao Ji Yei. There he was discovered by a talent manager and later signed with EMI Records. He recorded a number of television and movie theme songs, including “Superstar (Gui Sing),” “Brave (Nan Ji Han)” and “Confused (Ching Mi).” Li also starred in the television series “Journey to the West (Si You Gei).”

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Michelle Yim performing at Thunder Valley Casino (Image by: Randy Miramontez) Michelle Yim, also known by her Chinese stage name Mai Suet, is a Hong Kong actress. In 1975, Yim joined Commercial Television, and in 1976, Yim acted in “Legend of the Condor Heroes,” a Wuxia TV series adaptation of Louis Cha’s novel of the same title. In 1978, Yim started working with Television Broadcasts (TVB) and guest-starred in one of the period dramas, “The Twins,” which later became one of her best works. Her most recent work won her the award for best drama performance by an actress for her role in “Moonlight Resonance” at the Asian Television Awards.

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Niki Chow performs at Thunder Valley Casino (Image by: Randy Miramontez) Niki Chow is a Hong Kong actress and Cantopop (Hong Kong popular music) singer. Until recently she was under contract with BMA Records, but she terminated the contract to pursue a new contract with TVB. She has appeared in several movies and television series, including “Hard Fate” and “The Gentle Crackdown.” She won the most improved actress award at the TVB Anniversary Awards in 2005 for her performance in “The Gentle Crackdown.” She has also authored several books and is scheduled to begin filming an “Ancient Series” for TVB beginning in July.

 

The summer concert series at Thunder Valley Casino has just started and tickets are selling fast. The complete entertainment schedule is available on their website.

Bo Bice – B Stands for Alabama

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Bo Bice, B is for Alabama!

While the latest round of “American Idol” contestants continue battling it out for the top spot, “Idol” alumni Bo Bice played to a full house in Thunder Valley Casino’s Pano Hall Friday evening. The crowd was a wide range of young and old.

For those non-“American Idol” fans, Bice was runner-up in season four, coming second to none other than Carrie Underwood. Being a proud Alabaman, Bice adopted Lynyrd Skynyrd’s hit “Sweet Home Alabama” as his theme during his “Idol” journey. Alabama Governor Bob Riley even declared May 24 Bo Bice Day.

Bice hit the stage with “Keep on Rollin.'” He continued with two more upbeat songs until he got to “Country,” which was a slower medley of various hit songs that influenced him during his earlier years. He played several songs from his latest album, “3,” including “Long Road Back” and “Take Yourself with You,” which is dedicated to his mother. The crowd loved it start to finish and even gave him several standing ovations throughout his performance.

Bice has a great stage presence and never stopped moving, pointing and winking at people and making regular eye contact (an “American Idol” trademark). The only exception was those poor people in the front row. The way he was throwing the mic stand around was a little scary, and they were ducking for cover. OK, maybe not literally, but I bet they were thinking about it!

Bice thanked Thunder Valley several times and mentioned how impressed he was with their lighting system.

Just prior to performing “Sweet Home Alabama,” Bice left the stage to grab a custom guitar with an interesting local story. While visiting local

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radio station KNCI 105.1 FM last year, he admired another guitar which was custom-made by Woodshop Rocks for country music artist Brad Paisley. The bass guitar was an actual bass guitar, as in the fish variety. Way cool!

Turns out, Woodshop Rocks is a program at Roseville’s Buljan Middle School designed to teach seventh to 12th grade students the value of hard work, one guitar at a time. With woodshop programs getting cut all over the country, it’s refreshing to see a program like this survive, especially one that challenges students in an area that interests and motivates them. Not only do the students learn about woodworking, but math, science and, most importantly, life skills.

Bice contacted program leader Duane Calkins, and soon after student Brittany Brazil began helping design Bice’s brand-spanking-new guitar in the shape of “” you guessed it “” Alabama. The design includes the images of a number of Alabama music legends, plus the opening notes to  “Sweet Home Alabama” on the neck. You really need to check out Brazil’s work.

Earlier that day, Bice had visited Buljan Middle School to pick up his new guitar and treat the students to a performance of “Sweet Home Alabama.” He ended the story by introducing Calkins and Brazil, asking them to join him onstage and letting them know they would be performing “Sweet Home Alabama” with him onstage.

I spoke to Calkins after the show, and he was under the impression nobody could hear him. Oh how wrong you were, Duane. We heard you and Brazil loud and clear! It sounded great, too. The audience loved it, and it was the best part of the performance.

If you haven’t been out to Thunder Valley to take in a concert, you really should think about treating yourself. Next month they kick off their summer series with Credence Clearwater Revisited on May 21, followed by The Fray on May 25.

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Set list in the order performed:
“¢ Keep on Rollin’
“¢ Vehicle
“¢ Long Road Back
“¢ Country
“¢ Different Shades of Blue
“¢ Whipping Post
“¢ Who Knows What
“¢ Take Yourself with You
“¢ Get on and Ride
“¢ The Real Thing
“¢ Witness
“¢ Sweet Home Alabama
“¢ Whiskey

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