Dueling Piano Shows, Part III: Napoleon’s

by Gray Cargill on December 15, 2009

This is the third of a four-part series reviewing and comparing the four dueling piano shows on the Strip in Las Vegas.

Photo by Josh Semans, <br> Creative Commons 2.0

Photo by Josh Semans, Creative Commons 2.0

Of the dueling piano bars on the Strip in Las Vegas, the one at Napoleon’s (Paris Hotel) is the most upscale.  Napoleon’s was established as a champagne and cigar bar, and the decor reflects that.  It’s a little on the stuffy side, but very classy, with leather-upholstered bar chairs, marble floors in a black-and-white checkerboard pattern, and a gorgeous wood bar with what looks like a polished granite top. The tables have candles on them.  The large windows at the front of the bar look out onto the promenade between Paris and Ballys, and the multitudes of tourists who pass by in any given hour.

Napoleons

Napoleons

The bartenders here dress up: long-sleeved white shirts, black vests and black bow ties.  Customers also tended to be better dressed than at the other dueling piano venues and weren’t as visibly drunk as at other shows. On the flip side, there were no light beers on tap and only four boring domestic bottled beers.  So if you’re primarily a beer drinker, you might be a little disappointed with your choices here. The dueling piano show starts at 9pm.  I got there a bit early, so I watched the flat panel TV behind the bar, which was tuned to sports.  Of course.

This show draws a good crowd, and there were other solos there in addition to me.  I sat at the bar, but didn’t really engage with anyone. When I have seen this show in the past, I’ve found it to be pretty subdued compared to the rowdiness of a Harrahs or NYNY.  This time, though, I could see that people were having a great time, they were just a bit more mature and reserved than the crowds at other shows.

Dave Mauks and Scott Nicholson

Dave Mauk and Scott Nicholson

The pianists were Scott Nicholson and Dave Mauk.   Both were very talented pianists and good singers; I would go see either of them again in any venue. (Which could happen, since I believe Scott plays over at Harrahs dueling piano show, too.)  Dave played a mean harmonica as well as piano for “Piano Man.”  They were very likeable, funny guys with a good rapport.

Napoleons at Paris Las Vegas

Napoleons at Paris Las Vegas

The tenor of a dueling piano show does not rest on the shoulders of the pianists alone, however.  The crowd here skewed older than I’m used to at dueling piano shows (someone requested “Blue Moon”), and they seemed not to understand their role in the traditional “call and response” of a dueling piano show.  The pianists clearly knew this, but  gamely played whatever was requested and tried to make it fun by playing it at an uptempo pace.  One thing that really impressed me was that they played whatever was requested without insulting either the songs or the people who requested them.  That’s class.  Little by little, they won the participation of the initially reserved crowd.  Hands were swaying in the air, people were clapping to the beat and singing the parts they were supposed to sing.  Ultimately, it turned into a fun evening.

Napoleon’s dueling piano show might be for you if:

  • You’re in the mood for some good, upbeat music played by talented pianists;
  • You want a more upscale environment, where you can dress up a bit;
  • You don’t want to work quite as hard as you would have to at a rowdier piano bar;
  • You want to request atypical songs without being ridiculed for it;
  • You want a more mature dueling piano experience;
  • Beer is not your drink of choice.

Next up:  A familiar face turns up at Harrahs dueling piano show.

(Photo of piano keys by Josh Semans can be found at Creative Commons.)

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