By Jamie Nolan
I must admit, it’s been years since I’ve written a music review. But, when given the opportunity to review this event, I was honored to say the least. At the same time, how do you write an unbiased review on someone you respect and admire so very much as I do Myles Kennedy? You just do, so here goes:
What a magical experience to witness, last Thursday evening at the Bing Crosby Theatre in beautiful downtown Spokane Washington, with Myles Kennedy and Peter Rivera & friends. Futuresong Foundation: a Benefit Show was all it intended to be and so much more. What a wonderful way to bring the community of Spokane together in celebration of such a worthy and well needed cause. Futuresong’s, an organization formed in August 2015, motto is: “Ensuring all our young people achieve their full potential through the power of music and mentorship.”
Through the foundation, board members Myles Kennedy, Selena Kennedy, Joe Brasch, and Jeff Maichel will continue to fund music education projects in the Spokane area with a combination of fundraising events, program admission fees, as well as private and government grants.
Thursday night’s show was just the beginning. The show was hosted by Spokane native Randy Shaw, who took the stage at 7:30 pm to tell us a little bit about the foundation and to introduce the first performance of the night, Spokane native Mr. Peter Rivera who is no stranger to the world of music. Formerly of the band “Rare Earth,” Peter showed us he hasn’t lost a step. His vocals are ever so brilliant and he banged on those congas like no one I’ve ever seen. Peter and friends brought us all back to the Motown era, opening the set with the classic “Born To Wander.”
Ahh, the memories came rushing back to such a significant point in music history. We all enjoyed the stories he told us of life as a musician back in those days and often had the crowd laughing. The crowd and I found ourselves clapping and singing along to hit after hit. You could feel the love from this community throughout the set.
Peter was joined on stage by Joe Brasch (guitar), David McCollum (keyboards), Tara Brasch (backing vocals), and Dave Seibert (backing vocals and percussion). Although nostalgic, it was like hearing the classics for the first time, simply brilliant. Tina Brasch, a powerful vocalist, joined Peter for a lovely rendition of “Ain’t No Mountain.” They ended the set with the very appropriate “Celebrate” as this was, in fact, a night of celebration of a community coming together through music.
After a brief intermission, it was time for Joe Brasch to take the stage and introduce Myles Kennedy. I must admit, this is the first time I’ve ever seen Myles perform solo with just an acoustic guitar and I was so looking forward to this, as were so many others in attendance. I was thinking to myself that this could be very well what a solo record performance would look like.
We all waited with sheer anticipation as Joe spoke passionately about his musical journey through the years, back to when Myles was just 18 years old. He said he immediately recognized the enormous amount of talent of this young man. Joe was Myles’ guitar teacher for many years and Myles stated that, “Working with Joe through the years has been beyond pivotal.”
Finally, Myles appeared and the crowd showed their appreciation by jumping to their feet, clapping raucously, in a well-deserved standing ovation. Myles opened his set with “Before Tomorrow Comes,” always an Alter Bridge fan favorite and one of mine as well. The set contained a mixture of old and new songs from Myles’ enormous song collection from Alter Bridge, Slash, and The Mayfield Four catalogues. Song after song he took our breath away. The crowd cheered and sang along to every song.
In between songs Myles talked a lot, warning us that he loved to talk, but sometimes says stupid things, hence the reason they wouldn’t let him talk much on stage. He giggled as he said, “Oh well, they’re not here.” It was so awesome to see him, the real Myles Kennedy, full of humor and so completely at home. His words were very touching as he talked about the effect music has had on his life. You could really see and hear just how important this foundation is to him, but more how much it means to him to pay it forward in any way he can. There was a very heartwarming dedication of “My Champion” from the new AB record, The Last Hero, dedicated to his mother, to whom he attributes his success and love for music. She has had a profound effect on him and continues to do so. He ended this beautiful performance with a shout out, “Thanks Mom!”
To Mrs. Kennedy, we would all like to thank you as well.
Next, he took us back to a place life changing for him. He spoke of those days as some of the most challenging in his musical journey; “The Mayfield Four” Days. With that, he added a brilliant and chilling performance of “Eden.” Personally, The Mayfield Four has always been one of my favorite bands and like many others we would have loved to hear more. This performance brought me to tears as I have waited so long to hear him perform anything from those times, so it was extra special for me.
Next, Joe Brasch returned to the stage to join Myles in singing the Foundation theme song “Future Song.” This song was specifically written for this cause and had not yet been recorded. At this time, Myles kindly asked us all to turn off our phones, recorders, etc. It was a truly beautiful and powerful song and the lyric that struck home to me was, “Bring hope where there is none.” The song brought the audience to their feet while Myles and Joe hugged. Myles again thanked Joe for his years of influence and mentorship.
As I mentioned earlier, Myles was so at home on this stage surrounded by family, old friends, and new. I’ve never seen him so happy. He was dancing, making fun of himself, and truly taking in every moment. As he was tuning his guitar for the next song, someone from the crowd shouted out “Rock Star.” Myles responded with “Stand Up and Shout” from his debut performance as an actor in the movie. Jokingly saying, “Oops, I better not. Zack Wylde would kill me and he’s a big guy,” Myles had the crowd roaring with laughter as he smoothly moved into “Watch Over You.” This was clearly one of the most beloved Alter Bridge songs for fans. No night would be complete without it. As I looked around the room I could see adoration, tears, and appreciation for not just this song, but for Myles himself. It was clear to me throughout the entire evening that he is an inspiration and well respected member of his community that transcends generations. At one point, someone even requested he play some “Citizen Swing,” which he smiled bashfully and replied, “You remember Citizen Swing? Did you see my hair back then? And what kind of fashion statement was I trying to make?” He revealed he still has trouble in that department. Again, laughter and applause ignited. Next up, another Alter Bridge classic, “Rise Today.”
To close out the night Myles dedicated his last performance to the late Leonard Cohen with “Hallelujah,” but not before a few verses of “Jingle Bells.” It was so incredible that a few ladies in the front row got up and started to dance. It was magic. During the performance of “Hallelujah,” the theater was so still and quiet you could almost hear a pin drop. The performance was nothing short of breathtaking, as always. It has always been a dream of mine to see him perform this and I was not disappointed. I have rarely heard anything so beautiful. His voice is like no other I have ever heard.
It was a night of sheer magic. I feel so very blessed to have been there to witness these performances. A lifelong dream, another box checked on the proverbial bucket list as it were. I have no doubt this foundation will do wonders for the community of Spokane. Myles indicated they may in fact make this an annual event, and I for one know I will definitely be there every year. I have so much respect for Myles Kennedy as a musician, and now I have an even greater respect and appreciation for the man himself. He is by far one of the most humble and generous men I have ever had the privilege of knowing. I wish him and the entire foundation nothing but good wishes and much success in this most endearing venture. Music is universal, a way to bring people together in a way that is so profound. I stand with them in the belief that music is a necessity in the lives of our young minds and we should all do our part in whatever way we can to pay it forward. I am proud to know Myles Kennedy. He has been my inspiration for many years, and being here tonight was just another opportunity to stand behind him and support everything he does for all he does for us.
Myles received a very well deserved standing ovation as he closed the show and once again thanked everyone for coming to support this foundation. You could see in his eyes how overwhelmed and happy he was to see so many familiar faces. He even stayed around and shook hands and spoke to every person who wanted to say hi, signed autographs, and took lots of pictures with adoring fans even while being encouraged to get to where he needed to be. That is Myles Kennedy. What a wonderfully enchanting evening, and one I will not soon forget. If you’ve never been to Spokane, I highly recommend you visit someday. It is a warm and inviting community. The people made us all feel so welcome. Can’t wait for the next.
1. BORN TO WANDER
2. BIG BROTHER
3. IT IS WHAT IT IS (title track of Peter’s new solo record)
4. LOSING YOU
5. AIN’T NO MOUNTAIN
6. GET READY