LIVE: Kevin Costner & Modern West @ Northern Lights, 4/6/12
Review by Charlie Weintraub
Kevin Costner is a man of many passions. Most of his fans know him from his movies in which two of his main passions have shown through: baseball and the Wild West. A smaller fan base knows that Costner has another passion every bit as old (from his childhood) as the others – music. His love for music culminated in Kevin Costner & Modern West (KC&MW), a band he started at the urging of his wife half a decade ago.
Last Friday night, the band made their second visit to Northern Lights in Clifton Park, a venue which Costner obviously enjoyed. The smoky air (machine-made, not from what dangles out of people’s mouths) mixed with the right lighting and surrounded by fans standing and drinking beer is the atmosphere what he looks for.
Costner came out and soaked in the adoration like the movie star he is, acknowledging the fact that that was probably the reason most of the people were there. He thanked the near-capacity, closer-to-his-age crowd for buying tickets to his movies for all those years. Then for the next 90 minutes, he exhibited his second “career.”
The seven-hour ride up from his last gig in Maryland didn’t seem to sap any energy from him or his band – especially the very energetic fiddler Bobby Yang. Backed by four guitarists – two of which doubled on keyboard and banjo – as well as a bassist, Yang and a drummer, KC&MW played their version of country-rock.
Costner will never be invited to replace Pavarotti in the Three Tenors, but his voice – a bit off-key at times – was adequate for what he does and for the crowd. He played for the “women in the crowd and the men they dragged along with them.” But it is not really his voice that he wanted to exhibit – it is his passion for a history not necessarily taught in schools. He spoke from the heart about the 400-year history of the white man’s trek across the country with a couple of songs exhibiting how that interaction affected the 500 Nations.
He introduced every song with a story about how the song came about or the history that prompted it. The Civil War and the deadly feud of the Hatfields & McCoys were represented with “Hero” and “How Deep the Water Runs” – soulful tunes that were very well written and performed. “How Deep,” with its bluegrass roots offering a very different sound, comes from a companion CD to an upcoming movie on the History Channel.
A two-song encore brought the show to a close, and after the band left the stage, Costner cracked open a bottle of champagne drinking a toast to the audience. He then acknowledged his other passion with a lone autograph when someone handed him a baseball.
Opening the show was Sara Beck, who has performed with KC&MW on several occasions. You would find Sara to be your typical country singer… if every country singer had an amazing and beautiful voice. Not all of them do, of course, but she does.
And that voice was in fine form wowing the crowd for half an hour, as she sang a half dozen songs that showed not only the range of her voice, but also the variety of her repertoire. From country to a cover of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It,” she presented herself as a rising star. And invited by Costner to join in on some of KC&MW’s songs, Beck significantly added to the enjoyment of the evening.
Her looks and golden hair were certainly a treat for the men who were dragged along by their wives, and her closing song, “Are You Man Enough?” had their fantasies in overdrive.
KC&MW guitarist John Coinman’s blog entry
Excerpt from Brian McElhiney’s review at The Daily Gazette: “Nothing the band played was reinventing the wheel. Set opener ‘Red River’ got by on attitude and a great guitar hook, with Costner bleating out the song’s lyrics in his familiar deadpan. He doesn’t have a great voice (his lack of accents in his past movie roles hinted at that), but there was just enough grit in it to work for these songs, and just enough charm in the songs for them to work on this audience. What really made the show was the top-notch playing from the band, particularly fiddler Bobby Yang, who out-rock-starred Costner with his acrobatic playing on ‘Long Hot Night.’ Up next, ‘Moon So High’ gave lead guitarist Teddy Morgan a chance to tear up some stage, and he obliged with a veritable compendium of bluesy licks.”