From Wembley to Caesars Palace…

Matt Goss’s visage once adorned the walls of girls around the world as he found fame with his twin brother Luke in the band Bros; it’s a far cry from his Caesars residency, but he wouldn’t change a thing, as he told Casino International. Reinventing himself as a swing-esque star turn for his Vegas shows, Matt – now a resident of LA – recently revisited the UK to perform a series of three shows for Caesars’ UK arm. The shows, on a reduced scale compared to his Vegas oeuvre, graced London’s Playboy Club, ALEA Nottingham casino, and Manchester235 casino – and his visit has left a lasting legacy in both how customers perceive these venues, and how the venues themselves will approach entertainment in future. Matt spoke with Casino International about his journey from Bros to The Strip, and how he is now loving life more than ever. Casino International: How did you wind up with a residency at Caesars Palace? It doesn’t seem an obvious path to go from the success you had in the UK – and worldwide – with your band Bros to working as a Caesars resident. Matt Goss: Some of our songs were number one in 30 countries simultaneously, all over Europe, Japan, Malaysia – everywhere. The first album sold seven million copies, that’s a lot of people and if you think about those numbers today, every single we sold in the UK alone sold 600-700,000 physical copies. That can be said for almost every other territory in the world, with the exception of America, though we did have a number one song there (When Will I Be Famous). So I think, for me, when the band came to an end, I was still a singer; it wasn’t a fickle decision, I was in bands before Bros, in my first band at 12. It’s in my blood and I didn’t even really think about fame. You don’t think you’re going to make it; you want to, and hope you can, but you don’t really know how that’s going to happen as there is no real formula otherwise everybody would be doing it. I remember thinking to myself at the end that I want to be in a place where I can still make music and do what I love to do without being necessarily judged, where I can figure out who I am. I ended up making records in Italy, in LA, New York, and I made an album called Gossy. I financed the album myself, produced it, played every instrument except the horns, it was a real undertaking for me. There is not one single copy-paste moment on that record, I made a point of ensuring every moment on the album, from start to finish, only happened once musically. That album resonated with a lot of people in my world, and there was a casino head at the Palms in Las Vegas who heard it. Michael Greco was Director of Entertainment at Palms at the time, he loved a song I wrote called Evil, and he said “I want this guy at the casino, I want him here”. I met with the casino’s owner at the time, we had a fantastic meeting and a couple of days passed; I went back to LA and Michael called me. He said, “I’m so confident you’re going to get this gig that if you don’t, I will give you my watch,” as he knew I collected watches. Shortly after that I got another call from him saying, “There’s good news and bad news – the bad news is, you can’t have my watch!” I spent four weeks or so creating a show from the ground up, something I had always wanted to do, auditioning hundreds of musicians in Vegas. I found my core musicians and then started to create the sound I wanted, which was very influenced by British ska, and swing. After around nine months at The Palms, Gary Selesner, the president of Caesars Palace – who is honestly an absolutely incredible asset to the company, he is a true visionary – came to the show and we met afterward. He asked if I would consider being at Caesars, he put his hand out and said, “shall we do this?” I said yes, and he replied “Welcome to Caesars.” Now I’m going strongly into my seventh year in Vegas. CI: Seven years is quite impressive… MG: It’s two years longer than I was in Bros! I played Carnegie Hall, Madison Square Gardens, Wembley Stadium, I’ve played the Royal Albert Hall… I have a great team and there is a trust between us. Everyone in my life, I like. I’ve been up and I’ve been down, and I think the measure of a man is if you can dust yourself off and start again. I’ve had to do that a few times. I lost my mother last year, which was life-changing for me. She was my rock and my reason, literally, as simple as that – my reason for doing anything and everything was her. When mum passed I felt I truly entered the world of being a man and growing up. That phone call, “everything is going to be ok,” doesn’t exist any more. It’s a harsh reality, and you realise that you are the one that has to make that phone call now, and you have to make everything ok. With Bros we sold out Wembley Stadium, I knocked myself off the top of the charts in Australia – there were so many accolades and yes, they’re nice things, but that’s the past. The ups and downs in life are possibly part of why my show works as well as it does, especially when you get guys come to the show in their suits, holding their glass of Scotch, they’re with their partners who are in beautiful dresses; they’ve made such massive efforts to be there and do it in style, and they consider a night out with Matt Goss an occasion; that quite simply transcends any hit record I could ever have. It’s a privilege for me to be a form of escapism for people who are going through the rigours of life; for a couple of hours when I am on stage, I take it very seriously and sing every note from the bottom of my heart because I want that connection to be formed between us. I recently had 30 guys come for a stag night at my show and they all came like the Rat Pack, they all looked immaculate; they had a great night. It’s quite funny when you can click into your groove and you don’t have anything to prove, that’s what I am finding in my life. A lot of guys come, get dressed up, flirt in my room, they feel like men… CI: 30 guys come to your show for a stag night, they are choosing your show to make a lifelong memory; that’s huge. MG: It is. I’ve had people propose on stage quite a few times now, I give the man a microphone and he gets on with it. I always say people are welcome to propose at my show because it’s also a part of my life’s memory. That kind of thing doesn’t happen when you do a concert because it’s so much bigger; when you have that intimacy, that connection, by the end of my show you’ll see what I mean. It’s such a strong, positive connection with the audience. I speak about my mum, my life, how I feel, I talk to and with the audience. Someone getting down on one knee on my stage, the audience is connected to as well. I’ve come to realise you can have a number one single in the UK for three weeks, but then what? To create memories, I think that’s why I got into this game and I am a very lucky man to have come through to the other side. The LA Times has said it’s the hottest show in Vegas, I’m extremely proud of my team and that we are entering our seventh year, it’s not easy to do. CI: You’ve just done a night at each of three Caesars Entertainment UK Casinos: the Playboy Club in London, ALEA Nottingham and Manchester235. How did they experience compare with the US shows? UK Casinos are quite a bit smaller than Caesars… MG: They are tiny compared to Caesars, that’s the mothership in Vegas. The experience I’m having though, is very similar. It’s an extremely engaging and supportive environment. CI: I know you are quite a prolific Tweeter, do you use digital and social media to promote the shows yourself? MG: I recently launched a new app so people can download it and listen to some of the music for free, just search for Matt Goss on the App Store.

Manchester235’s Matt Goss Experience The casino charged a bargain £75 a ticket for Matt’s 90-minute show, which included a three-course dinner prepared in the James Martin restaurant for the 170-strong audience. Only one table was reserved for the casino’s VIPs, with the rest of the tickets going on open sale. Austin Graham, Venue Director Manchester235, explained why they partook in Matt’s mini-tour: “We really wanted to showcase our industry links which are quite unique and authentic with Las Vegas and Caesars Palace. We wanted to, frankly, bring a touch of Las Vegas to Manchester and for us, there was no better way when we found out that Matt was over in the UK. We did a press release as the announcement for the night, and the phone calls started coming in very quickly. “Our capacity is much greater than we actually used on the night because we made it a dinner and show experience, so we took up a lot of space in the bar area because we put in large tables. “We put out 100 tickets initially then released more because of demand. They went in about 45 minutes, the phones were red-hot.”

ALEA Nottingham casino’s Matt Goss Experience A much-boosted presence on TripAdvisor is one of the benefits ALEA Notingham saw from Matt’s visit. Venue Director Mark Hands explained how his team marketed the event: “We didn’t particularly publicise or market this differently, at Nottingham we are good on our social media channels and we allowed those channels to do what they do best, which is to bring the news out to the right people. Age-wise, demographically we anticipated it was going to hit people 35+ and that sits alongside our Facebook and Twitter followers well. It’s one of our key customer bases and as soon as we announced it, what I expected to happen did; it really took off.” So what was the impact on their guests? “It meant a lot to our customers and the feedback was fantastic. If you look at our TripAdvisor page you will see we have gone from ninth as an activity to do in Nottingham to fifth, and most of that is due to the feedback we got from the Matt Goss event.” With British casinos being much smaller overall than their Vegas counterparts, choosing the right room was vital, as Mark elaborates: “When we looked at the rooms we had available, we opted for our Face To Face room even though it seated fewer customers as it worked best for the kind of intimate show Matt does; we ran the event almost as a loss leader to get the positive PR and kudos we wanted to achieve. We charged an amount we thought was sensible and affordable, and went out at £75 a ticket in a 96-capacity room and had a very small, select crowd that allowed Matt to shine as the performer he is. The ticket price included a three-course dinner too, which gave our chef a chance to shine and do something really special for the customers. “Of the 96 people in the room, we probably sold about 40 tickets. The rest were either gaming VIPs or local VIPs that we are presently working with, or aspire to be working with in future. The only caveat we put on it for the gaming VIPs was they needed to have an interest in Matt and what he was doing, rather than just opening it up to anyone.” Matt is a polished Las Vegas performer and there is clearly public demand for that kind of offering, especially with casinos willing to make it a good value proposition for customers; will this affect the way ALEA Nottingham approaches future events? Mark says yes, absolutely: “It really differed from what we normally do. We make decisions based on a return on investment and that is based on monetary value; on this, the ROI was based on kudos and enforcing the Caesars brand in our local environment, and the PR and goodwill we would gain. It was one of the highlights of my career having the event here. “What’s the legacy of the event? It showed we can do more. We have already changed the business to be more of an entertainment venue than just a casino, this has just helped us further on that journey.”

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