By LESLIE VENTURA
LAS VEGAS WEEKLY
Originally published January 30, 2020
It was five years ago, inside the lounge at the Tuscany, that David Perrico accidentally launched his Pop Strings Orchestra. “I never intended it to be pop strings,” Perrico laughs.
It just so happened that the entertainment director of Red Rock Resort, Judy Alberti, was in the audience that night. After hearing Perrico’s group, Alberti asked him to put together a lounge act for the hotel, Perrico says. “She heard those songs and she said, ‘I want this.’”
The problem was, he only had “This Love” by Maroon 5 and “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson in his repertoire. “She convinced me to put together a pop thing, so I put together all these hits and started arranging them for the orchestra.”
Perrico has since moved his Pop Strings Orchestra from Red Rock to Cleopatra’s Barge inside Caesars Palace, a classically Vegas lounge that’s a perfect fit for his retro-meets-modern concept.
“I’m just doing a throwback to old Vegas with today’s music,” Perrico says. “We’ve got a legion of fans now, people who plan their vacations around us. When I did put this together—and this is not a brag—the unique thing about this band [was that] every musician plays with a headliner or has their own show.”
From the singers to the all-female strings section, the individuals in the ensemble have performed with stars including Diana Ross, Rod Stewart, Shania Twain, Celine Dion, Aerosmith and Andrea Bocelli. “That’s the unique experience that makes up Pop Strings,” Perrico says. “Anyone could copy the format, [but] it’s like my all-star baseball team, the people I’ve always wanted to work with. No egos, we’re all having fun. It’s high energy, it’s positivity and it’s live. We don’t use any assistance like tracks or anything, and people love that.”
Pop Strings Orchestra members rotate in and out, but singers Lily Arce and Ken Fletch Walcott hold down the fort nightly, with Perrico leading the procession and, when the song calls for it, peppering the arrangement with his signature brass. A classically trained trumpet player, Perrico is also an award-winning conductor and arranges all the songs into modern versions on his own.
“In general, I pick the songs people can sing to and really know well,” Perrico says, adding that ’80s music seems to work best. “The Caesars clientele is more Generation X, people in their 40s and 50s. We’re not doing what Tiësto’s doing, but I’ve gone to those clubs to see how they work.”
Essentially, Perrico has taken the DJ format and adapted it to the live stage. “I’ll take an Earth, Wind & Fire song like ‘September,’ and then I’ll do a 10-minute mashup, a medley of nonstop songs, all in the same tempo. My master’s is in composition and film score, so I’ve gotten pretty fast after years of doing it. It’s just gilding the lily.”
And he creates arrangements for his other ensembles: Pop Evolution Big Band, which has appeared at the Smith Center, and Pop Retro, which has performed inside Jimmy Kimmel’s Comedy Club and Cromwell.
“It still surprises me every week that people are responding the way they do,” Perrico says. “They don’t stop dancing. I never take it for granted that every night is a different night. You can’t rest on your laurels, ever.”
DAVID PERRICO’S POP STRINGS ORCHESTRA Fridays & Saturdays, 10 p.m., free. Cleopatra’s Barge, davidperricomusic.com.
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