Archive | November, 2011

Celebrate the holidays with Lou Gramm, Mickey Thomas & Eddie Money

28 Nov

By JESSICA A. BOTELHO

NEW BEDFORD – It isn’t every day that three music icons take the stage to perform classic holiday favorites. But Eddie Money, Lou Gramm and Mickey Thomas fans will get the opportunity to have themselves a merry little Christmas with a side of rock and roll this Saturday, Dec. 3, as the singers will bring joy to the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center in New Bedford for the Jingle Bell Rock tour.

In addition to opening and closing the show as a trio, they will also play their own hit songs individually.

“Eddie did a holiday tour last year and thought it would be fun to take the concept and expand upon it,” said Thomas, who fronts Starship. “Eddie is such a great entertainer and sax player and it doesn’t get any better than Lou as a vocalist. It’s a unique experience to be able to go out and perform with them.”

Gramm, the former lead singer of Foreigner, agreed and said he is excited because he enjoys the holiday season, as well as New Bedford. Previously to joining Foreigner, he played in the band Black Sheep, which often gigged in the area.

“We were regulars there for a few years and met a lot of good people,” said Gramm. “I have an affinity for it.”

For the show, he said he is looking forward to performing “Jukebox Hero,” “Midnight Blue,” “I Want To Know What Love Is,” and “Hot Blooded,” as well as holiday hits like “Jingle Bell Rock,” and “Mary, Did You Know?”

Thomas is set to sing “Winter Wonderland” in the style of Annie Lennox, Elvis Presley’s, “It’s Christmas Time Pretty Baby,” and “Silent Night.” He’ll perform Starship songs “Jane,” “Sara,” “We Built This City,” and “Fooled Around and Fell in Love,” which he originally recorded with The Elvin Bishop Band in 1976.

“We might do ‘Nothing’s Going to Stop Us Now,’ if we have time,” he said.

Thomas and Gramm anticipate the show will help people get into the Christmas spirit. For Thomas, his favorite thing about celebrating the holidays is cooking and being with loved ones.

“I enjoy getting the family together because I have to travel so much that there’s nothing I like better than being in the kitchen whipping up an exciting meal with some good wine and a football game,” said Thomas, whose specialty is seafood and okra gumbo. “That’s the happiest time for me.”

Gramm feels the same and said it’s a great time to catch up with family and old friends. He especially likes the camaraderie everyone gets into if they are appreciating Christmas “the way it was meant to be.”

“You put differences aside and celebrate the birth of the Lord,” he said.

Of course, they’ve each made wish lists for Santa. In fact, Thomas is confident he will be getting a set of golf clubs this year, as well as a few films. Action and adventure flicks such as “Scarface,” “Goodfellas,” the “Indiana Jones” trilogy and the “Godfather” movies are his favorites.

“I’ve been golfing for 25 years and it’s one of the few things that I can do to leave everything that I’ve been worrying about behind,” said Thomas. “You can empty your head. And I love watching movies almost as much as cooking so hopefully I’ll be getting some DVDs.”

Gramm is keeping his fingers crossed for a new pair of glasses, as the pair he has is in rough shape.

“One side is broken to the point where it’s taped on,” he said with a laugh.

He’s also hinting around for a set of new tires for his’68 Camaro Super Sport, one of his four muscle cars.

“I’ve been driving it more and more lately and the tires have seen the last of the road,” he said. “I’ve been into muscle cars since before I was old enough to drive. My dad used to take me with him when it was time for us to get another car and we would window shop and he taught me about the high performance cars.”

But before Santa and his reindeer lavish them with gifts, they will share their holiday cheer with New Bedford. If the tour is a success, they said they would be more than willing to carry the tradition on next year.

“If this works out we’ll definitely be doing Jingle Bell Rock again,” said Thomas. “We might even expand upon it even more.”

Thomas said Starship frequently performs private shows at which his “singer buddies” Mike Reno of Loverboy; Bobby Kimball of Toto; Jimi Jamison of Survivor; John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band join him on stage. He’s thinking about bringing some of those guys on board next year, as he is fond of touring.

“In the early days, I just wanted to be in the studio all the time,” said Thomas. “Now, I enjoy being on stage and connecting with audiences.”

In the future, Thomas said Starship will be releasing a new album in February or March, which follows his recent solo recording of all cover songs, “Marauder”, while Gramm said he and the Lou Gramm Band will be putting out an album by spring. Their latest effort, which came out in 2009, was a self-titled Christian rock recording.

“This one will be straight rock,” Gramm said.

The Zeiterion Performing Arts Center’s box office is located at 684 Purchase Street, New Bedford, Mass. Tickets are priced at $69.50, $64.50, $55, and $48. Box Office Hours: M-F 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sat 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and one hour before each performance. For more information, visit http://www.zeiterion.org.

Jingle Bell Rock

‘Come Sail Away’ with Dennis DeYoung

14 Nov

By JESSICA A. BOTELHO

Former Styx member and songwriter Dennis DeYoung looked into his “Crystal Ball” and said he predicts his Nov. 18 show at the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center in New Bedford will not disappoint even the band’s biggest fans. He plans on playing classics like “Come Sail Away,” “Babe,” and “Lady” as well as “Renegade” and “Too Much Time on My Hands,” two songs he didn’t sing on with Styx.

“We’re going to be doing all the songs the fans want to hear and give them something that’s just short of a reunion, which they’ve been clamoring for the last 10 years,” he said. “In the years that I was on the road, I was only doing the songs that I sang so we’re weeding out some of those. If you miss this show you’re missing out.”

With Styx, which had five top-ten albums in the 1970s and early 1980s, DeYoung wrote songs that serve as the soundtrack for a generation of people. Today, many of his hits continue to be played on the radio.

“I had no idea it was going to happen,” said DeYoung. “During the time, you don’t think your records will still be enjoyed 30 or 40 years later. When you’re doing it, you’re just trying to get to the next record or the next tour.”

Nevertheless, DeYoung is grateful. He feels humbled that he has been able to perform for the last four decades.

“When I started out there weren’t any rock stars in the world that were 64-years-old,” he said. “Audiences my age love nostalgia and they want to remember being 18. They’re the ones that allow us the privilege of playing these shows and it has been the greatest joy.”

While many bands are playing some of their classic albums in their entirety from start to finish, DeYoung doesn’t think it’s the best idea. He said he hasn’t considered it because he doesn’t believe his fans would enjoy it.

“If I were to do that, a lot of songs would be left out that people really want to hear,” said DeYoung. “I have to be pragmatic and perform the songs people love.”

With the addition of bassist Craig Carter and guitarist August Zadra to his band in 2010, DeYoung said he is able to recreate the sound of Styx, as both musicians are also vocalists. This, he said, was intentional.

“I purposely put this together to make that sound,” said DeYoung. “Together, we form a harmony that is unmistakably like the harmonies you heard on those records. You could put three great singers in a room and they still won’t sound like that.”

After a friend suggested Carter to DeYoung, Carter sent DeYoung a demo, which impressed him. It wasn’t long before the bassist was enlisted.

DeYoung then recruited Zadra after his son Matthew woke him up at 12:30 a.m. one morning and told him to check out a YouTube video he discovered online of Zadra singing “Blue Collar Man” in a Styx tribute band called Mother of Pearl. He said he knew he found the missing ingredient.

“The video was six years old and I didn’t know that but when I saw it I said, ‘Wow,’” DeYoung said. “The rest, as they say, is history.”

But it can’t be forgotten that DeYoung not only brings his vocals to the mix, he also contributes his keyboard skills. His main influences are John Lord of Deep Purple, Keith Emerson of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, plus Jimmy Smith, who DeYoung described as the Jimi Hendrix of organ playing.

“I took accordion lessons for eight years before switching to organ so the way I play is like accordion playing,” he said. “I think that’s what makes it unique.”

Another aspect that puts him in a distinctive category is the fact that he’s a successful musician who has been married for 41 years. His wife Suzanne joins him on tour.

However, she doesn’t hang out in the audience or backstage. Instead, she gets up there with him and sings.

“A lot of people wonder why Paul McCartney had Linda on the stage. Do you want to know the answer to that?” said DeYoung. “He needed her there because being on the road is like being in the Twilight Zone. You’re here, there and everyone.”

DeYoung said they’ve been able to sustain their relationship by staying committed to one another. He referenced a quote made by George Harrison’s wife Olivia in Martin Scorsese’s “Living in the Material World,” an HBO documentary about the former Beatle, to illustrate his point.

“When she was asked what kept them together she said, ‘We didn’t get divorced,’” DeYoung said. “When she said that I thought, ‘there has never been a better answer to that question.’ I don’t think there’s any magic. There’s no potion. It’s easy to give up and I guess there are plenty of good reasons to get divorced but there are also many stupid reasons.”

Prior to becoming a professional musician, DeYoung was a music teacher at an elementary school in Chicago. At the time, he and Suzanne had one child. Now, the couple have two children, Carrie Ann, 40, and Matthew, 31, who joined them on the road in their youth. Like Suzanne, Matthew still takes part in the fun, as he operates the lighting for his father’s shows.

“I’m happy that he chose a position that allows him to be creative and make sure the lights are on his old man,” he said.

At the moment, DeYoung plans to put out a DVD/CD of the acoustic show he performs with his band. He also continues to write music.

“I just wrote a couple songs that I think are pretty good,” he said. “I wrote them with a couple artists in mind and I think it’d be great if there was someone who could give them to the right audience.”

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