Dueling Piano Shows, Part IV: Harrahs

by Gray Cargill on December 18, 2009

This is the final part of a four-part series on the dueling piano shows on the Las Vegas Strip.  I hope you’ve enjoyed it, and that it will make it a bit easier for you to choose the dueling piano show that is right for you.

Photo by Josh Semans, <br>Creative Commons 2.0

Photo by Josh Semans, Creative Commons 2.0

Harrahs dueling piano show, featuring identical twin sisters Kimberley and Tamara Pinegar, was the first dueling piano show I ever saw.  I loved the concept of dueling pianos and thought it was a blast.  The crowd was already primed, having just come off a wickedly funny and fun karaoke show.  The twins had a good verbal rapport with each other and the audience; they knew how to engage the crowd, and everyone in the bar participated, singing lustily to great music and making song requests.  The whole room felt awash in a positive buzz.  It was like a lovefest.

The second time I went to see the show was very different.  Now that I was a bit more experienced at this whole dueling piano show thing, it seemed to my jaded eye that the twins spent a little too much time whipping the audience into a bidding frenzy over song requests and not enough time actually playing the songs that were requested.  I don’t think they played an entire song from start to finish the whole time I was there.  One sister would play a few bars of a song while the other sister got someone in the audience to override it with a new request, and this kept going back and forth, with the tips for these requests going as high as $100.  I’m sure they made a  lot of money that night, but it wasn’t as enjoyable for me.  When I go to hear live music, I want to actually hear some music. 

Harrahs Dueling Piano Show

Harrahs Dueling Piano Show

So this time, I went to Harrahs dueling piano show with a bit of a skeptical attitude.  I actually had to stand on the periphery of the bar, since the place was packed.  (That’s what I get for showing up late.)  I was in good company, though; Harrahs dueling piano bar is right off the casino and near the entrance to Carnaval Court, so it tends to draw a lot of curious onlookers who stand near the two threshholds and a large open window area to watch the show.

Van Walraven at the keyboards

Van Walraven at the keyboards

As it turned out, there was a slate of revolving pianists that night, with the constant being Mr. Versatility himself, Shaun DeGraff, whom I had enjoyed so much at New York-New York earlier in the week.  One of the twins (I couldn’t tell which one) was playing opposite him when I arrived, but was soon after replaced by Van Walraven, a veteran of the Las Vegas dueling piano scene.   Van and Shaun worked the crowd expertly, and a boisterous good time was had by all. Like Dave at Napoleon’s, Van, too, played harmonica while playing piano during Billy Joel’s “Piano Man”.  He was quite the showman and another incredibly talented pianist.  (If you can’t tell by now, Vegas is full of them!)

I enjoyed this show very much.  It had all the necessary elements–humor, crowd interaction, and great music.  There’s a good long bar here, so if you’re solo, arrive early and snag a seat at the bar.  There are also lots of tables.  If you’d like to make new friends, grab one and offer to share. Just be forewarned that drink prices seem to go up during the show.

The dueling piano show at Harrahs might be for you if:

  • You want to be part of a fun, engaged crowd that understands its role in the dueling piano show and will sing with gusto.
  • You want a place that has plenty of bar seating for solos.
  • You want to see a female dueling piano show. (Though, obviously, there is no guarantee the twins will be playing on the night you go.)
  • You want a very casual atmosphere where you don’t have to dress to impress anyone.
  • You like upbeat rock music.
  • You don’t want to pay a cover.

Thus concludes my series on the dueling piano shows on the Las Vegas Strip. In case you were wondering which show is my favorite, I have to give the edge to Harrahs.  It’s casual, the crowd is always engaged, the music they play here is perfect for my tastes, and there’s no cover. The only time it’s not as enjoyable for me is when the pianists focus too much on the “request wars” and not enough on the music.  And if that’s the case, it’s easy enough to duck out to Carnaval Court to catch the live band playing out there.

Have you been to one or more of these dueling piano shows? Which one is your favorite and why?

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

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