A casino being such a contrast in wealth and ersatz crapola, Harrah's East is simply too perfect a venue for this weekend's shows. There's just no more appropriate setting in which to be both enriched and duped, all in one evening.Do you trust a guy named Gary "U.S." Bonds? You do when he's selling hearty rock & soul of the highest order. The Norfolk, Va.-raised singer's "New Orleans" and "Quarter to Three" still pop up in oldies rotations. Despite having been birthed in the first pop-pap era of rock, they're snappy, booming go-nuts-at-church rave-ups indebted to '50s R&B, with Bonds' double-tracked voice jumping from the speakers and amiably slapping you stupid. But a late-'70s/early-'80s comeback period, with childhood fan Bruce Springsteen sometimes producing, proved that Bonds' scrappy, rich vocals never needed the studio trickery. Subsequently, his repertoire can't be matched -- those hopping, effervescent originals; breathless Springsteen rockers such as "Rendezvous"; traditionals like "Jole Blon." And, like every great singer, the stage is Bonds' true habitat, as shown on his new King Biscuit Flower Hour live disc. You'll want to kick back and savor his performance, but you are hereby commanded to shout a request for the astounding guitar-soul ballad "Last Time." Has any artist so effortlessly navigated the boundary between what we're told to think of as black music and white music? Bonds is the real McCoy.
On the other hand, over in the cubic-zirconium department, the Shangri-Las -- these Shangri-Las -- are a fraud. These are not the tough Jewish girls from Queens who fell in love with the leader of the pack and set the mold that made the Ramones, Patti Smith and just about anything cool, heartfelt and dangerous possible. Nope, this is some grubber's idea of a profitable franchise. Apparently, a few years ago, one all-too-aptly named Dick Fox found that no one owned the band name. The rest is legal papers, auditions, leather pants and history. Sure, Mr. Fox and the women who perform as the band doppelgänger just want to bring a little joy into the world -- so enjoy the clown show. And stay for the real deal.