Tina through the times: Motif reviews Tina, the musical at PPAC

Okee dokee folks; I am from the generation that watched Ike & Tina Turner on TV and heard them on the radio back in the 60’s and 70’s. I also remember the comeback of Tina Turner in the early 80’s. I saw the What’s Love Got to Do With It biopic film in the early ’90s and recently watched the 2021 Tina documentary. Unfortunately I never saw her in concert. When I learned about the Tina musical I figured that this would be the next best thing, and it was!

Last night, Wednesday, September 14, I was in the audience for the fourth night of the Tina musical which made its tour debut in Providence at the Providence Performing Arts Center this past Sunday. So far the crowds have been large, energetic, welcoming and overwhelmingly appreciative.

The easy thing for me to say about the show is that it’s “Simply The Best,” but that would be an oversimplification. The show is very good and will have you run the gamut of emotions. For some it may be tough witnessing the domestic violence of Anna Mae’s (Tina) father, Floyd Richard Bullock, and her partner/husband Ike Turner or hearing a racial epithet such as when Tina is initially rejected by a record company with the utterance by the president, “no way in hell Capital is going to give this old nigger broad a deal!” Even though you may endure a couple of triggering moments, the ultimate reward is the performance and what a performance it was.

The show opens when a curtain adorned with the eyes of Tina Turner rises and Turner is standing in silhouette about to take the stairs to the stage. She then drops to the floor and begins a Buddhist chant. This scene transitions to her beginnings as the child Anna Mae Bullock, played by Ayvah Johnson, in Tennessee. This child will reappear many times throughout the show. We watch as she meets and first sings with Ike Turner, played by Garret Turner, and when she ultimately marries him. We see the evolution of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue and the downfall of their marriage and the group. Finally, we witness her resurrection as the solo artist, Tina Turner, that most are familiar with today. When posed with the issue of trying to make a record for her comeback she exclaims, “I may be jumping at the sun but I have long legs!”

This is a jukebox musical chock full of Turner hits cleverly inserted into appropriate situational portrayals of her life. Some of the songs may be placed in times before they were actually released, but that is ok, it works! Numbers from her early days right up to her mega-hits are all included— “Nutbush City Limits” all the way to “The Best” and even “We Don’t Need Another Hero,” from Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome

This show rests squarely on the hit songs and the talent of the lead role. For this performance, Tina was played by Naomi Rodgers. Evidently she will be alternating performances with Zurin Villanueva who will also portray Tina. They are not understudies for each other, they have others who are. 

As I said, the success of the show rests on the music as well as the talent of the lead role, and Naomi Rodgers handled it with ease and comfort. She tackled teenage Tina all the way through Turner’s renaissance. Her voice was impeccable and she effortlessly emulated Turner’s growl-like vocal style.

The best parts of the show are the ensemble songs when it mimicked more of a concert feel than a musical. “I Want To Take You Higher,” “Proud Mary” and “Disco Inferno” are all good examples of this. Tina’s trademark dance style was channeled through all the dance routines. The one duet that worked particularly well was “Let’s Stay Together” between Tina and saxophonist Raymond Hill, a bandmate with whom she’d had an affair and become pregnant with her first child, Craig.

The scenery is mostly electronic. The rear wall screen was illuminated by flashing lights, miscellaneous background scenes, and good old 60’s psychedelic flashes. Physical scenery is sparse. Stage props came and went with the help of cast members and stage hands. The one piece that showed up many times was a simple door. This show focused on the music and talent.

The show ends as it began with Tina about to take the stage at a concert with the rousing closing number.

Tina clocks in with a performance time of about two hours and 30 minutes not counting the 15 minute intermission. A couple of times I felt a slight drag but it was immediately perked up by another rocking tune. Just when you think it is over they have just a little more for you, and this is the cherry on top of an already sweet cake! 

Though Tina may get slapped during this show there’s no touching this performance and Turner’s legacy of music. It’s a story of hope, escape, redemption, and success. 

Tina, the musical was at Providence Performing Arts Center through Sunday, September 18. See it next time it’s in town. At the end of this show my girlfriend’s first words were, “I loved it, I want to see it again!“

For more about this show, go to PPACRI.org

That’s it for now. Please check my other Motif offerings at: MotifRI.com/RootsReportPodcast I also have a new web link where you can find my concert photographs- MotifRI.com/FuzeksFotos. Thanks for reading. JohnFuzek.com

Photo courtesy of PPAC

Roots Report

Okee dokee folks… People that really know me know that I am not a big fan of kids. Never had any, never wanted any. I prefer cats and dogs! 

In spite of this, kids seem to be drawn to me when I play music. They get mesmerized by the guitar and the sound. I see the looks on their faces and often it’s the first time they have seen/heard music performed live. I smile and sometimes talk with them while I am playing. The other night two toddlers stood about a foot away from me while I played. Then their even littler sister joined and they stood there in a trance just listening to me play. Sometimes they dance, sometimes they clap but they generally have about as much rhythm as Navin Johnson in Steve Martin’s The Jerk! It is pretty funny and dare I say cute? If this kind of behavior isn’t one of the best reasons to introduce an instrument to a young kid I don’t know what is.

I know it’s the live music that draws them in which is funny considering I would prefer to be the scary man that they stay away from! I guess that it just comes with the territory. You can’t pick your fans. I do hope that their parents seriously consider bringing music lessons into their children’s lives while they still think it’s magic. If too much time passes then the kids will think learning an instrument is a chore and they’ll want to play video games instead. My nephew begged me to teach him guitar when he was six. I tried, but either I wasn’t a good teacher (which is probably the case) or he was a bad student. I am not sure what encouraged him to want to play then but he is now 20 and he will occasionally pick up one of the guitars I gave him to noodle around with. I know what my inspiration was to play guitar — I was in second grade and we had a substitute teacher who brought her guitar to class and played for us. Like the kids who are mesmerized by me when I play, I was enthralled. I wanted to learn to play guitar but because I was very young no one really took me seriously. Then Don McLean’s ”American Pie” came out and I wanted to learn how to play even more. It took a few more years for me to get a “real” guitar (I had a plastic kid’s model) and start lessons, but by then I was a teenager and other things were distracting me. I only wound up taking lessons for a few months before I quit. Over the years I learned the rest on my own and by jamming with other guitar players. I play guitar but I really don’t read music. I am far from a virtuoso but I manage to do what I want to do. If I had started younger and stuck to it I would have been better off. The point of this story? Learning to play a musical instrument is a wonderful thing and if you start them young and encourage them they will thank you for it later. Read on…     

Multiple Motif-Award winners and husband/wife duo, Atwater-Donnelly have just released their FOURTEENTH album of American and Celtic folk tunes, The Boat You Row. On top of that, Aubrey Atwater has just published another book, Song By Song: Volume II: 71 Songs, Tunes, and Discussions for Mountain Dulcimer, Backup, and Voice. The duo, and other ensembles that they lead, have quite a few area performances coming up. Can you call yourself a real Rhode Islander if you haven’t seen Atwater-Donnelly? Catch them live at one of these upcoming shows: Sep 9, “Evening at the Farm: Campfire Sing Along!” at Coggeshall Farm Museum; Bristol PorchFest, 106 High Street, Bristol, Sep 18, 3pm. For more clog over to: Atwater-Donnelly.com

Blackstone River Theatre has presented a few great shows over the summer including their highly successful annual Solstice Festival back in June and now they will get back into their regularly scheduled programming at the Cumberland theater. If you are a fan of music from Ireland, Scotland, the British Isles; folk music, and the traditions of music, dance, and visual arts by the people that settled in the Blackstone River Valley, then it’s time to pay the theater a visit. Coming up: Jamie Laval, Amber Rose, and Liv Castor on Sep 10; Kerri Powers/Lauren King on Sep 17, North Sea Gas on Sep 24, and Symbio on Oct 7. There is so much more to BRT, so float on over to RiverFolk.org!

Okay, okay, I have been REALLY slacking with the podcasts this summer. I got out of my groove with them when the podcast unit had to be replaced. Please check in for upcoming new ones again at:  MotifRI.com/RootsReportPodcast. I also have a new web link where you can find my concert photographs — MotifRI.com/FuzeksFotos. That’s it for now. Thanks for reading. JohnFuzek.com

August Roots Report: Summer is hot, but these festivals are hotter

Okee dokee folks… Have I mentioned yet that I hate summer? Sorry, I have to say that at least once during this abysmal time of year. Fortunately, we are about halfway through this hell. Come on, autumn! The only thing that makes summer SOMEWHAT bearable is music. There are still great outdoor music events coming up that should definitely be on your music radar. Read on…

The eighth annual RI Folk Festival will happen on Sunday, Aug 28. This festival is FREE! There are three stages of music, craft vendors, food and new this year is interactive songwriting programming for adults and kids. The Songwriter Workshop is hosted by Mark Cutler and The Young Folk area by Morgan Johnston. As part of the workshop, Cutler will guide folks through the songwriting process, and the goal is to have a completed song performed on stage by the end of the festival! Morgan Johnston will keep the kiddos amused with shaker-making, coloring and much more. This festival is a true RI treasure and showcases many local musicians as well as national and regional talent. The rather lengthy line-up includes: award-winning multi-instrumentalist Jake Blount; The Fools (unplugged), known for their hits, “Life Sucks, Then You Die,” “World Dance Party” and more; Robin Lane (formerly with The Chartbusters), known for ”I Don’t Know How To Do,” “When Things Go Wrong” and more; Sidy Maiga; Lisa Couto & Erik Peterson; Dan Lilley & The Keepers with Amy Bedard; Pamela Means; The CarLeans; Julie Rhodes & the Electric Co; Allysen & Ava Callery (mother and daughter Motif award winners!); Rachel Sumner; Jose Docen; Bank of Ireland; Hungrytown; Sleeping Turtle; Frozen Corn, Beauquet; Tyler James & Jess Powers; Swimming Bell; and Emerging Songwriter Hosts Beth Barron & Joanne Lurgio, presenting over 25 emerging artists! The festival takes place at Larisa Park directly across from the Carousel in East Providence. Volunteers are still needed and donations to help fund the festival are always accepted. For more, get the folk over to RhodeIslandFolkFestival.com

The sixth annual Warren Folks Festival takes place at 30 Cutler Street from 1 to 7pm on Saturday, Aug 20. This is another free festival, including food, music, craft vendors and BEER! They will have two stages of music featuring Bochek, Ernest Edwards, Honeysuckle Hill, Vudu Sister, Mary Elaine Jenkins, Beauquet, American Echoes, Rafay Rashid, Anthony Loffredio and others. This is all presented by and benefits The Collaborative. The goal of The Collaborative in Warren is to create a space where artists and musicians can exhibit and share their talents and network with other like-minded individuals. For more, cahoot on over to: TheCollaborative02885.org

And the Motif Music Award winner for best RI Festival is…the Rhythm and Roots Festival! This fest almost went away earlier in the year as festival producer Chuck Wentworth reluctantly decided that it was time to retire. Just a couple of months ago, an agency in CT swooped in and saved RR Fest and plans to carry on this Labor Day Weekend tradition! While it will no longer be locally produced, the owners claim to keep things status quo for the time being. Most of the staff and volunteers will be returning as well. If you haven’t had a chance to check out this legendary music gathering, now is the time. This year’s line-up boasts Little Feat, Grace Potter, Samantha Fish, Cowboy Mouth, North Mississippi All Stars, Anders Osborne & Jackie Greene, Steve Riley, Donna The Buffalo, Los Texmaniacs and so, so many more! The festival takes place at Ninigret Park in Charlestown, Sep 2 – 4. For more, zyde-e-go-go to: RhythmAndRoots.com   

Last week I went to Indian Ranch in Webster for the first time. I attended the Ann Wilson (of Heart) concert. It’s a cool venue tucked away in the woods just over the RI border into MA. The venue reminded me – ok, it was actually my girlfriend who said this – of the setting of the series, “Ozark.” There is a riverboat on the lake near the amphitheater and lots of brown, log-cabin type, rustic buildings. They still have lots of shows on their calendar if you want to check it out. Coming up: Weird Al, Collective Soul/Switchfoot (check out my podcast with Collective Soul), ABBA Tribute Badfish, Get The Led Out, Extreme, Aaron Lewis, The Pike Rockfest and many others. If you go, bring sunscreen, a hat and maybe a cushion if you have a tush that doesn’t like bleachers! For more, Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg to IndianRanch.com

I had to pause my podcasts for a bit while my podcast recorder was out being exchanged under warranty. Unfortunately I missed out on some great guests. I have to get back into the podcast groove again and have already begun the process. Check out MotifRI.com/RootsReportPodcast for the latest episode! Don’t forget there is so much more online that I produce for Motif: event reviews at MotifRI.com and lots of concert photos on the Motif Facebook page, fb.com/MotifRI. That’s it for now. Thanks for reading. JohnFuzek.com

Roots Report July 2022: Traveling out of state for shows? In this economy?

Okee dokee folks… The cost of gas is hurting us all. It is eating into the important things that I do – travel to gigs and cover concerts. I have tried to cut back on my driving in an attempt to use less petrol. I am angry at the greed that is fueling the increase. Record profits for the oil companies, Wall Street speculators, production cutbacks and not the Ukraine conflict are the real underlying causes. 

Despite the gas price gouging, I have ventured to a few out-of-town shows. I had my own sort of religious experience at Fenway last week when I FINALLY saw Paul McCartney in concert. It was well worth the price of the kidney I sold for the ticket to see a Beatle. He played a nearly three-hour show of songs I wanted to hear. My only complaints about the show had nothing to do with Sir Paul: Parking was a ridiculous $55, a bottle of water was $5 and a drink was $15. Crazy!!! The crowd did a good job of interfering with my McCartney worship — people, as I mentioned a couple of columns ago, STILL do not know how to behave courteously when they go to concerts!

Next up was the Chevalier in Medford, MA. It’s a nice 1900-seat theater just outside of Boston where we attended the Rubber Soul & Revolver Beatles Tribute Show with Todd Rundgren, Christopher Cross, Joey Molland, Denny Laine and Jason Scheff (photos on Facebook). This was a fun show and Todd once again proved why he is a god to so many folks. If you want to catch Rundgren playing his music close by, he will be at the Odeum in East Greenwich on July 15. You can hear my Roots Report Podcast interview with Rundgren here: MotifRI.com/RootsReportPodcast 

Also coming up at the Greenwich Odeum are: Jim Boggia’s Bruce Off-Broadway, Steve Earle and The Dukes, Molly Hatchet, and ASIA Featuring John Payne (David Tessier’s All Star Stars opens). I have podcasts coming up with a couple of these acts. Check the Motif site to find out who! For more about the Odeum shows, “Go” to GreenwichOdeum.com. Read on…

The East Providence 40th annual Heritage Days are coming up July 29 – 31 with a host of tribute shows that make it seem like a local Bonnaroo! Acts such as The McCartney Years, Tusk (Fleetwood Mac), The Machine (Pink Floyd), The Blushing Brides (Rolling Stones), Mr. Dynamite (James Brown) and Physical Graffiti (Led Zeppelin) will take the stage at Pierce Field over the 3 days. There is much more than music happening so be sure to “Ramble On” to: EPHeritageFest.TicketLeap.com

The 25th annual New Bedford Folk Festival will take place on Saturday, July 9, and Sunday, July 10 after a two year COVID-19 hiatus. Known for the best in contemporary, Americana, traditional, blues and Celtic folk music, the NB festival will feature performers most requested over the past 25 years, including Tom Rush, Susan Werner, Cheryl Wheeler, Garnet Rogers, John Gorka, Abbie Gardner, Tony Trischka, Grace Morrison, RUNA, Roy Book Binder, The Vox Hunters, Vance Gilbert and many more performers on the festival’s seven stages. Food and craft areas are free and open to the public; the music stages require passes. For more “Walk Around Downtown” to NewBedfordFolkFestival.com

Indian Ranch on Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg in Webster, MA has been presenting events since 1946. It’s less than an hour from PVD and has a schedule of concerts running into October. Just some of the shows coming up are: Michael Franti & Spearhead, Little River Band, Ann Wilson of Heart, Three Dog Night, Rhiannon Giddens with Silkroad Ensemble, Tesla, “Weird Al” Yankovic, Collective Soul and Switchfoot, ABBA The Concert, Extreme and many others. For more about the venue and schedule, get “Out in the Country” to: IndianRanch.com

The RI Folk Festival is just two months away! Though the schedule is booked and everything is in the works there just never seems to be enough of certain things for this quickly growing grassroots fest. Volunteers are always needed for the day of show set up and load out, but the festival can always use committed folks who want to be part of the pre-fest planning. Quality craft vendors can, for a small fee, rent a spot to sell their work. And lastly, sponsors are always needed to provide the funding to keep this festival free. If you are interested in any of these don’t hesitate to contact the festival. There will be a fundraiser at Askew on July 8 featuring some of the board members who are performers as well as other guests. For more, get the folk over to RhodeIslandFolkFestival.com

Here is a quick list of some other shows that you may want to hit: Bill Maher at The Boch 7/9, Roger Waters at the TD Garden 7/12, Psychedelic Furs with X at the Strand 7/13, The Rocket Man Elton John Tribute at PPAC 7/16, David Bromberg at the Narrows 7/29, The Metal Bee Gees at The Met on 7/30, The Summer of Love Concert at The Stadium 7/30. They are all worth the trip.
I am always adding new Roots Report Podcasts — I just can’t help myself! Don’t forget there is so much more online that I produce for Motif — event reviews at MotifRI.com and lots of concert photos on the Motif Facebook page, Fb.com/MotifRI. That’s it for now. Thanks for reading. JohnFuzek.com

Roots Report June 2022: Big outdoor summer shows

Okee dokee folks… It’s a good thing that it is getting warmer and events will take place outdoors again. I know folks don’t want to hear it, but COVID-19 is still out there wreaking havoc. I somehow wound up sick with COVID-19 and I didn’t much care for it. I am already loopy. As if being sick wasn’t enough, I had to cancel three gigs and miss going to two shows. I keep receiving notices of rescheduled and canceled tour dates. Fortunately this highly contagious variant is not even close to as bad as the first strain, but still… Maybe this will be COVID-19’s last blast and will burn itself out. “It’s better to burn out than fade away.” I hope so. I usually complain about summer because I really hate the heat; I will never complain about being outdoors. There are lots of open air shows headed our way pre- and post-solstice. Read on…   

The other day my girlfriend said to me, “I don’t think I have ever heard the word ‘podcast’ so much in my life.” It’s true, I talk about my podcast a lot. I put a lot of work into each episode (about 5 hours), so I want to get the word out. Honestly, I never listened to podcasts before I started this one, but I find the conversations interesting and fun. I hope that you all will give them a listen and get hooked! Navigate to MotifRI.com/RootsReportPodcast for more. 

The Rhythm and Roots Festival has been given a new life! A CT company has purchased the festival and promises to maintain the event’s status quo. See you in September! Zyde-go-go to RhythmAndRoots.com for more. Tickets are already on sale for the Labor Day Weekend gathering.

Also happening in Charlestown: Ninigret Summer Nights, a free, two-fer evening – a concert and a movie at Ninigret Park! The summer schedule is Jun 30, PreFab 4 with Jaws; July 7 Run For Cover/Spiderman; July 28, Kayla Farnham & Frank Viele/Encanto; Aug 18, Will Evens/The Sandlot; Aug 25 Forever Young/Meatballs. Music starts at 5:30 and films at dusk. Food, ice cream, face painting and other activities as well. Get the scoop at CharlestownRI.gov.

Common Fence Music has transitioned to Newport Live! Common Fence, a new name for the long-standing arts organization whose mission is to celebrate diverse music traditions by offering access to vibrant performances. This summer they will once again be presenting shows at the Norman Bird Sanctuary and bringing muic and nature together for four evening performances. June 10, Kyshona; July 8 Mark Erelli; Aug 5, Lisa Morales; Sep 16, The Suitcase Junket. They will also present a show at Newport Vineyards on July 21 with Laura Veirs. Follow the fence to NewportLive.org for more. 

The RI Folk Festival, now in its 8th year, will happen at Larisa Park in Riverside on Sunday, Aug 28. This free festival features three stages of music and this year will also host a songwriting workshop with Mark Cutler as well as a children’s area. The line-up includes: The Fools, Robin Lane, Jake Blount, Pamela Means Trio, Dan Lilley and the Keepers with Amy Bedard, Sidy Maiga, The Carleans, Julie Rhodes, Allysen Callery, Beth Barron, Cardboard Ox and about 25 more acts. Food trucks and craft vendors will also be in the park. But wait, there’s more! On June 10 the Galactic Theatre will host the fundraiser “Folkin’ For Funding” to help support the RI Folk Festival. Beth Barron, Dan Lilley & Amy Bedard, Amy et Moi, How’s About Charlie, Sounded Ground and Anthony Loffredio will be performing. For more, carousel to RhodeIslandFolkFestival.com  

I will always call it Great Woods but it is now on its third or fourth identity: The Xfinity Center. They host those “big shed” shows during the warmer weather. There is the lawn area and the covered, open-air seated section. This is a fun choice for a nice summer night. My favorite memory of a concert there was back in 1993 (or 4) when I sat under the stars and listened to John Williams conduct the Boston Pops as they performed all of William’s greatest hits: the themes from Jurassic Park, Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jaws and more. There are far too many shows on the schedule to list so I will just hit the highlights (as I see it). June 8, Train, Jewel and Blues Traveler; June 25, The Doobie Brothers and Michael McDonald; July 2, Steely Dan & Steve Winwood; July 5, The (Dixie) Chicks and Patti Griffin; July 10, Chicago & Brian Wilson; Aug 10, Santana & Earth, Wind and Fire; Aug 12, Rod Stewart & Cheap Trick; Aug 19, REO Speedwagon, Styx and Loverboy; and Sep 16, Willie Nelson’s Outlaw Music Festival. For a complete list, explore LiveNation.com

As you may already know, there was a fire at The Pump House on May 6. As a nonprofit, The Pump House always needs community support to survive — now more than ever. They are currently unable to use the inside of the building to host shows, but will be returning with Music on the Green. To learn about shows and how to help, extinguish over to PumpHouseWusicWorks.com

Don’t forget there is so much more online from Motif! The Roots Report Podcasts, interviews and event reviews at MotifRI.com and lots of concert photos on the Motif Facebook page, fb.com/MotifRI. That’s it for now. Thanks for reading. www.JohnFuzek.com

Tori Amos A Mos-tly disappointing experience

Okee dokee folks… Tori Amos brought her Ocean to Ocean tour into Veterans Auditorium on Monday, May 16. First of all let me say that I was a Tori Amos fan at the beginning of her career. A BIG fan. So much so I ALMOST named my dog Tori. By the end of the ’90s I had fallen off the Tori train as I found her music to be more and more monotonous. That is the way I felt about tonight’s show. It was monotonous. Her 17-song set mostly stayed away from her more popular songs but did cover material from her nearly 30-year career. Her first few albums contained her best work, but she only played a couple of songs from those early releases- an (unfortunate) extended version of “Crucify,” the set ending “Cornflake Girl” and the first song of the encore, “Precious Things.” She also performed the title track from her latest CD, Ocean To Ocean as well others from that disc “Addition of Light Divided” and “Devil’s Bane.”

Amos’ voice is not as strong as it was in the earlier days. She relies on vocal effects and processing to beef up her vocals. The overall band sound seemed mechanical. There were pre-recorded choruses, drum machines, loops and other sounds to augment Amos who was only backed by her keyboards, bass and drums. The drummer, though playing live, overplayed quite a bit even on places where it should have been more subtle. His live sound was more like a drum machine than organic. A lot of times the music suffered from the “one long song syndrome.” This show was really more for the die-hard Amos fans. Tori could have let go a (light) sneeze and the crowd would have loved it.

I was honestly disappointed in the show. As I said I was a HUGE Amos fan. I’ve seen her live a few times. I was fortunate to have seen her with just a piano at Lupo’s back in the early ’90s and a few years later sit in for a private sound check that had just a couple of people in attendance. I even met her back then. So having to express my dissatisfaction with the show is not something I am enjoying. I was looking forward to her show after not having seen her live in a while. At this point I see no point in hopping back on the Tori train, it has left the tracks. Sorry.   

Don’t forget there is so much more online from Motif! I have the Roots Report Podcasts, interviews and event reviews at MotifRI.com and lots of concert photos (Including Tori Amos) on the Motif Facebook page fb.com/MotifRI. Please check it all out! That’s it for now. Thanks for reading. www.JohnFuzek.com

Roots Report May 2022: So many shows, you MAY be overwhelmed

Okee dokee folks… I think some people out there may need a little reeducation as to how to behave in public now that things are getting back to normal. Folks spent a little too much time in their bubbles watching Netflix and doing whatever they wanted, when they wanted. It shows. What exactly am I talking about? I have been going to shows and I have witnessed a lot of bad-mannered behavior. Concerts are no longer in your living room. You cannot adjust the volume, rewind or pause them at will. If someone interrupts the goings-on, things will be missed.

I went to a show the other night that was supposed to start at 8pm. It did not. Many ticket holders were late arriving to the theater. Twenty minutes past go time, the show still had not begun. An announcement was made alerting the audience that the show was going to begin soon and that they should take their seats. The alert actually seemed to have the opposite effect. Lots of folks began to get up and head to the lobby. Shows are supposed to start at a predetermined time. If you are late YOU should miss out, not make everyone wait. These shows are not on demand.

Most shows are 75-90 minutes long. Most times there is an intermission. What boggles my mind is the excessive and steady flow of people that get up from their seats during a performance and disrupt the enjoyment of the folks around them. Can’t anyone sit still for 90 minutes anymore? Don’t even get me started on the spilled drinks! My camera bag has been soaked twice over the past couple of weeks!

Oh, and one more thing. Hats! Seriously? It used to be proper etiquette to REMOVE your hat when indoors, especially at a seated event. I had to ask the person in front of me to either take his hat off, slouch down or turn the brim down — it was flipped up like Gomer Pyle’s and extremely obtrusive.

Please, for the sake of everyone around you, reintroduce yourselves to proper, polite and considerate behavior. The outside world is not streaming, it is real and live. This has been a public service announcement. Thank you. Read on…

The band Chicago has always been a favorite of mine. No other band has ever produced so many horn-driven hits. They are now in their 55th year of playing music. Though the band has endured many personnel changes and styles, they always return to the brass section for their core sound. Jimi Hendrix famously said of the band, “The horn section is like one set of lungs and the guitar player is better than me!” I had a good, long chat with Jimmy Pankow, trombonist and songwriter for the band. He shared many stories from his 55-year career with the band. Listen to that on Motif’s Roots Report Podcast! Chicago will be at Mohegan Sun Arena on Sat, May 7. For more, don’t be “Searchin’ So Long,” just get to: MoheganSun.com

Joan Osborne hit it big in the mid-’90s with the song “One Of Us.” Since then she has kept busy playing her own music, the music of Bob Dylan, joining with others such as Funk Brothers and touring with the Dead. It’s been a while since she has performed her breakthrough album Relish in its entirety. She will be making her only area appearance doing just this on May 13 at The Garde Arts Center in New London. Also performing at this show is Madeleine Peyroux who will be performing her Careless Love album. Don’t miss this one! Look for my interview with her online. For more, climb the “Ladder” to: GardeArts.org

There are so many great shows coming up besides the few I talked about above. I will mention some here. Ready. Set. Go! At Blackstone River Theatre in Cumberland; North Sea Gas, music from Scotland on May 8; Matt & Shannon Heaton perform a “Take It Outside” concert on May 15 and Cantrip on May 22. Row over to RiverFolk.org for more. 

The Odeum is always a busy place. Coming up: Get sedated with Marky Ramone on May 6, SNL and Weeds star Kevin Nealon May 12, one of the hardest working musicians around; Adam Ezra, on May 14; rumor has Graham Parker playing on May 15; Anders Osborne and Jackie Greene on May 21; a solo, electric show by Bob Mould on May 26 and the Mighty Max Weinberg with his Jukebox show on June 3. Yodelayheehoo to: GreenwichOdeum.com for more. 

The Narrows always has a big, wide schedule! In May catch: Jonathan Edwards on May 6, Jon Butcher on May 7, Matt Anderson May 11, A Tale of Two May 14, Danielle Nicole May 18, Low Cut Donnie May 19, Quinn Sullivan May 20, and Beaver Brown on May 21. The Narrows has made it a bargain for college students to attend shows with a new student discount. All you have to do is show up on a concert night, show your student ID, and get in for $15. (This does not apply to sold-out events). For more, Braga over to: NarrowsCenter.org 

PPAC has the cerulean-faced Blue Man Group with what is promised as a “Still Blue, The Rest Is New” show on May 20. Jersey Boys: The Story of Frankie Valli is also at PPAC for two shows only on June 2 & 3. Make your Weybosset to PPACRI.org for more. 

I know Rhode Islanders don’t like going very far, but sometimes you just have to if you want to see something special! The Only Former US Senator Currently on Tour Tour with Al Franken will be at The Wilbur Theatre in Boston on May 14. Do you remember when he and Tom Davis used to imitate Mick and Keef on SNL? Neigh over to TheWilbur.com for more. 

Shawn Colvin will perform her breakthrough recording Steady On in its entirety to celebrate the 32nd anniversary of its release. It will take place at The Cabot in Beverly, Mass on May 7. Nice theatre and not a bad drive — a little over an hour. Colvin is the perfect reason to check it out! Cheddar over to TheCabot.org for more. 

The Who, or as I say, half a Who, will be at the Garden in Boston on May 18. Who knows how long Roger and Pete will keep doing it. See them now! “Magic Bus” to TDGarden.com for more. PHEW!!!

Don’t forget there is so much more online from Motif! I have the Roots Report Podcast, interviews and event reviews at MotifRI.com, and lots of concert photos on the Motif Facebook page Facebook.com/MotifRI. Please check it all out! That’s it for now. Thanks for reading. www.JohnFuzek.com

“Get Ready” For A Show: A tempting musical catches an era

Okee dokee folks… The Temptations endured personnel changes, drug and alcohol abuse, racial tension, personal tragedy and still managed to come out on top, with timeless hits and a legacy that continues today. The Temptations musical Ain’t Too Proud, based on the history of the singing group, opened to a full house at The Providence Performing Arts Center Tuesday night. The show relates the history of the band with lots of great music and energetic dance.

The stage set of a theatre façade and marquee that varied with projected words and images was the minimalistic backdrop for the almost constant song and dance that propelled Ain’t Too Proud. The show is narrated by Otis Williams, portrayed by Marcus Paul James, as he tells the tale of the group’s formation intermingled with songs by the Temptations as well as other singing group contemporaries such as the Supremes and Cadillacs.       

Otis remarks at start of the musical journey that “There is no progress without sacrifice” and wonders if “The measure if it is worth the cost.” Williams seamlessly moves from singing and dancing to directing his dialogue towards the audience and imparting more of the Temptations’ tale to them. The production takes place over the span of approximately 30 years: from the group’s inception until the deaths of four of the original members.

The music is energetic and will have you tapping your feet and clapping your hands. The soundtrack includes classics such as “Ball Of Confusion,” “Get Ready,” “I Can’t Get Next To You,” and about 28 more musical gems during the over two-hour show.

Marcus Paul James is the star as Otis Williams and he carries the weight of the story as the real life Williams carried the weight of The Temptations. The group’s line-up changed over 20 times since its formation leaving Williams the only living original member. Elijah Ahmed Lewis perfectly captured David Ruffin’s moves, vocal prominence and demons. Jalen Harris was brilliant as Eddie Kendricks. Every voice in this cast was outstanding and powerful. The dance moves were amazing and if you are a fan of performers jumping and landing in a split then this is definitely the right show for you! If you are not on your feet applauding at the finale then you must not have a musical soul. The audience applause and cheers for this were the loudest I have heard in quite a while.

If you a fan of Motown, The Temptations, dance, jukebox musicals and great performance then get to PPAC to experience Ain’t Too Proud-The Life and Times of the Temptations. The show runs until April 17th. For more about this show and others at PPAC, “Speedo” over to PPACRI.org 

You can listen to my interview with Ain’t Too Proud star, Marcus Paul James on the Motif Magazine Roots Report Podcast at: motifri.com/rootsreportpodcast/episode-11-marcus-paul-james/ That’s it for now. Thanks for reading (and listening)! www.JohnFuzek.com

Roots Report April 2022: They ain’t what they used to be, but they’re still damn good

Okee dokee folks… Back in the ‘70s I used to read Creem and Circus Magazine cover to cover. We didn’t have the internet, no MTV, nor any constant source of information about performers. Most of the featured and advertised bands I was already a fan of, but there were a few that I do remember but never really heard much. If it wasn’t on the radio, on the turntable at a record store or if a friend didn’t have the album, it was more than likely my ears never experienced it. One of these bands was The Sparks — brothers Ron and Russel Mael. Their careers began in the late ‘60s and though now the brothers are in their mid-70s they are still at it. Recently I found a documentary about them on Netflix called The Sparks Brothers. If you have not heard of them you definitely should watch this and get turned on to what they have done: They have inspired many, many bands in their 50+ years of music-making. The Sparks were behind the very bizarre Adam Driver/Marion Cotillard film musical Annette. Although their music has seen shifts in style and ups and downs, they are definitely worth a listen not only because some of it is great, but because they never gave up! Read on…

During the early ‘90s there was a new boom in singer-songwriters. The film Clueless introduced many to the work of Jill Sobule, who contributed the song “Supermodel,” which led to songs in many more films and TV shows. Long before Katy Perry, Sobule released her own “I Kissed a Girl” that was more cute and flirtatious than the blunt sexuality of Perry’s. Sobule’s music has the quirkiness and wit of Warren Zevon and Randy Newman as well as the story style of Harry Chapin. She was one of the early pioneers of crowdfunding and made her 2009 recording California Years with fan support. Sobule has produced a dozen recordings in her 30+ years as a performer and continues to write, record and tour. I interviewed Sobule for an episode of my Roots Report Podcast: Listen to it at MotifRI.com/rootsreportpodcast. Jill Sobule will be at The Greenwich Odeum on April 9. For more about the show, “Vrbana Bridge” to GreenwichOdeum.com 

When I list my top five concerts of all time, people are always surprised that Weird Al Yankovic is included. He honestly presents one of the most entertaining shows you will ever see. You may think he is goofy but he is a Grammy-winning, world-class musician and his bandmates effortlessly transcend all genres of music. If you have never been to a Weird Al show, now is your chance. Yankovic is bringing “The Unfortunate Return of the Ridiculously Self-Indulgent, Ill-Advised, Vanity Tour” to the Zeiterion in New Bedford on April 29. His special guest this time around is Emo Philips! In past years I have interviewed Al but this time around I spoke to his longtime guitarist, Jim “Kimo” West, who is a star in his own right. West won a Grammy in 2020 for his solo album More Guitar Stories. Listen to that interview here: MotifRI.com/rootsreportpodcast. For more about the show, squeeze box to: Zeiterion.org

The Jefferson Airplane was one of the best bands to come from the Summer Of Love/ Woodstock era. Although they are down to three surviving members you still have the chance to see two of them in concert. Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady formed Hot Tuna in 1969 as a side project while they were still members of The Airplane. Hot Tuna has had many members, including Airplane bandmates, but Jorma and Jack have always been the core. Kaukonen and Casady will bring acoustic Hot Tuna to the Narrows in Fall River on April 23. I spoke with Jorma Kaukonen and you can read that interview here: MotifRI.com/Jorma2022. For more about the show, “Embryonic Journey” to NarrowsCenter.org

Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon stayed on the music charts for 962 weeks and sold 45 million copies. Their catalog of music has exceeded 250 million in sales and they are one of the most successful bands in history. Unfortunately the entire band will never reunite as keyboardist Richard Wright passed away in 2008 and band founder Syd Barret died in ‘06. Various incarnations of the band have toured over the years and the individual members are still making music. Roger Waters will be in Boston over the summer and Nick Mason’s postponed show should be rescheduled for this fall. If you want the next best thing to a full-on Floyd experience then Brit Floyd will fix you. They perfectly recreate Pink Floyd’s sound and stage show and will present this at Veterans Memorial Auditorium in PVD on April 13. I spoke with band leader Damian Darlington about the show. Listen to that here: MotifRI.com/rootsreportpodcast. For more about the show, “Run Like Hell” to: TheVetsRI.com

In the late 1960s The Boxtops and The Buckinghams had many hits on pop radio: The Buckinghams with “Kind of a Drag,” “Don’t You Care” and “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy;” The Boxtops with “The Letter,” “Soul Deep” and “Neon Rainbow.” The two bands have joined forces to bring a night of nostalgic music to the Stadium Theatre in Woonsocket on Friday, April 15. I spoke with the Boxtops’ Bill Cunningham about the band and his career. Listen to that here: MotifRI.com/rootsreportpodcast. Constantine Maroulis finished 4th on American Idol but he went on to star in Rock of Ages and Jekyll and Hyde on Broadway. Now he is part of the tribute band Foreigner’s Journey. They will “Faithfully” present the music of Foreigner and Journey at the Stadium Theatre on Saturday, April 16. For more about these shows it’s “Urgent” that you get to: StadiumTheatre.com

I have been podcasting up a storm and been producing lots of content for The Roots Report Podcast. Please give it a listen! I have added another Look Who’s Laughing podcast (MotifRI.com/lwl) with comedian Vic DiBitetto who will be at The Greenwich Odeum for two nights on April 22 & 23. PHEW!!! Thanks for reading…and listening. www.JohnFuzek.com

Prepare for Takeoff: Fuzek interviews Jorma Kaukonen of The Jefferson Airplane

Okee dokee folks… The Jefferson Airplane was one of the best bands to come from the Summer Of Love/Woodstock era. Though they are down to three surviving members, you still have the chance to see two of them in concert. Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady formed Hot Tuna in 1969 as a side project while they were still members of The Airplane. Hot Tuna has had many members, including Airplane bandmates, but Jorma and Jack have always been the core. Kaukonen and Casady will bring acoustic Hot Tuna to the Narrows in Fall River on April 23. I spoke with Jorma Kaukonen and you can read that conservation below:

Jorma Kaukonen: What are we talking about today?

John Fuzek: You have a show coming up at the Narrows in April.

JK: Hold on. My son is calling but that’s going to be a long conversation. I’ll call him back when we get done. Ok, let’s get back to this.

JF: You have an acoustic Hot Tuna show coming up. That is you, Jack (Casady) and who else?

JK: Just me and Jack.

JF: OK, I worked with you a couple of times at festivals. Rhythm and Roots and Grey Fox.

JK: Oh, yeah, man, great fun! That’s a while ago. I remember Ricky Skaggs was on that show.

JF: I stage managed that show.

JK: We didn’t offend you, did we?

JF: No! You two were a riot! Really liked working with you. You and Jack were a trip to work with. It was ten years ago at Rhythm and Roots festival was the last time we talked. You did an electric set there.

JK: Well, we’re still hanging in. I’m heading across the panhandle of Florida right now we’re on our way to Houston, man. Jack and I just did three shows in Florida. It’s the first time we’ve played together since New Year’s. We’re playing well, we’re having a good time and people showed up to hear us. What’s not to like, you know?

JF: You were doing live streams over the pandemic.

JK: Yeah, that saved our bacon being able to do that. It was such a pleasure to be able to reach out like that.

JF: A friend of mine watched those live streams religiously during the pandemic.

JK: We had a heck of a good time doing that and we just did one a couple of weeks ago with me and my friend Johnny.

JF: Is that Hurlbut?

JK: That would be Mr. Hurlbut, yes. We’re probably going to do more when I get home.

JF: My friend wondered if you were going to do any touring with John.

JK: I did a short tour with him last year. It was a Jorma tour but I cut him in on like half of each set. I love playing with him. We have such a good time. I hope we will, it’s in the forefront of our minds.

JF: What does John do at Fur Peace Ranch?

JK: He’s been our ranch manager for over 20 years. He’s starting to wind down a little bit. He’s sort of semi-retired. We’re not doing a lot of in-person teaching things this year. We’re doing a lot of that online but we’re doing lots of concerts and he’s the guy who puts our shows together.

JF: What kind of concerts do you do there?

JK: We have a 250-seat theatre and we just bring in artists we like. It’s great! We also have a weekly radio show on our local NPR station out of Ohio University. WOUB is the station and our archives are up online, of course, like everything is.

JF: I was wondering if you remember Marjorie Thompson.

JK: Of course. Absolutely. I think she’s been gone 6 or 7 years now. She was one of our dear friends and one of our instructors at the ranch and she taught at Brown. She opened for me at the Narrows a couple of times. She was an exceptional person.

JF: Yes, she was a friend of mine, we did quite a few gigs together and she used to speak highly of you.

JK: This kind of illustrates the kind of woman she was, when she was diagnosed with cancer, there really wasn’t any cure for it and she elected not to do the horrible treatments and right before she passed she did a road tour. She called me before she came home and said, “Jorma, I’ve had a great year.”

JF: I can hear her saying that.

JK: I had so much respect for that.

JF: Some folks posted questions on Facebook that they wanted me to ask you. My girlfriend wants to know if you will play “Embryonic Journey.” It’s one of her favorite songs.

JK: Well, since she requested it I will be more than happy to do that! 

JF: She will be thrilled! She also loves the guitar playing in “Today” as well.

JK: That’s not me!

JF: Oh, I know but she loves the guitar playing in that one, too.

JK: I was just listening to Surrealistic Pillow recently and that’s such a beautiful song. I wish it was me!

JF: She always tried to get me to learn these songs. I am good but not that good of a guitar player.

JK: You know, songs like that…It’s so alien from my approach to playing the guitar. It’s one of these things that’s so minimal in some ways but really hard to do.

JF: It also has to be the right environment to play it, too.

JK: That goes without saying.

JF: So, besides you and Jack, Grace is the only one left from the Jefferson Airplane.

JK: Yes, it’s just the three of us.

JF: Are you still in touch with Grace?

JK: We have business interests in common, we have a legacy company… I had dinner with her a couple of years ago and I hadn’t seen her in years. We talk maybe once a month or so. Grace never lets us down. She has no verbal boundaries whatsoever and you just know it’s going to be a fun conversation.

JF: She’s not singing anymore but she is painting. I like her paintings.

JK: It’s interesting, she was one of the great voices of my generation but when she was done, I couldn’t imagine being done with guitar playing, but when she was done with singing, she was done with it. So she’s just been painting and she’s really good. Now that being said, I was talking to her a couple of months ago and she said, “You know, I’ve been messing around with the piano at my house” and I said, “Grace, if you ever record and don’t cut me in on it I am really going to be mad!”

JF: Yeah, I would be, too! It would be great to hear you, Jack and Gace do something together.

JK: Nothing would make me happier, that would be so awesome.

JF: Even if she just sits in on a Hot Tuna show or something.

JK: The one thing about Grace is that you never know about her. I am not predicting anything but I wouldn’t be surprised if I were surprised.

JF: You’re 81 years old now, right?

JK: I am. Grace is pushing 82. So, we gotta get this done, you know!

JF: I talk to a lot of performers and I am a performer myself, and I wonder how long performing can be kept up. It’s very taxing on the body. I have had hand problems for the past couple of years and I am just 61.

JK: You need Jorma’s CBD products!

JF: I actually use CBD on my hands.

JK: Well, you should go to our Fur Peace Ranch website (FurPeaceRanch.com). If you like CBD we have a whole line of great shit. You should just check it out just for the laughs! We even have CBD calming shit for dogs! Anyway, to get back to it, I am really lucky because so far I am healthy, I don’t have arthritis in my hands. I’m an older guy that doesn’t feel as good as they used to but what it’s done is that it has caused me to work on my guitar technique in a more classical kind of way if you know what I mean. The kind of stuff that they try to teach us when we are kids but we would just say, “I don’t need that, I don’t need to play like that.” I think my technique is better than it used to be and it doesn’t hurt as much.

JF: That’s probably my problem. I was just a stubborn kid who didn’t want to learn the right way.

JK: We all were. We all thought, “Who needs that shit you don’t know anything.” I was telling Jack, for example, a lot of this has to do with age, my callouses are nowhere as thick as they used to be, and they don’t get thick, but my hands don’t hurt because my technique is better. You don’t need to grab the strings that hard. I use 12’s on my acoustic guitar and 11’s on my electric. I guess 12’s are considered light gauge these days in the acoustic world. They’re not wimpy strings. I am lucky that I am still able to do this. It’s fun. I still guitars in general, just as much as I ever did. So far, so good.

JF: I am hoping when I am your age that I can still play!

JK: There’s no reason that you can’t

JF: Someone wanted me to mention your cousin in RI, John Brett? I guess he is friends with a few of my FB friends.

JK: He is a bonafide distant cousin. His mom was one of my mom’s nieces I think. They are all from those tobacco farms in CT.

JF: Someone mentioned a show in Boston where after the show Van Morrisson showed up.

JK: That is not true. It’s an urban legend. I would have remembered that!

JF: Another thing that someone asked if you remember is playing at URI and someone spiking your drink with acid.

JK: I have been spiked with acid at gigs twice and it wasn’t in RI. Once was at Pirates World with The Airplane in Florida. The other was with Hot Tuna at the Carousel Ballroom in San Francisco. So, it has happened, but not there.

JF: The last time I saw you play you were with electric Hot Tuna on the Tedeschi-Trucks tour and you were the first opening act.

JK: We kind of rotated that but we were there. I love Susan and Derek. In my opinion that is arguably the greatest band in the world today. We were out with them for a couple of months and I got to know them all, that’s a big band, and they were like family. It was awesome.

JF: Do you plan on going out with electric Hot Tuna again in the future?

JK: In April were doing, even though I am 81, we are doing my 80th birthday, because it got canceled, we are playing Carnegie Hall, and that’s going to be electric! We do select electric stuff. Later this summer we are going to be on tour with Little Feat. We’re going to be doing a trio with Justin, our drummer but we’re doing it acoustically, but I realize that when I use the word acoustic we are all plugged in. We are going to be playing as a stand-up acoustic trio. 

JF: I remember your set at Rhythm and Roots and loved your set at the Tedeschi-Trucks show. The sound is amazing. Jack has such a chunky bass sound.

JK: Jack is such a tone chaser. The tones he is chasing change from time to time but I totally agree with you, man. Again, Grace never lets me down with her lack of verbal boundaries and Jack never lets me down by coming up with some kind of great tone and great lines. Jack and I have been playing together forever but every night something new comes up it’s like “where does this stuff come from?”

JF: You two have been playing since high school right?

JK: Since 1958.

JF: Wow, that’s amazing!

JK: Totally! That’s a long time!

JF: Has it been smooth the whole time or have you had ups and downs?

JK: Honestly, we sort of “hiatused” for a while in the ’70s but Jack and I have never had an argument. People ask, “How does Hot Tuna stay together for so long?” You play in a band so you will appreciate this: We have never had a band meeting! There is nothing that will break up a band like having band meetings!

JF: The Airplane did a rooftop concert, do you remember when that was?

JK: I would have to Google it.

JF: I was just wondering it that predated the Beatles rooftop concert.

JK: Oh, we were before, absolutely!

JF: I thought that but I wasn’t sure. It was almost the same situation as the Beatles though.

JK: But we never got a permit and Marty got arrested. One of the funny things about it, Jean Luc Godard, the French filmmaker was making a movie and he was going to use this Airplane thing, I don’t think anything ever came of it. Anyway, we did this thing on the rooftop, we were really loud, you gotta check out the YouTube video! Marty starts the thing off by screaming, “Good morning New York, wake up you fuckers!” or something like that. Anyway, we played the songs and the police came and shut us down. When we got downstairs the cops asked, Who is the leader of the band?” We all pointed at Marty and they took Marty away!

JF: I have watched that video a few times, I really like it.

JK: It’s funny shit!

JF: So, The Narrows show will be you and Jack. What do you anticipate doing for that show? How long, etc.

JK: Normally we do two sets. The first is an hour and the second is 75 minutes. But we always run over. That’s what we are looking for. Thanks to the quarantine concerts I have resuscitated songs we haven’t played in decades. And had it not been for the quarantine I probably wouldn’t have taken the time to relearn them. We will be doing some new old songs. I’ve also written a couple of new songs. So we’re going to get everything from the beginning to the present. And “Embryonic Journey,” of course!

JF: Very good! She will be happy! What kind of guitar are you playing these days?

JK: I am glad you asked- there’s this guy in Greene, Iowa named David Flammang. One of the things he does is build guitars in the style of a 1936 Gibson J-35. I have had two of these guitars for the past few years and I am so in love with them. That is what I am playing now. And that is what you will see when we come to the Narrows.

JF: It has been a pleasure talking with you again.

JK: Back at you! Take care, man!

Acoustic Hot Tuna will be at the Narrows in Fall River on April 23. For more about the show, “Embryonic Journey” to NarrowsCenter.org. That’s it for now. Thanks for reading. www.JohnFuzek.com