St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow, the pyramids of Giza and the breathy night glow of Sydney, Australia, all flashed in brilliant kaleidoscopic glory on CNN's millennial report.

In my brother's pint-inspired phone report from the River Thames, he describes Queen Elizabeth II floating past, resembling "a cardboard prop-up of the pope."

A New York contingent betrays its own calendar year and lights up Lower Manhattan with an elaborate dance involving floating, amethyst-and-lilac-hued dragons and hundreds of Chinese people.

But this is Phoenix. A city renowned for rock 'n' roll.

So, five hundred bills to see the Coop? Since when has rock 'n' roll been so stinkin' working-class? And a Gin Blossoms reunion? How about this? Gin Blossoms get the Sellout of the Year award for their taxpayer-assisted, six-figure Celebration 2000 paycheck and flagrant misuse of the word "reunion."

Somebody define for me the reasoning behind a Blossoms reunion when the lineup for which the group is most noted -- in both hindsight and real time -- is an impossibility.

Troubled Blossoms co-founder Douglas Hopkins, you'll recall, expired just before the combo found prolonged pop chart comfort in the mid-'90s. The Blossoms' initial E ticket to Pop-Star Land came courtesy of Hopkins' penned hits, and his spirit assured the group its very own place in rock 'n' roll folklore. In spite of the considerable skills of Hopkins' scion, Scotty Johnson, Hopkins is irreplaceable in the Blossoms. If you ask me, those are two major, non-negotiable premiums in the group's overall worth.

Are we surprised Three Dog Night -- a cackle of unspeakable cads in even the most generous of assumptions -- outdrew the Gin Blossoms?

At Tempe's glittering lakeshore gala, the ever-virile 44-year-old Billy Idol reconfirmed how he's nicked more than a king rocker's persona from Elvis and Gary Glitter. Idol's set opens with a rousing tumble of "Cradle of Love" that sees hundreds of blithe-faced mommies, daddies and kiddies mildly undulating, oblivious to the song's pedophilia theme.

I had few regrets in embracing the new year in a manner best exemplifying very little.

What could top a cast of faded pop crumbs from Canada in an Arizona casino on an Indian reservation at Y2K? A group that once exploited our unguarded borders to such an impressive degree that its rock shtick gave Bob and Doug McKenzie's Great White North a certain prophetic ring.

All 150,000 square feet of Fort McDowell Casino near Fountain Hills have no tangible aesthetic, no real definable core. Spaciously sterile, tonight it is packed to the gills. Yet one wouldn't have guessed a New Year's celebration if not for the occasional monkey suit and littering of cardboard top hats inscribed with "2000."

Above the whir of the slots and din of murmurs, Skynyrd pumps through the house PA. If ever a crowd was lost to the irony of a catcall like "Play some Skynyrd," it was this one. And just how much of an old gray mare is rock 'n' roll when it prompts a white-haired grandpa in a Gone Fishin' cap to nod his head to "Gimme Three Steps" while manning a slot?

The premillennial tension in the Entertainment room at The Fort had more to do with beleaguered bartenders stuck doling out drinks from cashier booths and the conspicuous lack of jackpot alarms ringing in the casino's bustling main room.

"Rock 'n' roll, already," hoots one guy wearing an unbuttoned flannel over a tee shirt that reads "GIRLS ONLY" with an arrow pointing toward his crotch. A beer in either hand, he waves his head from side to side and squints over the heads of 300 who have filled to the room to capacity. "Loverboooooy."

Diamondbacks tee shirts and soiled jeans mix with suits and stonewash. Sports scores flash across a ticker on one wall while faintly sweating barmaids weave through the crowd, doling out small plastic cups and cheap champagne.

For the better part of the '80s, Vancouver's Loverboy was huge. Albums titled Loverboy, Get Lucky, Keep It Up and Lovin' Every Minute of It all shifted in the millions and allowed the group to fill the largest venues the world over. Yet critics carped to the heavens about Loverboy's dubious tools, using blanket descriptions like "middle-of-the-road muddle" to characterize the band's mien.

With tit-job peroxide teens, guitar-spank white rap, cash-it-in MCs, airbrushed Latino lovers and countless DJs cramming the current pop charts, Loverboy seems as far away as the stray, tattered hippie one occasionally spots, wandering along, oblivious that the world has passed him by.

Loverboy's doughboy singer, Mike Reno, appears at 10:30, distressingly unaware that black leather pants are a sin unless body weight sits below 145. The band follows, and rock radio staple of yesteryear "Victorious" ensues.

And the 300 or so are there, right with 'em.

Loverboy makes use of all former glory. If nothing else, Loverboy -- which during its heyday made many lives (including mine) miserable with its ubiquity on radio and MTV -- acts as though nothing has changed. They play all the hits. Welcome to 1981 and '80s red bandanna rock eros that still means something to the aging Kelly Bundys with fatherless kids and the women who left their hubbies in the back of the room to stand front and center.

Matt Frenette is no stranger to drum solos and grandiose mannerisms from a decade of endless coliseum shows: arms held in victory, sticks tossed with mock reverence to the crowd, the whole bit.

Guitarist Paul Dean sports an unfortunate mane of concrete gray frizz -- he looks like he's in a state of perpetual shock. Vintage Huey Lewis-specific MTV gestures are abundant, like Dean's overstated windmill arm movement that ends with him pointing to the keyboardist to cue a solo.

Bassist Scott Smith solves his zero-presence problems by donning Air Force sunglasses and a comely pair of glow-in-the-dark Buttafuoco trousers in tasteful orange and lime.

After the inevitable New Year's countdown, various Loverboy offspring and spouses came out to sing "Auld Lang Syne" -- the night's only real reminder of a new year.

Of course, there are encores. The first, "Lovin' Every Minute of It," had the mustachioed mook next to me chirping "Lovin' every dribble of it." On the word "dribble," he made an extra effort to lean in closer to my ear, adding an extra accent.

Then Loverboy was gone.

Tomorrow might as well be 1982.

But Mike Reno comes out, pen in hand, to oblige the few fans who lurk during the state. Forget those Person of the Century lists that cite Einstein or Ma Teresa. For these aphids, Mike Reno is the man.

The new year rings in with the eternal fizzle of 500 slot machines and the sotted pari-mutuel bettors, the bingo dingoes committing figures to memory and the ineffaceable refrain of "Everybody's working for the weekend" looping through the brain pan.

Leaving The Fort, it seems less like any year numbered 2000 or any other promise of things turning suddenly bright and shiny. All I hear is the unruffled harmony of a mass seduction of thousands, chronically afflicted with the desire of easy affluence.

Happy Fucking New Year.

Contact Brian Smith at his online address: [email protected]

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Brian Smith
Contact: Brian Smith