In a tucked-away lounge at the back of Cloverdale’s Elements Casino on a busy Saturday night, two musicians readied themselves for a live show.
Richard Sera and Andre Kunkel, who have fittingly dubbed their dueling duo “The Piano Men,” quietly tinkled on the ivories as they awaited showtime.
A modest crowd of young and old alike had materialized as of about 8 p.m., with an hour left before the show began.
Naturally, the set kicked off with some Jerry Lee Lewis.
“We’ll play anything you guys want us to,” Sera let us know as he got into the first song, as more people flocked to the lounge. “And some of you are going to sing for us, by the way. Just so you know.”
Of course, classics from the likes of Sir Elton, The Beatles, Journey, Bryan Adams and CCR adorned the keys. But so did some unexpected numbers, like Red Red Wine and Hotel California.
A good half way through the night a friend of mine got up and, with Sera holding the mic to his face, belted out Elton’s Crocodile Rock.
“La lalalala la lalalala la lalalala la.”
“Oh my god, are you serious? What?!” Sera oozed. “That might be the best that has ever been sung!”
I didn’t leave the lounge all night and I don’t think my grin left my face, either.
Sera blew me away with his technique (as a longtime piano player myself, I am always a lover of dueling pianos show, but Sera’s talent and engagement took this one to the next level).
He worked the crowd masterfully, and I’d be lying if I said he didn’t convince (force?) me to embarrassingly sing along to a Beatles classic. Ha!
It didn’t hurt that casino’s Molson Canadian Lounge was as close to a perfect-sized venue as it gets for me. So intimate that you truly feel like you’re part of the show.
And you are. They didn’t shy away from a single song asked of them that night — even a couple they’d never played.
“Putting their own, unique spin on time tested audience favorites, this act takes the dueling piano concept to a whole new level,” the duo’s write-up on vanhattanent.com reads, noting they’re both members of Vancouver’s corporate party band Dr. Strangelove. “They love the simple, classic sound of two pianos going at it and they dish out plenty of it to fans of piano greats…. All of this combined with great singing, a massive request repertoire (just try to stump them) and a heavy dose of audience interaction plus two fearless performers, willing to try just about ANYTHING in the name of fun, make this show a guaranteed great time.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
On Sunday, as I nursed a slight hangover, I had the videos from the night before on repeat.
As I sit here at my desk writing this column days later, I’m still listening and still unable to fight back a smile recalling the fun that was duelling pianos last Saturday night.
I’m pleased to report that more live music is on the docket at the Cloverdale casino, on the heels of Cascades Casino announcing the closure of their Summit Theatre, one of Langley’s largest live music venues.
“We recently decided to up the ante on live entertainment and now feature several monthly events,” Michael Worth, the casino’s general manager, told the Now-Leader.
“Our tagline at Elements Casino Surrey is ‘It’s All Here’ because we strive to deliver all the elements of a great night out to our guests,” Worth added. “With four restaurants and lounges (including our Diamond Buffet), over 500 slot machines, 24 table games, banquet and event space, and seasonal live horse racing, it’s all here at Surrey’s largest casino.”
Up next is a new Country Nights promo, featuring live bands, in the 300-seat Dragon Lounge this Saturday.
Kadooh, a Langley-based musician, will headline the Country Nights launch event on April 21.
As well, Desi Nights (billed as “Surrey’s only monthly South Asian event”) returns to the Dragon Lounge on April 27, and a monthly classic rock-themed night will be launched there in June.
But personally, I’m waiting for the return of the Piano Men, who are due back to the Cloverdale casino May 12. Let’s just say I’ve got a crew already raring to go.
Elements — keep the live music (and The Piano Men) coming. It’ll keep us coming back.
The venue’s monthly entertainment calendar is posted at elementscasinosurrey.com, or call 604-575-5603.