Las Vegas. For many, it’s the solid-gold frame around the big picture. A residency there often guarantees not only something of stability in rough sailing waters but also a chance at infamy. Not everyone gets to stake their claim to a piece of Sin-City real estate. Names like Liberace, the Rat Pack, Elton John, Celine Dion, and more have become synonymous with moving onto the Strip to delight fans night after night.
Add to that list Frankie Moreno, a fresh-faced singer, songwriter, and showman. Don’t let his boyish good looks fool you; he’s something of a Vegas veteran who’s honed his craft amid the glittering lights. In a town where most tourists come to hear familiar tunes after a night of table games, Moreno stands as something of an anomaly, performing largely his own material. Collaborating with artists ranging from world-famous violinist Joshua Bell to Broadway darling Kristin Chenoweth to Sting, Moreno has carved his own path in that other city that never sleeps. And for it, he’s reaped the rewards, earning the prestigious title of Las Vegas Headliner of the Year not once, but twice.
Now, post appearances on PBS and super smash Dancing With the Stars, he’s just debuted a brand-new headlining stint at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino. His show, “Under the Influence” combines his original tunes with a smattering of charttoppers. As the show’s title might suggest, there’s a good deal of lineage between the two, making this a show that truly has something for everyone.
Moreno’s a busy guy, but we were fortunate enough to snag a few minutes of his time to ask him about his new gig, performing on the world’s most famous stage, and of course, the dreaded desert island question.
For lots of entertainers, a Vegas residency is a dream come true. Was headlining there a bucket-list item for you as an artist?
It’s funny because I never really thought about it. I played Vegas all the time. The goal was just to constantly progress. Not necessarily to stay stationary in Vegas but to constantly grow. When the opportunity came up, I tried it out and it’s been the most amazing thing. I can perform my show every night and still sleep in my own bed. Each night we have people in the audience from all over the world. The crowd [are] the ones on tour out here in Vegas.
What have been some of your most memorable moments during your time in Sin City?
I have so many. When I first moved here, it was not allowed to play original music in casinos. Well, that’s all I did. I never really played other people’s music. So we just played it anyway. I’ve been thrown out of more casinos than most bands will ever play in. That was always funny to me. I actually got 86’d from the Aladdin, which is now Planet Hollywood where I headline playing my originals.
‘Under the Influence’ sounds like it really does have something for everyone. How did you craft the setlist? Can you give us a little taste of what to expect in your latest show?
Over the past year and a half, we were on tour. We left our previous headlining thing to reassemble a new show, write new music, and change up the situation. We played about 10 countries and 50 cities. As I mentioned, we only played original music. I thought it might be a fun to dig into the roots of where the ideas come from. All music is stemmed from something before it. We came up with the idea of “Under The Influence”. We would trace music back to its origins.
We played at the Smith Center (a performing arts center in Vegas) whenever we were home, and each week, [we] would play the music of a different targeted artist, from the Beatles to Ray Charles to Sting. When the opportunity came up for Planet Hollywood, we chose the best of the best of all those nights and combined it with the originals and put together a very strong setlist. I’m really happy with it. And there’s room to change things up so it’s not the same show twice.
James Maslow from Big Time Rush is also joining you onstage. Have you performed together prior to this show?
I’ve been working on some new music with James. He’s a great writer. He’s gonna be releasing some new stuff soon and we have been experimenting with ideas. There is a moment in the show where we invite our friends up to sing. Everyone from the guys from Air Supply to the guys from Green Day. We thought it would be awesome to try out some of James’ new music there along with a song from an artist that influenced him as well. He’s a great guy and a lot of fun to work with. I think people are gonna love it.
What was it like to perform on Dancing With the Stars? How did you land the gig?
Lacey Schwimmer came to my show in Vegas and took a video of me playing a song I wrote called “Tangerine Honey.” She sent it off to DWTS, and they put me on within months. It was crazy. Of course, I had heard of the show but never really watched it. When we got to the set, [it] was insane. Those guys have it down. They practice like crazy. I’m more of a “wing it” type guy. Everything they do is so precise. It’s a whole different world. It was an amazing experience. I stole Lacey away and now not only does she choreograph and stage my show, but she dances in it as well.
Being chosen Las Vegas Headliner of the Year not once, but twice, must have been incredible. What kinds of doors has that opened for you?
That was a real surprise. I was up against four other acts: Celine Dion, Shania Twain, Rod Stewart, and Garth Brooks. As far as I was concerned, I didn’t stand a chance. These are legends, and I’ve got most of their albums. When the news came out, I couldn’t believe it. Still can’t. It definitely brought a lot of attention to our show and made it easier to book performances around the country.
What would your fans be surprised to learn about you?
I love to cook. As much as I love to play music. I’m from a big Italian family and everything revolved around food. My grandparents taught me how to cook very early and even though they are gone now, I still make all their recipes. It relaxes me and clears my head. I love it.
And finally, the ultimate hard question: what are your top three “desert island” albums?
That’s an easy one.
- Elvis Presley’s Christmas album. It’s so happy, and the sound is just great. I would need something to cheer me up since I’m stranded and all that would be around to eat is fish, which I’m not a huge fan of.
- Mozart piano concertos. I think I listen to classical music more than anything on my time off. Mozart has always been my very favorite.
- Since I’m on a desert island, I would need something “islandy.” So either Bob Marley or Jimmy Buffet.
Photo Credit: Scott Schmidt — used with permission